’Tis the season to be sober…ish
It’s best not to overindulge during the festive season, but experts say cutting back on alcohol may actually be a better option than quitting booze altogether.
For many people, Christmas is a month of parties and celebrations… but while we all want to have fun, no one wants to let things get out of hand.
Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Household Expenditure Survey 2018 confirms Christmas time is party central. The average spend across the summer months on parties is $25 a week, up 93 per cent on other times of the year.
Between the health and budgetary benefits of staying sober, December may seem like a sensible time to quit drinking – and many people start with good intentions.
But experts say the silly season may actually not be the best time to go cold turkey – rather, it’s best to take a “less is more” approach.
- Countdown: Your week-by-week Christmas to-do list
What it can be hard to stop drinking in the festive season
SMART Recovery Australia senior national program manager Josette Freeman says the ready access to alcohol, temptations and emotional factors can make it a bigger challenge than normal to kick the booze in December.
“It’s the end of the year and everyone lets their hair down. It’s a good excuse to get together so there is obviously a lot of drinking that goes on pre-Christmas,” she says.
“(And) for some people it can be the most miserable time of year, so if people are depressed and anxious they will go to their default to make them feel better, which is drinking.”
She says it is better not to promise to ditch the booze, “as people might be setting themselves for failure and you don’t want to fail”.
Focusing on alcohol reduction rather than alcohol-free is more achievable, she says.
Roger Falconer-Flint, of Hello Sunday Morning, agrees that easing into sobriety is a better approach over Christmas.
“If you’re picking a month to give up the booze, then let’s be honest: December probably has the highest degree of difficulty,” he says.
He advises making smaller, positive changes around alcohol consumption – and aiming for a sober Christmas Day is one goal that offers plenty of upsides.
“Christmas is partly an exercise in logistics: organising the kids, the presents, the relatives, the catering, the lights, the turkey, the sleeping arrangements,” Roger says.
“That requires a clear head and a high threshold for stress management, and that’s where you’ll start to appreciate the extra percentages in performance that you get when you operate fully sober. “You’ll also be far more present for the younger members in your family throughout the day, and you are more likely to avoid the classic Christmas lunch row with Uncle Dave.”
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How to reduce alcohol drinking at Christmas
Josette says it’s important to plan if you want to cut down on alcohol.
“Plans can be, ‘I’m only going to stay at the party until 9pm, then I am leaving’,” she says.
“Maybe it’s, ‘I’m only having four drinks then I am either going home or drinking water’.”
The plan should be clear – and if it doesn’t work out the first time, just try again next time.
Other tricks are:
- Brainstorming how you will deal with peer pressure
- Watering wine down with soda water
- Ordering light beers
- Breaking up drink rounds with water
- Not saying yes to every single Christmas party.
Roger recommends keeping it simple.
“If you’re just cutting down, then do the obvious smart things, like alternating non-alcoholic drinks with alcoholic drinks, picking the lower-alcohol content beers, avoiding the host’s punch,” he says.
“Volunteer to be the designated driver more often – you’ll amass karma points and get to pick the time of departure as well as wake up feeling fabulous.”
Christmas drink recipes for everyone to enjoy
Planning the perfect celebration drink minus the booze? Here are some ideas.
Fruity party punch
- 1 punnet strawberries washed, halved
- 1 punnet raspberries
- 1 punnet blueberries
- 1 ripe kiwifruit, peeled and chopped
- 1 litre of orange juice (or cranberry if you want to keep the red theme)
- 1 litre of chilled lemonade
- 500ml chilled pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup chopped, fresh mint leaves
* Tip: for a tangier version substitute the lemonade for tonic water
Sober Santa Mojito
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 slice of lime
- Sparkling water or soda water
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 12 mint leaves
- Ice (as required)
*Tip: use ginger ale rather than sparkling water for extra flavour
Candy Cane Fizz
- Raspberry cordial
- Use glazed cherries and a candy cane to garnish.
*Tip: add a slice of lime or some soda water if you prefer to avoid the full sugar hit
Written by Alex White.