So, how are you going to control your drinking over the festive season?
Former high-flying marketing executive Annie Grace was one such drinker. By her mid 20s she was downing two bottles of wine a day while holding down a top job and functioning at home. Grace, who lives in Colorado, carried on in this manner until her mid-30s, by which time she had a husband, Brian, and two sons, who are now aged 11 and eight. Her third son, now three, wasn’t yet born during her drinking days.
“I spent a lot of Christmases in a stupor,” she admits. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m not going to drink until at least 5pm’ but then it would be two or three in the afternoon or maybe even some Christmases it would be starting off the day with Mimosas (champagneand orange juice), and we’d end up drinking the entire day.”
The catalyst came one Christmas.
“I remember my son came over to me and I asked him to sit on my lap and he said, ‘No mum, you smell bad and your teeth are purple’. It was very clearly because of the wine I’d been drinking. It really affected me. I didn’t hit the proverbial rock bottom but when I think of tragic moments, that was certainly one of them.”
She tried to cut back on drinking but found herself drinking more, because setting strict rules and limits for herself didn’t work. As her mindset shifted, she realised she wanted to drink less but it took three years for her to stop completely in December 2014.
During this time, she set out to understand why she was in control in every other area of her life. Through research she learned about alcohol, the brain and body, which resulted in her book This Naked Mind.
It examines how the unconscious mind has been conditioned about the benefits of alcohol, how alcohol is the only drug you have to justify not taking and how not drinking is seen as being boring.
Create new mocktails
Make a decision in the run-up to Christmas to have an evening where you make mocktails and develop an enjoyable one. “The ritual is often as powerful as the drink and we don’t realise that,” she says.
“The expectation when we thinkabout not drinking is that it’s going to be miserable. Put aside that expectation and get curious how mocktails might work for a night, which can interrupt that pattern of thought so much.”
Give yourself realistic targets
“Make a firm decision you can keep, such as ‘I’m not going to drink until 8pm’ and then you know your drinking is going to be consolidated to just a few hours. Don’t compromise on that.”
Don’t let family arguments at Christmas make you reach for the bottle
“Treat yourself in another way, whether it’s treating yourself to a fancy dessert or to a nice walk outside or a bit of time alone. If the relatives are stressing you out, go for a walk. I’ve done that, I’ve gone outside and phoned a friend. It’s so much better than being drunk.”
Ignore accusations that you’re not being much fun
“In the early days of not drinking, I would order a vodka tonic and then go to the waitress and ask her to leave out the vodka and just bring me tonic for the rest of the evening. It proved that I could be fun without booze. Then at the end I’d tell them I’d just been drinking tonic all night. It viscerally showed them that nothing was changing.”
This Naked Mind by Annie Grace is available now