I’m well aware that I don’t need to give Detox|Retox readers advice on how to drink, most of you are already pretty damn good at it.
Maybe a bit too good sometimes?
I definitely am. Pretty much a champion, in fact. Especially when Christmas rolls around, the events ramp up, the fizz starts flowing and there’s always somebody, somewhere, up for a party.
All too often Decembers are spent in a haze of hangovers and 'what happened the night before?' horrors BUT there is another way to enjoy the silly season.
Choosing not to go 'all out' at every opportunity and generally being more mindful of what and how we drink over the next few weeks could make all the difference between a very merry Christmas season and a New Year filled with regrets.
The benefits of reducing our alcohol intake, even just a tad, include saving money, brain cells, dignity, calories, relationships, possibly jobs. The disadvantages include... well, there aren't really any, are there?
If you're keen on reining in the booze a bit this year, we've got some brilliant, workable tips from mindful drinking experts Chris Raine, founder of 'Hello Sunday Morning', the world's largest online movement for alcohol behaviour change, Laura Willoughby, co-founder of Club Soda, an organisation offering support and events for people wanting to reduce or quit dangerous drinking habits, and Jonathan Edgeley, Addiction consultant at Sober Services in London.
They might sound very serious, but they still know how to party. And these experts don't want to stop us having fun this party season, they just want us to stop before the fun stops.
Chris Raine, who founded Hello Sunday Morning in 2010 says: "One of the biggest challenges for those of us being mindful of our drinking is the perceived opportunity cost of bonding with people in social situations, particularly with the boom in the festive season. Honestly, it can be a really hard time. But while the pervasive image is that of success and glamour being accompanied by a glass in hand, it’s never that simple and there are ways to hack around this by planning properly and finding support."
Laura Willoughby, who started Club Soda after finding support lacking when she wanted to quit drinking four years ago, says: "It is always good to remember that drinking is not compulsory, it is just that peer pressure makes it feel that way. If you really want to unleash the rebel within then not drinking this Christmas is the ultimate act of defiance, and is a great gift to give yourself.”
Cheers to that.
HOW TO DRINK LESS... AND STILL BE/HAVE FUN
1. The five-minute pause
Chris says: "Have you ever noticed that when we enter a room of strangers we have the impulse to go straight to the bar? Other people really are quite scary. I still do it, often unconsciously. Without even thinking I’ll have found a glass in my hand. It is like the inner fight/flight response kicks in and the only way we can convince the brain to do neither is to put liquid in it. I've found the best way to deal with this is to either pause and chat for five to fifteen minutes before going to the bar, or to make my first drink a soda and lime."
Chris says: "Go into the situation knowing how long you will stay for, how much you want to drink over this time, and with an idea of who you want to talk to. Situations do change, but do your best to stick with the plan. Make sure you have something to do in the morning for extra motivation."
Laura adds: "Chat to your party organiser about what they will have on offer and make a suggestion if you think their offer for non-drinkers or those looking to mix and match is lacking (some ideas HERE) - you won't be the only one grateful for something more interesting."
And don't forget the escape plan. Laura says: "Whether it's beating Uber surge pricing or arranging a food delivery for 9pm, always have a good excuse to get out before it gets messy."
Laura is a fan of a bit of light smuggling: "In most circumstances you can take your own. Stash a small bottle of your favourite cordial in your bag and you can smash through pint after pint of your own pimped fizzy water. In a champagne glass it will look no different to the real thing."
4. Get there early/late and Avoid doing "rounds"
Laura says: "In the pub get to the bar early or late, and get your own drink in. That way you avoid rounds, and you will have time to to co-opt the bar staff to give you something that looks the part. They are always happy to make sure you get your 'usual' without a song and dance. Once everyone else has finished their second drink you will feel happy you did not cave in!"
5. KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE
Jonathan says that identifying and then focusing on your motivation to be a better drinker is the key to more mindful partying and will help you sleep, look and feel better when the New Year comes.
He says: "This will be the single most important element to having a great Christmas season that you can remember. Once your reason has been established, it will then become your primary motivation to achieving your goal and be used as your point of reference during your period of reduced intake of alcohol.
"One way is by choosing an image for your motivation and have it as your screen saver on your phone, pin it to the fridge, frame it to your desk... wherever you put it, make sure it is visible and a constant reminder."
6. BECOME THE DESIGNATED DRIVER
Jonathan says: "This can be fun, for a start you get to bask in the glory of watching other people overindulge and be the one to remind them of the night’s events the next morning. Additionally, your family and friends will see you as the saviour of the night and appreciate your gallant services."
7. THINK ABOUT THE MONEY
Jonathan says "Mocktails are a great alternative to cocktails on a night out, and considerably cheaper. So by embracing Mocktails in your drinking this Christmas, you can still be out having fun with your friends and experience the joys of a sober night out.
"There’s no doubt that the more you reduce drinking, the more money you can save. Start a savings pot and set aside money from your ‘drinking fund’ that you would usually spend on a night out. You might even have enough for that New Year holiday you’ve been thinking about."
8. USE THE OPPORTUNITY TO NETWORK
Finally, Christmas is a great time to meet new people within your friendship circle, your company and among clients. Laura says: "Set yourself a challenge to get to know some new people better. Friendships and good connections made like this will last well into the new year, and not just for the night. Curiosity is always better than alcohol for getting a real conversation going."
Download the The Hello Sunday Morning app HERE and use it to track your weekly relationship with alcohol
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Having a sober Christmas can be a challenge so Club Soda has introduced a programme to help you navigate the festive party season with your own personal sober coach, offering advice and immediate support via text or phone calls throughout the month
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For anyone setting off with intentions to drink less this Christmas, but not able to see it through Sober Services have helped hundreds of people to change their drinking habits, and their Sober Consultants are also available to support anyone who is thinking of stopping altogether
For further information visit soberservices.co.uk