A Christmas to Remember

Dec 23, 2021

Resignation and Reward over Christmas

My top 5 tips for making it one to remember! 

As the festive season reaches its peak it’s easy to slump back into old habits just to get through or to amplify the excitement of the occasion. We have so many associations that are lurking in our subconscious, waiting to trigger a habit that will take us back down a well-worn path before we even realize it. 

We’re in a room full of people we haven’t seen in months, maybe years. Mariah is belting out her top Christmas tunes ( or maybe Buble is more your style) everyone is gearing up for a ‘fun’ time and the suggestion of a champagne mimosa at 10 am suddenly seems like the most innocent thing in the world.

Why not? you tell yourself. Why not! they tell you.  It’s Christmas!

There are in my experience two reasons you will fall back into bad habits. Especially if this is your first alcohol-free Christmas.

  1. Reward

Your inner saboteur will start leaping about with excitement. Yes yes yes! She/he will say, giddy with anticipation. It’s CHRISTMAS! Followed by 20,000 thoughts about why you should drink. You will happily let yourself be swept away in the excitement of it all, not even stopping for 1 thought about why it might not be a good idea


     2. Resignation 

And if you are not in the giddy reward state of mind? Here the associations of drinking, Christmas, relatives, and stress will accompany you down the spiral of resignation. You might put up a bit of a struggle, but as the day goes on and the stress rises you lose your resolve.  You need it, you deserve it, you’ll get back on track when it’s over.

The reality is Christmas is likely going to be one of your greatest challenges, but it is also an incredible opportunity.  It’s a time where you really get to know what you’re capable of, where you have to dig deep to remind yourself over and over why drinking is not something you want to do anymore. 

And if you can make it through without being seduced by reward or resignation then you will have added some serious ammunition to your alcohol-free toolkit for future challenging occasions.


Here are my top 5 tips for not just surviving but enjoying and learning from an alcohol-free Christmas.

  • Have your beverage of choice on hand at all times.  Make sure you’ve got all the ingredients, recipes you love, glasses, ice, everything on hand.  If you’re heading to someone else’s place take your own personal AF esky so you can quickly say ‘I’m all set thanks’ when you’re offered a drink.
  • Set your intention or purpose for the event.  As an example ‘ My intention is to have a relaxing time feeling strong and good about myself’ OR ‘ My purpose is to be present to everyone I meet today’.  Find something strong and inspiring that would be compromised if you had a drink.
  • Have an exit strategy.   On my first AF Christmas I drove, and when I was feeling anxious I would ‘nip out to the car’ to get something. Just taking a few minutes away was enough to….see tip 4.
  • Take deep, belly breaths to reset. Notice if your breathing is shallow ( which it often is when we’re stressed). And begin to breathe deeply, right down into your belly, so it expands (like you’ve just eaten a Christmas pud). Take 3 to 5 big deep belly breaths. This will reset your nervous system and allow you to assess with more clarity whether you really want to resign or reward yourself with a toxic liquor.  This is a simple change of state that can also be achieved by shaking yourself vigorously, but that is slightly more obvious and may require an explanation.
  • Be Curious. Be the detective. Here is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself and others and to gather data for the next experience. You’re not here to judge, just to pay attention and notice.  How do you feel without alcohol? Are you calmer? More in control? Anxious? Jittery?  Who do you enjoy speaking with? What/Who triggers your stress signals? Can you notice your breath get shallow in those moments? Stop and pause.   Be the detective navigating new territory. It can be fascinating if you allow yourself to be curious.


I’d also suggest you have a journal on hand. Once the day/event is over, you can note your findings and learnings.  This will help you reflect on your new experiences and what you have learned about yourself.  Be sure to focus on the positives and on how well you did. The act of writing re-enforces the new neural pathways you’ve created by taking another step towards changing your habits long term.

As I head into my third alcohol-free Christmas I can promise that once you get through a period like this alcohol-free, most, if not all, other occasions become much, much easier to navigate. You keep building on each success until you reach a point where deep belly breathing becomes something you savour as much, if not more, than you used to love inhaling ethanol-infused beverages. 

Wishing you a relaxing and educational alcohol-free Christmas,


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