The festive season is finally upon us and although the Omicron variant is looming and threatening to cause havoc, the general consensus is that Christmas 2021 is happening and everybody should be ready to eat, drink and be merry – perhaps doubly so to make up for last year! But what happens when this culture of Christmas binge-drinking triggers a whole host of mental and physical health problems such as anxiety, depression and addiction? What if all that mulled wine and prosec-ho-ho-ho is making your life decidedly UN-merry?
Alcohol and mental health
In the UK, alcohol consumption increases by 40% during December as people enjoy more parties, special markets and more alcoholic options, often regardless of the time of day or week. In short, Christmas gives people licence to be “extra boozey, extra loosey” and we very much take advantage of that. The problem is that alcohol remains just as harmful at Christmas as it does during the rest of the year and going overboard during December is going to damage your health and/or your relationships and guarantee you the worst January blues.
We know for a fact that drinking alcohol (even in relatively small amounts) increases anxiety and depression which can lead to feelings of isolation, worthlessness and despair. We also know that alcohol causes people to get into accidents, injure themselves or others and it also causes a loss in inhibitions and directly impairs your ability to make sensible decisions.
Alcohol and sex addiction and porn addiction
For someone with sex addiction or porn addiction, an excessively boozey Christmas will significantly increase your chances of relapse by making it harder to manage difficult emotions. Christmas is not a joyful time for everyone and can trigger difficult emotions that people may want to soothe through alcohol, perhaps as an alternative to sexual acting out. But drinking through the pain will only exacerbate those feelings and plunge you further into a downward spiral of potentially acting-out. Alcohol also makes it harder to make wise decisions as it lowers your inhibitions and impairs rational thinking. Even without the burden of addiction, alcohol is the third most common reason given by those who have cheated on their partners, so it’s even harder with someone struggling with compulsive sexual behaviours. On top of all this, often alcohol is consumed in social settings which means you may have more triggers and, if you drink, less resilience. If you’re in early recovery from sex addiction or porn addiction, I would strongly recommend a booze-free Christmas.
How to be booze-free
So here are some holiday survival tips to help you stay sober, stay in recovery and remember your December:
- Embrace all the other special treats that Christmas brings
Believe it or not, Christmas isn’t all about the booze. Although you may not believe in Santa Clause anymore, you can still enjoy the magic of Christmas through exploring the markets, shows and fun fairs. Think ice-skating, beautiful light shows and delicious sweet treats and you’ll be amazed how much Christmas spirit can found without alcoholic spirits.
- Treat yourself and devote time to self-care
If you’re one of those people who experience feelings of loneliness at Christmas, remember to spend some time taking care of yourself. You’ll be surprised how much money you save whilst not drinking so treat yourself to something else you might enjoy like tickets to a show, a nice meal out or that new winter coat. Christmas can be about self-care as well as other people so be kind to yourself.
- Mix up your Christmas traditions
Missing that pint of beer with your work colleagues whilst belting out Christmas carols? Try one of the many alcohol-free beers on offer and sing until your hearts content. Or perhaps you like an afternoon sherry on Boxing Day. Try taking a family stroll instead and take your best family selfie.
- Embrace and celebrate the positives
January blues? What January blues? If you decide to have a booze-free Christmas, that also means a hangover-free, hangxiety-free and (most likely) guilt-free Christmas too. Instead of feeling the need to do an extreme detox come 2022, you’ll be feeling light and fresh and ready to take on the new year with a stronger and healthier mind and body. Not only that, the lack of alcohol means you will have been more present throughout Christmas and its possible that your relationships will improve because of it.
Avoiding alcohol over the festive period will help keep triggers at bay and if you still find yourself fighting difficult emotions or cravings, at the very least, you will be far better equipped to handle them and stay strong. You will be able to trust yourself more, relax and spend more quality time with your friends and family and even with yourself – mind, body and soul. So perhaps this Christmas: eat, don’t drink and be merrier than you thought possible.