Holiday Party Season – 101 opportunities to get wasted! (but you don’t have to if you don’t want to)

Christmas parties!!!!! Holy shit. Back in my (drunk) day, this was the time of year where I’d metaphorically roll up my sleeves and brace myself for a bender. To party. A verb that meant something different to me back then. I still really like going to celebrations over the holiday season, it’s so much fun and there is always the bonus of awesome snacks ahaha! Now that I have almost two years of sober experience, and one-and-a-half alcohol-free holiday seasons, I’m going to tell you a little bit about how and why I am still as pumped for December as I was when I still liked to “rage.” LOL.

These are my opinions, obviously, but I think you might agree with at least a couple things here.

What makes the holiday season parties extra special? Many of us consider this the best time of the year because it’s so festive! Out of town friends come to visit, people come home from University, family gatherings are happening left, right and centre, pond skating and fires with hot chocolate, etc, etc. There seems to be a social event every single day and night over the Christmas and New Year season. A few things immediately stand when I start to envision going to a holiday party or get together.

First, festive outfits! Particularly party dresses, or maybe a collared shirt with the possibility of a tie, if you’re not into dresses. One of the best parts about going to a staff Christmas party, an annual Boxing Day shaker, or even a pre NYE happy hour, is getting dolled up.  Possibly wearing something brand new that you’ve been saving, and putting in the effort to look extra special. I love buying a dress, or borrowing one from a friend that I’ve never been seen wearing, taking a brush to my hair (LOL) and taking my time doing my hair and makeup while listening to cheesy Christmas tunes and having a fancy drink as I get ready…which leads me to…

Holiday drinks! Rum and eggnog. Bailey’s and hot chocolate. Hot apple cider. Mulled wine. Party punch. Holiday mimosas. OR, for lots of people, their usual, just dumped into a Santa mug or a stemmed glass with a glittery snowflake on it. Guess what else can be dumped into a Christmas mug or wine glass with a dangly Christmas decoration? That’s right, whatever the fuck you want! Ahahaha! It’s the same process, regardless. Pick out what you feel like drinking, bring it with you to the party so you aren’t a huge freeloader (seriously, you can’t go there and drink ALL the soda water, others brought that for mixing with their vodka) and when you arrive, find a place to “stash” your shit, and proceed as usual. If you’re thinking, “I only drink beer, people will know and hustle me.” then grab some non-alcoholic Beck’s or Grolsch from the grocery store. Go ahead and dump it into a red solo cup if you must.

A third thing that I immediately think of when I think of Christmas parties – TAXIS. I don’t know why taxis don’t go hand in hand with all parties, maybe people are less organized during the rest of the year or more inclined to leave their vehicle overnight because they don’t have a ton of shit to do the next day. Who knows. Anyways, I don’t know where you live, but where I live, there aren’t usually enough cabs to go around during the holiday season. Also, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to sit in the back seat of some of these moth-eaten antiques in a new dress, or one I borrowed from a friend. Plus, they’re expensive. If you decide you don’t want to drink at a Christmas party, you’re able to drive yourself to said party, and home, or wherever else you want to go. Oh, and you get to brag when you go through road-blocks! “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” ahahah, why no, officer, I haven’t since I ruined Christmas in 2015!

Those are the main things that I can think of that really set going to a Christmas party vs. a regular party apart in my mind. Maybe a random elf hat or party game. Christmas parties have more food, which is AWESOME (and provides enough calories, without adding in alcohol) but yummy food has nothing to do with getting pissed. They often have beautiful Christmas trees, stockings, and maybe other festive home decor, but that also has nothing to do with drinking. The company is usually bang on, since it’s a time of year where it seems that even the people who don’t usually go out, do, and everyone seems to be in a warm, jolly mood, tossing out well-wishes in all directions. This has nothing to do with booze either. The season is fun because of good people and good vibes.

If the fast approaching holiday season has been giving you anxiety because you’re nervous about the possibility of losing your dignity and/or debilitating hangovers, take it from me, a retired professional. Going out at this time of year and skipping the alcohol CAN be done. I’m living proof. Drive yourself (and your very lucky friends) to the party. Drink something that tastes good from a festive glass. Look fresh vs. sloppy in photos! Look as polished (and stain-free) when you leave as you did upon arrival. Drive yourself to the next party. And the next. Drive yourself home. Wake up having washed your face and brushed your teeth, and not immediately turning to Google for tips on how to not look like shit at the next party, which is of course tonight, even if it’s a Sunday.

I’m pumped for the festivities to start! Not only that, I’m excited for daytime events like fires, freezing cold hikes and Christmas tree hunting while not feeling like a bag of shit. Good tidings to you! Email me if you want!

 @jammiekomadina

 

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Positive Feedback just made my day!

An acquaintance just approached me to tell me how my sober-related blog posts have helped her nearly eliminate booze! She told me that what I write about is making a difference in her life, and others. My heart is like exploding! I share what I do because there was a time when I needed that so badly, but couldn’t find anything relatable for a long time! Nowadays there are way more people pumping up sobriety’s tires and it’s so cool!!

I remember when I felt extremely embarassed by my thoughts about knowing I had issues and needed to stop. It felt like I was a big freak who had all these uncommon problems that stemmed from drinking too much, too often or both. These days, sobriety is a movement. People are getting tired of feeling like shit and being told by media, society, etc. that alcohol is required for everything! As a sober person, I now notice constantly how obsessed society is with alsohol. If you take a second and pay attention, you’ll see too. It’s annoying! And ridiculous. Celebrations, fun times, dealing with stress, coping with loss, relaxing, rewards, crafting, dinner parties, cooking, surviving parenting, and the list is endless! And sorry but what the fuck is beer-yoga?

Alcohol does not cause problems for all people, but it does for way more than I ever thought. I know this because people talk to me about it now, because they know they can. I love that! Congrats to you, if you’ve recognized that it’s better for you, as an invidual to cut down or give booze the boot. Clear headed, bright and shiny for the win.

My Interview with Kate from The Sober School <3

In early 2016, I was amongst the first group of students to complete an online course created by Kate, creator of The Sober School, called Getting Unstuck.  I’ve mentioned this course before, and The Sober School and Kate, and how much participating in the program helped me when I decided I didn’t want to drink alcohol anymore.

There are now multiple groups of people who have completed this course and Kate is really on a roll with her program, it’s amazing!!! She is adding a mini interview series to the Getting Unstuck course. Every Sunday, part of the lesson will involve an interview with a graduate of the course, talking about their experience of sobriety. I feel really proud that she picked me as one of the people to interview and it was really interesting answering the questions. Revisiting this stuff was pretty cool after almost 500 days! Here’s what we talked about.

This is Kate!

Kate: How were you feeling about your drinking before you joined the course, and what made you decide it was time to stop?

Jamie: “Before joining the Getting Unstuck course, I felt like I had serious issues with alcohol and I was stuck in a vicious cycle that I wanted to break for a really long time. Over ten years. When I drank I’d adopt a “YOLO, who f*ckin cares” attitude and disregard everything: next-day responsibilities, money, my physical and mental health, relationships with friends, family and significant other. Priorities temporarily didn’t exist. I also had a lot of friendships that weren’t really based on anything except drinking.

Then, when I wasn’t drunk anymore I’d be totally swallowed up by loneliness because a lot of the “fun” I’d been having was fake. I’d experience extreme guilt, anxiety, depression and shame and reality would set in and those priorities that went out the window mattered again, and my life would feel out of control. I would have physical symptoms like nausea, shakiness, acid reflux, dizziness, low blood sugar, irritability, etc and I would tell myself I had to stop treating my body and mind this way. I felt needy and paranoid about the tiniest things when I was hungover and I would research how to quit drinking all the time but never found anything relatable until I found Kate’s blog.

I knew it was time to stop for a long time, but then I basically wrecked Christmas and had to sit and deal with myself for 8 hours at work on Boxing Day and it was actual torture. I finally decided enough was enough and took some action.”

Kate: What was early sobriety like? How did you feel during the first month or so?

Jamie: “At first I was obsessed. I’m like that though, I usually approach new things 100%, not sure if that’s healthy or not, but whatever, it was the way I knew I could succeed. I read Kate and Belle’s blogs all day, every day when I wasn’t busy doing other things, and I went on Amazon and bought a bunch of books. I also went out and did a big grocery shop to stock my new non-alcoholic beverage cabinet at our house. I read every article I could find about non-alcoholic drinks and I was meticulous about planning out the social events I was going to go to and what I’d bring with me to drink. Non-alcoholic beer was pretty much my saviour. I went out sometimes, but I usually went home early when I was feeling awkward or annoyed by drunk people, or if I noticed that the situation was genuinely not that fun..which I’ve found happens a lot!

I made sure my now-husband knew how serious I was about this sober mission. It helped that I simultaneously started training for my first full marathon and I used that as a way to get people off my back when they’d ask why I wasn’t drinking. The first month or so it was a project that I was fully engaged in and committed to. I had to be excited about it or it would be a chore and I’d have failed like I did a hundred times before. Every time I arrived home sober it was a win. And every morning I woke up without a hangover was one too. Once it became more natural, it was a little anti-climactic because I no longer had to focus all my energy on being sober. I had gained some momentum. But I adapted, obviously,, and transferred my focus to the bigger picture of my life and what I wanted to do with it. Hands down, planning what to drink instead of booze was the number one thing that helped me at first and still does.”

Kate: What’s life like now?! What do you love most about alcohol-free living?

Jamie: “Now, I feel like my life is what I wanted it to be like before I quit booze. It’s what I was looking for but never found long-term. I would drink for all sorts of reasons that I didn’t recognize at the time, like to feel confident, free, alive, pumped up, to “give zero f*cks”, be funny, social, etc. Once I figured out that I didn’t need liquor for any of those things it was like a light bulb went on.

Everything is more authentic now. I hang out with people I can have good conversations with, I do my favourite things with a clear head and not feeling like shit, and I’m generally just a way more efficient person with way more time and money. What I love most for sure is that I never ever feel guilty and depressed about being irresponsible the night before and spending too much money and treating my body like a garbage can. And I feel like I’m way more grounded. Life is just really good.”

Kate: What sober tools are in your toolbox? How do you deal with emotions or situations that you might have previously drunk over?

Jamie: “The most important tool I learned is playing out the situation to the end when I feel like drinking. Asking myself, “do you really want to wake up tomorrow dehydrated with all your makeup still on and a smaller bank account, a migraine, nausea, the shakes and on the verge of an anxiety attack all day long?” NO, I don’t. My other tools are non-alcoholic beer and virgin Caesars as my go-to drinks, or soda with lemon. Drink something you like! Another tool is I buy something I want and then remind myself: this costs the same amount as a night out back in the day, but this is useful and will last – not get guzzled away. Rewards are important. It’s also really fun to get ready to go out and wear something new and remind myself that I’ll look healthy, happy and my makeup will be good the whole evening instead of gradually getting smudgy, getting a red face, wine lips and droopy eyes and looking like a trainwreck by midnight and possibly embarrass myself or do something I’ll regret.

When it comes to emotions, I no longer have such extreme emotional experiences as I used to when I was drinking all the time. I feel more grounded and resilient as a whole. But when I do have a shit day or something stressful or overwhelming is happening, I usually just go for a run or have a nap or talk about it with a friend or my husband. Getting drunk and postponing dealing with things is WAY worse than just taking a deep breath and handling it head-on and in my right mind.”

Kate: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to deal with since you stopped drinking? How did you overcome it?

Jamie: “The biggest challenge was initiating the decision and sticking to it at the beginning. Change is really hard. That involved learning about why I thought I wanted/needed to drink.  Nowadays, very rarely, when it randomly feels like summer or I smell campfire and get caught off guard, I get a random urge to start day drinking or “get f*cked up” but then I think rationally about it and I’m like wait, that’s just an old reflex, no I don’t. Gaining momentum at the begining was hard because it was new and different. People question you. I still question myself. Occasionally I have moments where I think, am I missing out and being antisocial because I’m chilling at home on this particular Saturday night?? I have felt unsure and sad for a split second, but then I remind myself of how good my life is and I get over that moment of uncertainty. I socialize in tons of other ways and I still go to parties when I feel like it!

These days I don’t really feel like there are many challenges. It’s simple now because it makes sense. I don’t enjoy feeling like shit! Sobriety is like a secret weapon that makes my life amazing and no one can take it away from me. When people ask me if I’ll ever drink again, I don’t even think twice about saying no. It actually makes zero sense to me now, to drink alcohol. It serves me in zero ways.”

Kate: Tell us about something wonderful that would never have happened if you’d still been drinking!

Jamie: “I wouldn’t have run 3 full marathons (so far!) and be training for my 4th with the goal of breaking 4 hours this time! I wouldn’t have the healthiest, most amazing marriage I can imagine. I wouldn’t have a life that feels good, manageable and organized the majority of the time. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be a role model for other people who are or were in my previous situation. OH and I wouldn’t have taken my best 2 vacations of my life so far; a week long health retreat in the Mayan Riviera, and Walt Disney Marathon Weekend in Florida.”

Kate: Do you have any tips or advice for people taking the Getting Unstuck course right now? What do you wish you’d known, when you were on the course?

Jamie: “My advice is to commit to it fully and even if one of the exercises or discussions doesn’t feel important or relevant to you, just go with it because it’s all valuable. What I wish I’d known when I was doing the course was that one day I’d be proud of what I was doing, and not unsure and embarrassed. But all of that comes in time.”

Kate: a few quick-fire questions:

My favourite sober book is…”Unwasted – My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic”

My favourite quote is … “always changing, but I love quotes about running from amazing female elite marathoners like Kara Goucher, Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, Paula Radcliffe, etc”

My favourite alcohol-free drink is…. “Virgin Caesars and fake beer! Ginger beer too, and a super easy one is soda with lemon.”

My favourite sober treat is … “online shopping for running gear, fancy baths with candles and essential oils and a good book or Instagram, going on running trips to out of town races!”

🙂

 

WOW!! I loved answering these questions and being so sure about my answers. I remember sitting at work on Boxing Day 2015 wishing that I could fast-forward to a time where everything felt better and I felt healthy and grounded. In about a month it will have been 500 days since I had any alcohol at all, and it seems to have flown by, looking back. If you relate to anything you’ve read here, I encourage you to check out Kate’s website, The Sober School. It is awesome. And if you have any questions or need a hand, contact me!

@jammiekomadina

What do I drink, then? What do I do at parties??

One of the best things I learned from Kate at The Sober School was how important it is to drink something that you actually like when trying to avoid booze. Whether you’re wanting to take a break from alcohol or get away from it altogether, it’s hard, especially at social events because of the way our society celebrates alcohol like it’s the crucial factor for having fun.

A party or event is usually some kind of celebration and drinking a plain glass of water doesn’t help anyone feel like they’re celebrating. For lots of us, going out and not drinking is like going to another planet. Standing around holding nothing or that boring-ass glass of water is just going to make you feel left out and awkward, plus it increases the chances of super annoying questions like, “What the? Is that water?” or “what are you pregnant or something?

I realize that what other people think doesn’t matter, but give yourself a break. If you decide you want to hit up a party or event and not drink, bring something else you look forward to having. It’s a game-changer; I speak from experience. Again, it’s not about what the other people are asking, thinking or wondering, anyway. It’s about you being able to hang out with your friends, acquaintances and new people and enjoy your “special” drink just like everyone else is without feeling like you’re missing out on something, or like you have “I’M NOT DRINKING” written on your forehead in black marker. Quitting or taking a break from alcohol doesn’t mean you need to hide in your house. I’m not saying it’s easy, especially at first, but here are ten ideas for you when you go out to a house party, the bar or even just out for dinner.

1. The Red Solo Cup

There are drinking songs about them, they are used for Beer Pong and Flip Cup, and they are sitting in a stack on the counter at most parties and functions. Contrary to popular belief, they are not just for beer and highballs. Grab one and fill it up with whatever the hell you want! One time at a friend’s annual Boxing Day party, myself and my equally weird friend drank juice and club soda all night long in red cups and lots of people thought we were pissed. LOL. Nope, just gettin weird and having a good time because it was an actual fun party with sweet people and the appy table of the year. When drunk people started close-talking and repeating their stories, I drove myself home instead of waiting for (and paying for) a cab during Christmas party season.

2. Booze-free Sangria

I made a REALLY good batch of this on my 31st birthday at our place when I was two weeks into the non-drinking project. It was so good that other people wanted some. They may have added vodka, but that’s not the point. It was really good, felt fancy and like something the token birthday girl might want on a special day. That sounds really corny but you know I’m right about wanting something unique to drink on a special occasion. I don’t remember the exact recipe but I used a bottle of dealcoholized red wine (grocery store) a big batch of cold black tea, a bit of Sprite and then added oranges, lemons, limes and strawberries, all in a giant bowl with a ladel. Served in a fancy glass, of course.

3. Wine Glass

Even plain water feels cool in one of these. Or, fill it with flavoured sparkling water and berries, limes or cucumber slices. Whatever you pick, it’s more fun than a regular glass of anything and it looks like a cocktail, which can be helpful for warding off the annoying questions.

4. Non-alcoholic Beer

There are some really good non-alcoholic beers and lots of them don’t have “NON-ALCOHOLIC” across the label in huge red letters. I love the taste of beer, that’s why I like drinking these! You can buy them at the grocery store, if you’re wondering. Last year during Seafest (biggest party weekend of the year where I live) someone said to my cousin, “whoa, look at Jamie, she’s really on step tonight!” i.e. they thought I was drunk. If they looked closer, I was actually double-fisting O’Doul’s because someone bought me another one before I’d finished mine, and I was having a blast because most of my favourite people were there, the music was good and the night was just genuinely fun. But remember from the 373 days of non-drinking post, alcohol is generally a not-that-great tasting beverage that people drink for other reasons. So drink whatever it is that you actually like the taste of and if that’s beer, then fake beer might be the perfect option for you.

5. “Vodka Soda without the Vodka”

My best friend has a very funny way of describing and explaining things. One time back in the day when we were being drunk loons at the cabin, one of the many quotes in our weekend collection was “I made a vodka soda but forgot the vodka!” We thought it was hilarious (it is) but it’s also genius hahaha! I personally love soda, it’s like chugging Coca-Cola but without eight billion grams of sugar. Put some limes (or lemons or grapefruit slices or raspberries, whatever you want) in there and you have your Vodka Soda without the Vodka. Who knew.

6. Homemade Iced-Tea

When I was younger I swear there was only one kind of tea. Red Rose. That was the only kind. Now there is every flavour you can think of and places like David’s Tea exist. Make a huge batch of your favourite tea, stick it in the fridge and when it’s cold (way longer than you want it to take, FYI) add ice and any garnish that suits the flavour and pour it in a fancy glass. Or, put the whole batch in some kind of thermos or jug just like people do when they make Moon Juice (or whatever you wanna call a sh#! mix of alcohol) and bring it with you to the party you’re going to. I bet there will be a red solo cup for you to drink it out of.

7. Virgin Caesar

Have you ever had a Virgin Caesar? I have and guess what it tastes like? Yes. A Caesar. I love Canada. Bloody Mary’s are gross. The Virgin Caesar is high on my list. They’re also fun to make! If you aren’t Canadian and you don’t know what I’m talking about I wish I could see your face when you Google “clamato.” Bahaha

8. Coffee

Sometimes all we want is something in hand at a party because we’re used to always having a drink and it feels weird with both arms dangling at our sides. Maybe you’re tired but still feel like socializing for a while so you want some caffeine, or maybe you just effing love coffee. Bailey’s makes a coffee creamer now so if you’re going to tell me you only like coffee with Bailey’s, you’re good.

9. Hipster Pop in a glass bottle 

They have this kind of thing at the microbrewery, Wheelhouse, where I live and it’s awesome. These days they’re carrying soda from The Pop Shoppe. It’s one of the most fun places in town and even though I don’t go there as often as I used to when drinking all the beer was my favourite hobby, it’s nice to have something else to order and it’s friggin delicious. Oh, and NOBODY cares that I’m ordering a creme soda and not a Gilnetter.

10. Ginger Beer

Not all ginger beer is alcohol-free (I’ll tell you a story about that another day…) but lots of it is. I had a large bottle of Fever-Tree Ginger Beer after the Victoria Marathon and it was SOOOO good I wanted to beer-bong it. At Christmas time when we were in Kelowna at my mother-in-law’s house she had this kind here, Buderim, and it was amazing too. Not for everyone, but I think ginger beer is amazing.

I used to think that if I wasn’t drinking alcohol I couldn’t go out because I’d be bored and awkward with nothing in my hand. There are so many things to drink besides booze if you don’t want alcohol and once I learned this from Kate and Belle and did some experimenting, it got way easier. On New Year’s Eve this year I brought bottles of dealcoholized red and sparkling white wine (“Virgin Brute” LOL) and a bunch of cans of club soda to mix because I don’t like drinks very sweet. It was a really good New Year’s party because of the people, the atmosphere, the conversations and the food of course. When I got home I looked as fresh as when I left the house after getting ready, not like Stu on The Hangover.

Please don’t think that not drinking alcohol = denying yourself of good shit. It might take some trial and error but you will find things that work for you and once you get some practice, going out sober is no longer like going to Mars.