Updated: Nov 30, 2020
For so many of us, Silly Season can become a bit of a white-knuckled ride filled with stress, tension, failed expectations, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, fatigue, and - of course - the endless pressure to drink. To go hard, or go home ... (etc, etc - you know how it goes.)
All this, while maintaining a permanent smile and good cheer (as is expected of us) is well, it's ... tricky and exhausting. The whole rock show begins to feel like a matter of survival rather than the celebration and joyful time of family and friendship it’s meant to be. Which is all kinds of ironic.
So let's change that for ourselves! Because it CAN be heaps better with some forethought, planning, careful consideration and basic self care, along with choosing to lower out own expectations and opting to keep it very very simple.
So, while we are a month out - let’s discuss some survival plans and tips and do what we can, collectively to make sure we are OK.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A SOBER SILLY SEASON:
> First and foremost: PLAN. I mean seriously, seriously plan. If you’ve been fluffing around the edges with your self-talk around your own sobriety, and you know in your deepest heart of hearts that you've got to knuckle down and buckle down then right NOW is the time to get very serious. Like SAS serious. Because, remember, failing to plan is planning to fail. So get yourself sorted with some strategies. What that looks like is for you to work out. Just please don't head into into Silly Season with a ‘’she’ll be ‘right’’ approach as your first and only line of defence. There are SO many other online resources and starting places available - some of those are here.
> Investigate peer support! Get yourself into a supportive online group. Come join our Bush Tribe if you’re rural! It’s free and it’s filled with hundreds of rural men and women who get it. And what peers can give you is priceless and awesome, because it comes from lived experience, and from people who look and sound and walk and talk just like YOU .... aka, your Tribe!!
> Be honest with your loved ones, now. Work through strategies now for Silly Season with your family, friends, and loved ones as well as with yourself. Be HONEST with them. Be honest with YOURSELF. Your true friends and family will back you 100% if you're asking them to stand by your choice to drink less, or nothing at all. Those who throw it back in your face or give you a hard time are more than likely in need of their own help - so don't be sad, mad, or hurt. Just detach with love, deal with that later, and put your safety first, second, and third.
> If in doubt: DON’T. Just don’t. Seriously - just don't. Say no to the office Christmas party or the NYE celebration or the back-yard booze-ups if you’re in early fragile sobriety or feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, or unsafe. No party, person, or thing is worth what you're working so hard to achieve. And no friend is worth your angst if they turn their back on you because you said no.
> Have an exit plan, always!! The joy of being in the bush means no public transport or late night trams or trains .... as we all know. SO, be very very sure that you’ve got an independent early exit plan and if in doubt, DON’T bloody go! Make sure you have your own transport and don't load yourself up with a carload of big-drinking mates unless you're 100% prepared to stay until the end (which is not recommended if you're at all unsure of your own safety) or unless they're prepared to evacuate early if you hit struggle street. That's got to be a non-negotiable.
> be VERY careful with ''alcohol free beer / wine & spirits.... !! Seriously, I just cannot give enough warnings about this. And I am consistently shocked at the utter lack of warning given by ''sobriety influencers'' and manufacturers of pseudo-booze. While these drinks can indeed be a fabulous alternative and absolutely have a ‘’place’’ for someone who doesn't battle addiction - they're a dead set potential trigger to relapse, and worse, for others. So: refer to point 2. If in doubt: DON’T. We recommend ETCH Sparkling as a delicious grown-up beverage that doesn’t emulate the taste or smell of grog. You can buy it or learn about them via the link. More about ''AF'' beer wine, and spirits in our blog here.
> BYO food (& non-alcoholic drinks) and never assume: Sadly we rural humans can still never assume we'll be catered for as non-drinkers; so until that changes (please God, let it be in the next century .... ) you will have to take charge of your own night or event and ensure you have your own snacks ready - because often the focus is on grog first, and nutrition second. One of the oldest tricks in the book for sobriety is to not ever let yourself get hungry, angry, thirsty or tired. And if any of those happen, and you’re feeling flighty or restless - then leave. Do not feel obliged to explain yourself or your choices if it isn't necessary. Just go.
> Volunteer. Do something good for someone else and take the focus off yourself. If you feel lonely at Christmas, imagine how it is for others even less fortunate. Reach out. Host an Orphans Christmas, or party. Think about others in your small town who are in the same boat. Be a leader, and scoop them up. If you’re lucky enough to live within close proximity to real-life face-to-face support group options and you’re yet to give that a whirl, then GO. Try it. Seriously. What have you got to lose? Nothing. Meetings are listed here.
> For our mates who can drink? If you’re reading this and you’ve got a non-drinker coming to an event - please, please, please think bigger. Have some fresh soda and lime at the least ready to go. And get used to not making it a BIG DEAL if your mate says no thanks, or not today.
Honestly: the key to successful, ongoing, long-term sobriety is the same as the key to getting through Christmas. Just get to work. Put your head down and your bum up. Make a plan. Follow it through. Be honest. And just get up and show up and do it one day at a time. And focus on small things, gratitude, and acts of service to others.
I hope this is helpful.
I write it with all the love and care in the world because this time of year is the time of year I nearly died because I caved in and said ''stuff it'' and picked up the bottle again. You can read about my rock bottom here. Trigger warnings galore, so be warned. Xx
Shanna Whan is the CEO and Founder of national rural charity Sober in the Country and a grateful recovered alcoholic who has made it her life's work to carry hope and advocate for others like her in the rural sector who are overlooked by an inadequate health care system.
DISCLAIMER: SITC is a national charity that works via advocacy, social impact, and peer support. We are not a ''programme'' but an advocacy charity and a peer-to-peer connection point . This blog isn't intended as a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.