Alcohol-free through the holidays: how to make it work

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Christmas and the New Year without alcohol? For many, that sounds unthinkable. But for some, it’s a conscious decision or even a necessity. How the plan can succeed.

Whether it is mulled wine at the Christmas market, eggnog under the tree, or champagne at the end of the year, alcohol consumption plays a larger role in society than usual during the holiday season. For people who give up alcohol, whether out of personal conviction or during a withdrawal process, this can be a major challenge. How can the project succeed when alcoholic beverages abound and social pressure mounts?

Set clear goals and remain steadfast.
Before the holidays begin, those affected should focus again on why they don’t want to consume alcohol. Why is it good for me not to drink? How do I feel when I do get “weak”? It also helps to show yourself what you actually want to achieve. “Looking at your own goals, which anyone can set themselves, helps in such situations,” explains addiction specialist Dr. Reingard Herbst in an interview with the news agency Spot On News. “Whether these remain in focus depends on many factors, for example, the day’s situation, the current feelings, and the social environment, which may also include drinking.”

This is where the problem often lies: colleagues, friends, or family often react with incomprehension to people who don’t drink alcohol. They then try to persuade people to drink and say things like, “Oh, come on, just a glass to toast.”. It is important to remain firm in such situations, explains Dr. Herbst. “In our experience, saying ‘no’ to alcohol is always the best solution in such situations. This ‘no’ has to be said very clearly; it doesn’t have to be explained. It’s just the way it is.” The more steadfast the person concerned remains with their statement and the less they explain, the more likely this “no” will be accepted by others around them. “You have to put up with a little resistance, and then it works.”

Find like-minded people and shed shame

Giving up alcohol often works better together; perhaps there is someone in your own circle who also gives up alcohol. Joining forces with like-minded people, sharing experiences, and supporting each other can be a great source of support and motivation.

It is also important to recognize that the decision to give up alcohol is something positive and nothing to be ashamed of. Social expectations and normative drinking patterns should not take control of your personal festive experience. Being open about giving up alcohol can also be an inspiration to others.

Alcohol-free alternatives
Anyone who feels FOMO (“fear of missing out”) when drinking socially can opt for alcohol-free alternatives. Mocktails are a great way to raise a glass with family or friends and not feel left out. You can now find alternatives for almost any alcoholic drink in the shops: wine, sparkling wine, beer, or gin.

Staying strong in difficult situations
Nonetheless, alcohol can be a temptation, especially when the entire family gathers at Christmas, and conflict situations arise. In precisely these situations, many people turn to alcohol to “relax” from stress. This is not a good idea: “Because alcohol only temporarily suppresses the conflicts, so to speak,” explains Dr. Herbst. “The relaxation is quickly destroyed when the conflicts return with a vengeance in sobriety.”

“Our brain also learns that there is this supposed way out of the stresses and problems of everyday life,” explains the doctor. “And it then wants to take this easy route more often. Alcohol is used to achieve something, so to speak. In this context, the path to addiction is particularly quick.”

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