Hello January :-))

At risk of sounding like a right old misery guts, I’m writing today to say that I am very happy to be properly back at work and saying farewell to Christmas for another year. As I launched a half-eaten box of mince pies into the bin this morning, it did cross my mind that maybe nobody likes Christmas all that much after all…

To put this into some context, I should point out that the main event of exchanging gifts, which for me entails watching my lovely girls rip open their presents with glee, is very nice, and something that I am more than happy to do. I also love the enforced downtime that the festive season brings with it, as I generally don’t get much time to relax and it definitely does me good to do so.

But what I hate is the fact that so many people feel extreme emotional pain at this time of year, for a number of reasons ranging from bereavement to broken relationships to things just not being where they hoped they would be. And neither do I like the pressure to be all Nigella-like in the kitchen (which in reality means you miss out on all the fun as you slog it out over a hot stove and a sink full of dirty pots). As a non-drinker, neither do I like the intense commercial push stemming from the alcohol industry, which results in millions downing more booze than anyone should ever do for their mental and physical health.

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When all around us we see signs advertising Prosecco and craft gins, money off multiple bottles of wine at the supermarkets, great big cases of beer at knockdown prices…when magazines are filled with images of glamorous people daintily holding glasses of fizz at elegant Christmas parties, and ideas for disguising hangovers with luxury beauty treatments…when mainstream newspapers are publishing light-hearted articles about the best foods to eat on New Year’s Day when you are nursing a crippling hangover…when we consider all of these things, on top of the various reasons why December can be a cruel and painful month for so many people, is it any wonder that Christmas brings vast numbers to their knees, desperate for it all to be over and for January to get underway with its routine and normality? The temptation to join in and drink excessively can be overwhelming, especially for anyone living with an alcohol dependency.

Personally, I used to hate Christmas, as a drinker and then as a new non-drinker, but as the sober years have passed by it has become a time that I can enjoy for a few small benefits (as mentioned above). But it still strikes me every year that for many, many people, it is unwelcome, difficult and downright awful, and virtually impossible to escape for those who may secretly wish to do so. It isn’t OK to ditch Christmas – in the eyes of many it’s akin to turning down a wedding invitation. You just have to partake – stick a smile on your face and get on with it. And make sure you have fun…or else!

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Midway through cooking Christmas dinner (I’m not a bad cook but it didn’t turn out all that great and I would have preferred to just eat a salad!), I began to daydream about lying on a hot beach somewhere, with a couple of Christmas presents to open followed by a nice swim and a read of a good book in the sunshine. Following on from the theme of my last blog about being true to yourself, I’m starting to think that next December, I may very well pursue this daydream…

Happy January 🙂

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Happy You, Happy 2017

The thing that really used to drag me down at Christmas was the picture perfect, stereotypical image of what this time of year was all about. It was the beautiful house sitting in a snow-filled garden, sparkling with fairy lights, so inviting. It was the magical relationship, the big, warm family, the presents, the parties, the not feeling different and on the edge of what everyone else apparently had and took for granted. It was acceptance, and being loved – feeling loved and immersed in a busy, fulfilled life.

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And because for many Christmases I didn’t feel any of the above, I would drink myself stupid. From mid-December to January 1st all bets would be off as I anaesthetised myself from the tornado of emotional hurt that I could never stand to feel.

When I consider what has changed now, what it is in my life, or about me, that prevents me from seeking mental obliteration in order to just make it through the festive season, I think it’s this; I am simply OK with my lot. I don’t mind that I don’t fit that ideal we are sold by the tidal wave of consumerism all year round but especially during the run up to Christmas. I don’t mind that I might not have a family that slots neatly into the 2.4 children, husband and wife model. I don’t mind that a few years ago I drank rather a lot and had my share of problems. I don’t mind that my house is not a series of showrooms complete with matching dinner sets and stylish soft furnishings.

I am me. And that’s fine.

Letting go of the desire to be what other people might expect or want me to be has been a major part of allowing myself to finally be happy. That desire is what used to send me half mad and heading to the bottle for a reliable escape from the inevitable pressures. I remember on countless New Year’s Eves feeling inadequate because I wasn’t living the high life, attending incredible parties, looking perfect and able to control my alcohol consumption. And because I couldn’t achieve those self-imposed, ridiculous standards, I would drink. And drink. And drink. And then hate myself some more.

As New Year’s Eve looms large, I’m sure there are people everywhere crucifying themselves for not ‘having it all’. And to those people, I would say this; you do have it all. You have your life, and a whole new year ahead of you with no mistakes yet in it; a blank slate ripe for the taking, a fresh sheet of paper on which to create the life you want, one that fits you and not the rest of the world.

If you want to stay at home on December 31st because you don’t really like parties and socialising in large groups, that’s fine – stay in, watch a film, have a bath, have an early night. If you are feeling sad for whatever reason and can’t face plastering a smile on your face, just be sad. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling. If you’ve only recently stopped drinking and can’t bear the thought of watching everyone, everywhere, getting hammered on alcohol then avoid it all. Do something different, choose to indulge yourself in whatever it is that makes you happy. Buck the trend.

Because in the end, the thing that will make you like yourself the most, is giving yourself permission to be you; to stop chipping away at the essence of whom you are, striving to meet the expectations of others instead of just being; to accept that you have your quirks and perfect imperfections but to love these and know you’re special, exactly how you are.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be unforgiving times, but reclaiming yourself, accepting who you are, can amount to the best present you’ll ever receive – living life in a way that’s absolutely true to the person you are inside. Focus on that, and see if 2017 turns out to be YOUR year. I bet it does.

Happy New Year, Lucy xx

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Making Christmas Good Again

Christmas when I drank always seemed like a very dark time. I would embrace the excuse to party hard, unsurprisingly, and drink a lot more than usual. But the sentiment of the festive season, the family-ness of it all, consistently dragged me down and reminded me of everything I hated about my life.

Shared custody of my daughter meant she didn’t spend the whole of the holidays with me, and while she visited her dad I would turn to booze to numb the loneliness. Each Christmas passed by in a fog of excessive alcohol consumption, hangovers, sadness and regret. January 1st could never arrive soon enough.

The initial Christmas I spent as a non-drinker wasn’t much better. Mired in longing for alcohol, the wish to just be able to drink like ‘everyone else’, bitterness over the fact that I had apparently become a ‘problem drinker’; all of these things amounted to me feeling desperate for the whole holiday business to just hurry up and get out of the way.

But that was just my first sober Christmas, and since then everything has become, not only easier, but good, enjoyable. Finally, I like Christmas. My daughter is almost eighteen so the pain of sharing custody has passed. Plus now we have her little sister who is four and a half, her presence injecting that essential childhood excitement factor at Christmas.

Over the years, I became accustomed to despising Christmas. Everything about it made me feel uncomfortable and desperate to run away from it all: the cold, the grey skies, the aforementioned absences of my daughter, the highlighting of my divorced status when everyone else seemed to be playing happy families, and of course, the regrets and self-loathing over what would almost always transcend into a period of very heavy drinking and all the associated stupid, drunken behaviour.

As the years have passed by, though, and certainly since I became alcohol-free, I have learnt a few things about staying happy at this time of year, and they’ve really helped me transform a very negative perception of Christmas to a positive one. I wanted to share them with you, in case you, like I once used to be, are filled with dread at what lies just around the corner…

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  • Focus on family and love. You might find it difficult to get on with certain members of the family who are descending upon you for the duration of the holidays, but try and concentrate on the ones who make you feel happy – the kids, your partner. Absorb their excitement and pleasure, and reconnect with your own inner child. If you don’t have children and are single, consider spending a few hours of Christmas Day volunteering at a homeless shelter. Giving yourself up to help others is a sure fire way to boost your mental state, and you won’t be bored, lonely and tempted to drink all day if you’re busy devoting yourself to a good cause.
  • Most of us will get at least a couple of days off work, so if all else fails, try and blot out the Christmas factor and just utilise the time to recharge your batteries and slob about in your pyjamas having a good old rest. With much of the outside world going into shutdown mode, this is an easy time of the year to do very little, and let’s face it; most of us don’t get that opportunity very often. Reframe Christmas as nothing more than a free holiday, and enjoy a well-deserved break.
  • Meditate on the positives in your life. I used to spiral into a major depression during the weeks leading up to Christmas, and would be drawn to all the bad stuff that was going on, which made it impossible to look outward and feel happy about anything. But if we scratch the surface, everyone can find at least one or two good things that are worth exercising gratitude for – the fact that you’re healthy, or that you have a roof over your head, or that you have lovely friends or family, or that you will be enjoying a nice meal or two over Christmas. Meditate every day for a few minutes and focus on whatever positive elements you can think of in your life. Remind yourself that actually, there is always something to feel grateful for.
  • Get in touch with fellow Soberistas. Use the Soberistas website to connect with others who might also be finding booze an issue at this time of year. A problem shared is a problem halved, and nobody will understand how you feel better than those in the same boat.
  • Consider letting a few close people in your life know that you have quit drinking and that you might be having a couple of wobbles over the Christmas period. If you think you could be tempted to drink then knowing that those around you are aware of how you’re feeling will act as a good preventative method in stopping you from doing so. You’re much less likely to give into temptation if you feel accountable to the people you’re spending the holidays with. And remember – those who mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind.
  • Go for a run or a brisk walk on Christmas Day morning. Exercise makes you feel better – it’s that simple. The endorphins, getting away from all the mayhem, the fresh air and daylight will all have a positive impact on your emotional state, so make the most of the fact that you aren’t lying around with a raging hangover, put your trainers on and get outside for some exercise.
  • Find a nice alcohol-free drink that you really enjoy that feels like a bit of a treat, and stock up before Christmas. You will probably feel left out if everyone else is necking the wine and you’re nursing a glass of orange juice or water. So either experiment beforehand with mocktail recipes or order in some alcohol-free drinks just for you – the Soberistas Discount Club has a code for 5% off products from alcohol-free drinks stockists, DryDrinker, so check out their range if you’re in need of inspiration.
  • Watch films, read books, listen to music. Ignite your soul with lots of cosy evenings in, catching up on some culture. It’ll keep you busy and give you a focus when the sun goes down, a time when you might otherwise start itching for a drink. Reading books is a no-go when you’re drinking, and any films you watch will be instantly forgotten if you’ve got a glass to hand throughout. I love watching films during Christmas in my pyjamas, alone or with the kids, just losing myself in another world for a couple of hours. And if you want some ideas for reading material, check out the Soberistas Book Club.

Reframing and Reclaiming Christmas

“A compassionate attitude helps you communicate easily with fellow human beings. As a result, you make more genuine friends; the atmosphere is more positive, which gives you inner strength. This inner strength helps you voluntarily concern yourself with others, instead of just thinking about your own self. If one always thinks of oneself, one’s thinking becomes very narrow; even a small problem appears very significant and unbearable. When we think of others, our minds widen, and within that large space, even big personal problems may appear insignificant.” – The Dalai Lama

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This morning, as I enjoyed a rare lie-in, I was having a flick through a magazine with a cup of tea. The features were almost exclusively related to Christmas, the pages filled with pretty sparkling lights, images of beautiful people looking happy and full of love, gift ideas that suggested cavernous sources of wealth, and models showing off expensive clothes, hanging from their tiny, waif-like frames.

Christmas has become, for many people, a bleak time of the year when their shortcomings are highlighted and they’re made to feel inadequate by all the representations of ‘normality’ that we’re bombarded with from the end of November onwards. We are all expected to be attending a glittering array of parties, dressed fabulously of course, looking slim and attractive; our presents demand to be wrapped stylishly and ahead of time; the menu planning obviously needs to be completed by October at the latest, with the intervening months being utilised for making the Christmas pudding, cake, and all manner of tasty accompaniments which can be stored in the freezer until the Big Day.

During the darkest years of my life, Christmas was my least favourite time of the year. It caused me to internalise everything I hated about my life. I ripped myself to shreds for not being good enough, for being divorced and failing to find the next ‘Love of my Life’, for not having ‘made something’ of myself, for drinking too much, for not being able to stop drinking when I started, for not being perfect, for not ‘having it all’.

And because I concentrated so much on my own (as I perceived them at the time) failings, I gave little outwardly to anyone else.

Yet if I had been able to find the motivation to invest my energy into others, it would have helped draw the attention away from my own problems. Compassion, as the Dalai Lama points out in the quote above, helps us to make bonds, and bonds make us feel worthwhile and more human. Community enriches the soul. And it doesn’t take much effort – you don’t need to race off down to the local homeless shelter and spend your entire Christmas there (although if you did you’d probably feel fulfilled). Simply smiling at people and saying hello as you pass on the street, or taking a Christmas card round to an elderly neighbour who might need the company and a reminder that someone is thinking of them, can have a hugely positive effect on your own mental state.

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When we turn in on ourselves and forget to reach out to other people, we exacerbate the tendency to focus on the negative. Which, of course, makes it more tempting to drink. And when we drink, we internalize even more and find it virtually impossible to reach out to connect with other people. The endless push of ‘the perfect Christmas’ by those pursuing maximum sales is akin to a tidal wave – its force is relentless and it can easily (and, more often than not, does) overshadow the original meaning of the festive season.

So if you’re feeling the strain of this heavy weight of idealism, and if Christmas only serves to emphasise how bad you feel about yourself, and if the holidays always lead to excessive drinking to escape it all – take some time out. Look around you. See whom you could help. Try to focus your attention away from yourself and on to others. Compassion isn’t only about making other people happy; it serves to positively impact upon your own emotional wellbeing too.

Making It Through Christmas…Alive, Kicking & Sober!

I hated Christmas when I drank, largely because I shared custody of my eldest daughter with her dad, and so I would either wake up on Christmas Day without her, or she would have to leave for her dad’s at 3pm. I missed her terribly when she wasn’t there, and her absence had the additional negative effect of enabling me to drink – the sadness I felt as a result of our broken family justified (in my mind) my excessive alcohol consumption.

Then, when I quit drinking, I hated Christmas because I could see everyone around me getting drunk, and drinking, drinking, drinking, and I’d feel lonely and odd and full of longing to join in. But I knew I couldn’t.

But that was just my first sober Christmas, and since then everything has become, not only easier, but good, enjoyable. Finally, I like Christmas. My daughter is now almost seventeen so the pain of sharing custody has passed.  She’ll spend a bit of time with her dad on Christmas Day but it’s much easier to bear these days, and most of the day she will spend with me and the rest of her maternal family, so it doesn’t sting anywhere near as much as it once did. Plus now we have her little sister who is three and a half, her presence injecting that essential childhood excitement factor at Christmas.

Over the years, I became accustomed to despising Christmas. Everything about it made me feel uncomfortable and desperate to run away from it all: the cold, the grey skies, the aforementioned absences of my daughter, the highlighting of my divorced status when everyone else seemed to be playing happy families, and of course, the regrets and self-loathing over what would almost always transcend into a period of very heavy drinking and all the associated stupid, drunken behaviour.

As the years have passed by, though, and certainly since I became alcohol-free, I have garnered a few thoughts about staying happy at this time of year, and they have really helped me transform a very negative perception of Christmas to a positive one. I wanted to share them with you, in case you, like I once used to be, are filled with dread at what lies just around the corner…

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  • Focus on family and love. You might find it difficult to get on with certain members of the family who are descending upon you for the duration of the holidays, but try and concentrate on the ones who make you feel happy – the kids, your partner. Absorb their excitement and pleasure, and reconnect with your own inner child. If you don’t have children and are single, consider spending a few hours of Christmas Day volunteering at a homeless shelter. Giving yourself up to help others is a sure fire way to boost your mental state, and you won’t be bored, lonely and tempted to drink all day if you’re busy devoting yourself to a good cause.
  • Most of us will get at least a couple of days off work, so if all else fails, try and blot out the Christmas factor and just utilise the time to recharge your batteries and slob about in your pyjamas having a good old rest. With much of the outside world going into shutdown mode, this is an easy time of the year to do very little, and let’s face it; most of us don’t get that opportunity very often. Reframe Christmas as nothing more than a free holiday, and enjoy a well-deserved break.
  • Meditate on the positives in your life. I used to spiral into a major depression during the weeks leading up to Christmas, and would be drawn to all the bad stuff that was going on, which made it impossible to look outward and feel happy about anything. But if we scratch the surface, everyone can find at least one or two good things that are worth exercising gratitude for – the fact that you’re healthy, or that you have a roof over your head, or that you have lovely friends or family, or that you will be enjoying a nice meal or two over Christmas. Meditate every day for a few minutes and focus on whatever positive elements you can think of in your life. Remind yourself that actually, there is always something to feel grateful for.
  • Get in touch with fellow Soberistas. Use the Soberistas website to connect with others who might also be finding booze an issue at this time of year. A problem shared is a problem halved, and nobody will understand how you feel better than those in the same boat.
  • Consider letting a few close people in your life know that you have quit drinking and that you might be having a couple of wobbles over the Christmas period. If you think you could be tempted to drink then knowing that those around you are aware of how you’re feeling will act as a good preventative method in stopping you from doing so. You’re much less likely to give into temptation if you feel accountable to the people you’re spending the holidays with. And remember – those who mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind.
  • Go for a run or a brisk walk on Christmas Day morning. Exercise makes you feel better – it’s that simple. The endorphins, getting away from all the mayhem, the fresh air and daylight will all have a positive impact on your emotional state, so make the most of the fact that you aren’t lying around with a raging hangover, put your trainers on and get outside for some exercise.
  • Find a nice alcohol-free drink that you really enjoy that feels like a bit of a treat, and stock up before Christmas. You will probably feel left out if everyone else is necking the wine and you’re nursing a glass of orange juice or water. So either experiment beforehand with mocktail recipes or order in some alcohol-free drinks just for you – the Soberistas Discount Club page has a code for 10% off products from brand new alcohol-free drinks stockists, DryDrinker, so check out their range if you’re in need of inspiration.
  • Watch films, read books, listen to music. Ignite your soul with lots of cosy evenings in, catching up on some culture. It’ll keep you busy and give you a focus when the sun goes down, a time when you might otherwise start itching for a drink. Reading books is a no-go when you’re drinking, and any films you watch will be instantly forgotten if you’ve got a glass to hand throughout. I love watching films during Christmas in my pyjamas, alone or with the kids, just losing myself in another world for a couple of hours. And if you want some ideas for reading material, check out the Soberistas Book Club.

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I hope this helps, and have a happy, booze-free Christmas! Love from Lucy x

Soberistas31 Challenge 2015

Any sober person residing in a country that celebrates Christmas will be all too aware that from the beginning of December until January 1st, many, many people go slightly bonkers in the name of the festive season. From November onwards, the shops are packed with decorations and trees, glitter and lights, all attempting to draw in the crowds and fill up the tills; television adverts are mainly focused on gifts and products tenuously connected to Christmas for weeks prior to the ‘Big Day’; and of course, wherever there is mass celebration, there is sure to be mass drinking following closely behind.

Nothing highlights how consumerist Christmas has become better than the drinks industry, which has successfully hijacked the occasion and ensured everyone (or nearly everyone) falls into the trap of thinking they must have a drink in order to have fun. From the work’s festive night out to the kids’ Christmas play at school, people seem to be pushing booze in your direction and it can be difficult, to say the least, getting through December while sticking to your alcohol-free endeavours.

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And so, for the third year running, we are pleased to announce the Soberistas31 Challenge, which we hope will help both those trying to stay sober and the families who benefit from Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity’s much-needed services. The aim is simple; don’t drink for the whole of December and donate the money you would have spent on alcohol (or a proportion thereof) to RTCC.

Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity supports around 2,000 families in England who have a child with a life-threatening or terminal illness. It’s the leading charity in England providing emotional and practical help direct to families who find themselves in this unthinkable situation. Their Family Support Workers care for the whole family, from their child’s diagnosis, during treatment and, if needed, through bereavement. The money raised through the Soberistas31 Challenge will enable the charity to provide additional support workers, thus helping even more families in need.

The Soberistas31 Challenge steps up the support you can already find on Soberistas. There is a special Forum category http://soberistas.com/forum/categories/soberistas31/listForCategory just for the members of the site who take part in this fund-raising month, plus regular motivational reminders about the vital work carried out by Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity to keep you focused on why you are committing to a month off alcohol at this, the booziest time of the year.

If you would like to take part, please email me on lucy@soberistas.com with your name and address, and you will be sent a welcome pack from Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity and Soberistas. The details of how to donate at the end of the month will be posted on Soberistas.com, and for any further questions, you can contact me on the above email address.

I hope we can smash through our previous totals by exceeding £1000. And as well as knowing you are helping this charity out and all the families that depend on their work, you will be able to greet 2016 with an alcohol-free month already in the bag, raring to go for a sober New Year.

Many thanks, and here’s to a happy and healthy December!

Happy 3rd Birthday Soberistas!

On November 26th 2012, Soberistas.com launched. Within a year, twenty thousand people had signed up to join this brave and determined community, all seeking a happier and healthier life without alcohol. Today there are almost 34,000 registered members and the site continues to flourish, providing a non-judgmental and safe haven for anyone with alcohol issues to come and offload, to seek support from a group of friendly and inspirational Istas.

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So where did the idea for Soberistas come from? I was a heavy drinker who mostly thought it was normal to drink myself into oblivion several nights a week, to fall into drunken stupors on dates, and to throw up noisily in pub toilets on a regular evening out with friends because I just couldn’t stop boozing once I started. It bothered me intermittently, this lack of control with regards to alcohol, although never sufficiently enough to make me stop drinking altogether. But it really gave me a kick up the backside one morning in April 2011 when I woke up in A&E covered in congealed sick (sorry for the grossness but it was, well, gross), and with a complete blank where my memory should’ve been.

Stopping drinking was easy. Deciding to stop was easy, but staying stopped and feeling happy about it? That was the tough part. Urrgh, become a boring teetotaller? Never get drunk and dance on tables again? No more sitting around in restaurants talking until the cows come home, with bottle after bottle of red on the go? No, that all sounded like my idea of hell on earth.

My discomfort in the idea of becoming a sober woman in my mid-thirties led me to a light bulb moment one day, when the idea came to mind of a social network website that brought together a lot of like-minded women (and a few So-Bros!) from all over the world, who would help one another feel less alone and not so desperate about the fact that alcohol had simply stopped working for them…I saw the website in my mind, as clear as day, and I still have a sketch of it on a scrap of paper, which doesn’t look a million miles away from how Soberistas looks today.

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So that’s how Soberistas came to be in existence, but it could never have become the inspirational and heart-warming place that it is without our members, the individuals who blog and comment every day, helping so many other people recognise and begin to resolve their own drinking issues, as well as working through their own relationships with alcohol – and learning to live without it.

As a thank you, we are holding a 3rd Birthday Competition – and the prize is a rather gorgeous Clarins advent calendar, a lovely pre-Christmas treat full of miniature Clarins beauty products. In order to enter, all you need to do is write a blog on Soberistas.com stating exactly why you love being a Soberista. There’s no maximum or minimum word length, but you will need to tag the blog ‘Soberistasbirthday’ (all one word please) in order for it to be included in the entries. The competition closes at midnight (GMT) November 26th 2015 and we will announce the winner during the following week. This competition is open to all our members worldwide.

2015 – The Year of the Soberista

I think we live in a topsy-turvy world, where it is seen as more normal to want to drink yourself into oblivion than it is to lead a healthy, alcohol-free life in which you are in control of your body and mind. On a daily basis, we are surrounded by messages of endorsement for a seriously mind-altering substance – one that is responsible for the deaths of 3.3 million people worldwide every year. We are bombarded by a collective validation for this addictive drug, the consumption of which is a causal factor in more than two hundred disease and injury conditions.

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And bizarrely, we often find that when we choose to opt out of the merry-go-round of alcohol misuse, we are considered to be boring, ill or someone to pity. It is not always the case, of course, but there exists a great deal of stigma and hypocrisy when it comes to the way people in the West approach the issue of drinking and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, sobriety.

Until I ended up in hospital because of the amount of booze I consumed one night in April 2011, I lived a life that I would describe as one of a binge drinker. On many occasions I despised myself because of something I had said or done when under the influence; there were too many times when I lay alone in the dark considering suicide as a result of the depressive effects of alcohol. But I never regarded myself as someone to feel sorry for – I wasn’t a victim. I was simply unaware that my life would be vastly improved if I omitted alcohol from it. I couldn’t see the wood for the trees – there was no clarity, no understanding that I was, in reality, creating all of the problems in my life because I got drunk so frequently.

I firmly believe in an alcohol-free life now. It’s a way of being that has brought me nothing but positives, and one that has simultaneously eradicated much of the crap that dragged me down so relentlessly for years. I remember a boy at my secondary school who used to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan, ‘Drinking won’t solve my problems. But it will give me lots of interesting new ones’. Oh the wit! That carefree and innocent perspective of this substance that most people share in their teens was one that I most definitely held – although one that very gradually became replaced with a great deal of wariness and, eventually, fear.

Many people will remain forever in denial that they actually have a problem with alcohol. For every regret-filled morning when with head throbbing, promises will be made to never drink again, there will be an untold number of nights of throwing caution to the wind and an abject refusal to accept that it is not really ok to be drinking to the point of blacking out. And on and on the negative cycle will turn, never to be broken.

But equally, many people are, I believe, now beginning to question this alcohol-fuelled existence as normal. They are pondering whether life without hangovers and booze-induced problems in their relationships and at work might be better, easier. I believe there is a wave building, a revolt against the mass acceptance we have all grown up with, of binge drinking and its place in society as an inherent element of everyday life.

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Christmas and New Year’s Eve are times of the year when alcohol features even more prominently than usual – it can feel isolating and challenging to be a non-drinker in the midst of such widespread festive applause for booze. But there are far more people than many would imagine who are happily getting on with things minus any alcohol, and who aren’t missing it that much, if at all. I am one of those people. I couldn’t be happier than right now, free from the shackles that held me prisoner for so long and which turned me into someone I wasn’t – a loud, overbearing and self-centred person with a shallow existence and a multitude of regrets keeping me awake at night.

The more people who continue to turn their backs on booze, the more normal the teetotaller will become. I hope that in 2015 we will witness a big increase in the number of non-drinkers proudly emerging, and that as an expanding group in society we can make the case heard even louder for a life that’s lived in control, healthily and happily.

Happy New Year! Lucy x

Looking For A Challenge? It’s Soberistas31 Time Again!

By the time I hit my teens, alcohol and rebellion were inextricably linked in my mind. Without a shadow of a doubt, I held fast to the notion that there was no better way to express my desire to shirk convention and rebuff authority than to drink excessive amounts as frequently as possible. This mental link between booze and my rebellious nature was to stay with me right up until my mid-thirties when, despite being a mother and living in a nice, respectable part of town where I quaffed expensive bottles of wine, I still regarded myself as possessing an insubordinate streak.

And when I decided to stop drinking altogether, a major quandary that arose was how I would manage to cling onto my wayward, headstrong personality minus the very obvious method of evidencing it that was drinking too much. It occurred to me that much of the way I expressed myself had always come in the shape of a bottle or glass, and I stalled for a while in knowing how I should act without such props.

Gradually, I began to really take on board how many people drink alcohol to excess; what a massive element of almost everyone’s life booze is, to some degree or another. Maybe they weren’t all getting hammered to the point of blacking out as I once was, but most were certainly unable to conceive of experiencing birthdays, Christmases, weddings, Friday nights, Saturday nights and holidays without the booze flowing fairly freely. As a non-drinker, I saw this excessive consumption with a heightened awareness and developed a growing understanding of the manipulative strength of the alcohol industry – an industry that spends millions trying to coax us all to drink yet more booze each year.

As time has gone on, I have rediscovered my ‘inner rebel’ as I now recognise that by not drinking, I am acting in an unconventional manner with far greater magnitude than I did previously. As a drinker, I was merely yet another person who regularly numbed her senses with alcohol. Now I stand out, I am different.

In a few days, the onslaught of Christmas parties will begin. For a whole month, people all over the Western world will drink huge amounts of booze in the name of ‘fun’ and will embarrass themselves, spend more money than they had hoped to, and wake up on January 1st a few pounds heavier and looking somewhat the worse for wear.

But there will be a small but significant minority who won’t engage in such behaviour.

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Those who don’t drink will focus on things other than booze during the Christmas period; family, good food, enjoying a rest from work, a little extra time to indulge in some of the things they love doing. They won’t be struggling to cope with debilitating hangovers at 5 am on Christmas Day whilst trying to stay upbeat for the kids. They won’t be desperately trying to recall the horrors they may have been involved in at a party, one that they have no memory of due to a blackout striking mid-evening. And when January rolls around, they won’t be committing to a restrictive detox diet in a bid to shed the extra weight they have gained through drinking too much wine over the festive period.

I take a lot of comfort from the knowledge that I am, in my mind at least, a little unconventional. It helped me enormously during the earlier days of my not drinking, providing me with an extra dose of motivation whenever a craving hit. And now when I see people loading their excessive booze purchases onto the supermarket conveyer belts, I ponder over what better things they could be spending their hard-earned money on than lining the pockets of the fat cats of the alcohol industry – the corporate giants who are simply rubbing their hands with glee, especially at this time of year.

If you would like to challenge the norm this year, why not commit to Soberistas31 (see the details here) and opt to NOT drink alcohol for the month of December? Donate the money you would have spent on booze to the very deserving charity Rainbow Trust on January 1st via our JustGiving page (details will be provided on Soberistas towards the end of December) and know that this year you will have spent your money wisely, looked after yourself, and given Christmas 2014 your all.

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Soberistas Advent – Competition Time!

As a thank you for all your fantastic contributions, helpful advice and general wonderfulness on Soberistas.com, we are today launching a competition that could see you enjoying a free Virgin Spa Day at one of a number of locations across the UK, worth £99!

All you need to do in order to be in with a chance to win this fabulously indulgent treat is to complete the following sentence in no more than 100 words;

“2014 will be my best year yet because…”

Our favourite answers will be featured on Soberistas.com on January 2nd 2014, the date of our exciting re-launch.

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This competition is only open to UK-based Soberistas. The competition closes at midnight on December 27th 2013. The winner will be informed on January 2nd 2014. To enter, please send your answers to competition@soberistas.com and mark the subject box ‘SPA’. Please state if you wish to remain anonymous should we wish to publish your answer on Soberistas.com.

For further details of this prize please follow the link below.

http://www.virginexperiencedays.co.uk/spa-day-collection?path=options-vouchers

GOOD LUCK!

Lucy x

PS. Apologies to our Australian, American and other non-UK members. We are only able to offer this prize to UK-based Soberistas but we hope to run similar competitions in the future with prizes for members located elsewhere.