Fun things to do without alcohol

By the time I quit drinking, having too much time on my hands was definitely not a problem for me – I had so much to do that I was drinking more because I couldn’t cope with it, and the stuff I actually wanted to do got pushed out to fit in the stuff I had to do.

But I do know that, when I was not in the throes of childrendom, I often had no idea what to do with the time I had. That time was frequently filled up with boozing.

Many people are staggered, when they quit drinking, at the amount of time that is suddenly available. Time that previously disappeared into a blurry fug of self-pity, anxiety and exhaustion.

Binge watching Netflix leaves me feeling completely miserable with raging cabin fever, so I do not recommend that!! Instead, here are a few ideas if you are at a loss for alcohol-free things to do with your newfound alcohol-free time.

Indoors

I was much worse indoors than outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, I drank in all environments, but I know that being in the house for any length of time, and the accompanying cabin fever, definitely triggered me to crack open the booze.

But there is more to being at home than doing the day to day mundane tasks. Pick a room and slowly decorate it as you would like. Or move the furniture around so that it makes you feel calmer (I have moved my furniture approximately every 6 months – much to My Love’s horror!)

Have a puzzle on the table so that you can add little bits to it each time you go past. Have some magazines that interest you within reach for a quiet moment.

This is the one we have just finished

Bake! Baking helps so many people to feel grounded and safe. That initial effort, followed by the enticing smell as it cooks and then the joys when you finally get to taste it and all your hard work has paid off. This is not me to be honest, my stuff hardly ever goes to plan, but My Love bakes and it relaxes him (and I get the spoils!) 

Outdoors                                                                                                                                          

Getting out into nature is one of the most calming activities. Surrounding ourselves by the incredible world that we live in and the enormous beauty and intelligence of nature can take us out of our own problems for a while.

The breeze in the trees, the swell of the sea, the wind, the pouring rain, the frost, the snow, flowers, streams, rivers, lakes, grass, fields and forests. How can you not be amazed and feel grateful when you see these things?

Any do whatever you want to do in nature – sit, watch, walk, cycle, swim, climb, do yoga, sail, play, eat – just being in it is enough.

Nature is why so many people feel completely at peace while gardening (again not my thing – I have a tendency to kill plants off!) but when we eat what My Love has grown in the garden, the boys and I cannot help but feel grateful as it is so much more delicious than anything you can buy in a shop. The patient daily work of tending and nurturing plants is soothing and healing. Hopefully reminding us to nurture ourselves a little too. 

In winter

Winter does not have to stop the outdoor adventures. There is nothing more beautiful than a walk on a crisp winter morning, or glistening winter evening (just make sure you have sufficient clothes, or it won’t be pleasant!

This coat saved my life in winter!

But when it’s cold and miserable looking outside, there can be nothing nicer than going to the cinema for a good film in some comfortable chairs with popcorn (hey, you can afford that now you are not buying the booze!)

Or go pot painting or climbing!

In summer

Take a trip to the seaside! Nothing soothes my soul like watching the waves crashing against the rocks and listening to swoosh.

If it’s warm enough I’ve even started to brave a dip in the sea (although I still get freaked out by what I can’t see in the water!) There are always places nearby that you can hire wetsuits and bodyboards/surfboards, and open water swimming is blissfully liberating! 

If you can’t make it to the seaside, any water nearby will do. Walking and sitting by the river in the evening is so relaxing. Or nothing is more beautiful than watching an evening sunset in a park while having a picnic with friends or family.

Where I live there are things I am dying to try like paddle boarding and open water swimming at a local park lake. I’m sure if you look near you there will be all sorts of things!

Camping is another wonderful summer activity whether alone, with family or with friends. Although if setting up the tent stresses you out make sure there is someone who is happy to do it for you. Also, check the weather forecast first, although the sound of rain in a tent can be wonderful (as long as there are no leaks)! You can’t be more in nature than basically sleeping, eating and living outside in it!

Also, try a festival. We went to our first family festival last summer and it was better than I could have imagined – see Greenman Festival – Sober!

In the daytime

If you have time in the day then use that time well. Join a gym. Exercise is the thing that keeps most people on the sober path when they first start. But don’t go in all guns blazing thinking you have to immediately transform into some gladiator style fitness fanatic. Just take it at a pace that makes you happy and doesn’t put you off ever coming again. Take a yoga class, go for a gentle swim. If you feel more energetic do more, if you feel less energetic go to the steam room and then read the paper in the cafe! 

There are also loads of courses that run in the daytime and you could try to learn something new. I know near me there are language courses, art courses, cake decorating courses, sewing courses and calligraphy courses – just to name a few.

If that is all too much, there is still nothing I love more than going out for a coffee. I know it sounds silly but it always feels like a real treat and I love the warm cosy communal coffee shop environment.

In the evening

Evenings can be challenging so treat yourself kindly in the evenings. It is also probably where you will notice the most extra time. Much of what I say in this post can be applied to evenings, but some of my favourite evening treats are reading a good book, having a bath with salts or essential oils and a face mask, doing yoga and mediating. I try to always make sure my evenings are relaxing because, quite frankly, I do enough during the day! Also, relaxing evening will tell your body that sleep time is approaching and it will help you develop and natural sleeping rhythm. Insomnia can be a huge problem in early sobriety. Try not to do anything too invigorating or spend to much time around screens. 

With a partner

Other than the obvious enjoyable partner related activity, here are some others that spring to mind!

Dance! I have taken up dancing again with My Love and it is the most wonderful feeling. Find a local Ballroom and Latin class, you’ll feel like you are on Strictly in no time! If that’s too serious for you, try a local Salsa or Modern Jive class – way less footwork and don’t actually need a partner to go to it.

If dancing isn’t your thing try martial arts or climbing.

If you aren’t feeling as active, try going to the theatre. I still feel that going to the theatre is a proper occasion and I see so many people that still dress up and look glamourous when they are off to a performance. Recently we’ve been to musicals, ballets, pantos and my favourite – The Rocky Horror Picture show! Just look up what’s on in your local theatre and get booking (I go for the view restricted cheap seats and it is still fab!)

With friends

One of the most wonderful things about Hygge, the Danish concept or cosiness, is that it involves cosiness with friends. The joy comes from doing things together. So, if you are with friends for dinner, don’t just let one person do the cooking or cleaning up, all pitch in together. Isn’t it nicer to eat something you have all helped to prepare, than just being waited on – and often feeling a bit awkward! The act of doing something together is the thing that creates the cosy comfortable feeling.

For more on this wonderful idea read this book written by a Danish guys who’s job it is to research happiness!

But if having friends in your house freaks you out a bit (maybe I’m just odd like that!) there is plenty to do otherwise.

Go out for a meal, breakfast lunch or dinner – any will do! Try to make sure there is somewhere for the children to play together if you’re bringing them, so you aren’t worrying about them all the time.

Go bowling, play minigolf – or normal golf, take a boat trip if you live near water or go to a concert.

One of my favourite things is walking in the Peak District and then afterwards finding a cosy pub, obviously with a log fire if it is cold outside, and having a full on pub meal with pudding. This is a perfect weekend activity. You will feel so exhausted but also rejuvenated by the walk and the company that you’ll be ready to flop when you get home without the need for alcohol to relax you. (FYI, if you have children in tow, make absolutely sure that before you leave for you walk, the house is tidy and all the jobs are done so that you don’t come home and feel stressed by the chaos of everything. That will completely defeat the point!)

With children

Anything I’ve mentioned can be done with children but make sure that what you do with your children is a joy and not a chore. If you don’t really want to do it then it will be the latter and you will get stressed about it.

Eating together sharing food with your children can be very bonding. Walking, even small walks, as a family garners conversation and memories.

Currently we are starting to watch some comedy together, Michael McIntyre and Miranda, and laughing together is the best feeling in the world.

Alone

It is often the alone time that is hardest to manage. The time with no distractions, when you can get into your own head and talk yourself into thinking a drink would be a good idea to blur or obliterate the edges off your loneliness or whatever might be worrying you. As we know, even if you are still in the midst of your drinking days, it won’t. It will just leave us with more feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and self-loathing than we started out with. So let me help you to see that there are far better ways to spends your precious alone time that drinking.

Do something in which you can express yourself and your creativity. Build something, cook, paint or write. Many people feel writing is very cathartic so crack on with your diary, blog, gratitude journal, autobiography, novel – whatever makes you feel good to write.

Share share share. If you are lonely, get into social media and talk to people in the same boat as you. It can easily relieve the burden of feeling alone if you know there are other people out their going through the things you are going through. Here is a link to my Instagram page to get you started – Happy Sober Yoga Mummy.

Listen to music, do brain puzzles, do crosswords, do a paint by numbers!

Look after yourself – brush your hair, use a facemask, moisturise your legs, paint your nails!

Conclusion

Whatever you choose to do with the time that has been given to you in your new sobriety, see it as a gift to be treasured. There will be so many feelings and emotions that you have to learn to deal with now that you can’t block it all out, and learning takes time – you can’t force it.

So, in the meantime learn to use the time you have to do things that you enjoy and that nurture your soul. Being mindful and present in every moment will help you appreciate the moment and should help you not to dwell on the past or future.

Be brave and try new things, you might be surprised what your sober self actually enjoys!

Happy sober times my friends

Top 10 alcohol free reasons to love Christmas

It really is the most wonderful time of the year!

I have loved Christmas since I was a tiny girl, and now that I am a slightly bigger girl, my love is unchanged and can now go unchecked!

For so long Christmas included vast quantities of booze and for so long, without my realising it, alcohol was marring the magnificence of the festive season.

I thought Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without prosecco or gin and tonic, but really? I can assure you that as the small girl loving Christmas all the way up to 15 years old, alcohol had nothing to do with it that love!

And as I happily found out, when I quit drinking nearly 20 months ago, Christmas is still Christmas without the booze, and it really is the most wonderful time of the year!

So here for you now, in whatever stage of your life journey you are in, are my top 10 alcohol free reasons to love Christmas.

10) Community spirit

Although there is a lot of bad press about grumpy shoppers and fights over the last broccoli (yes, I have seen this!) there is also a huge feeling of coming together to celebrate. People feel more connected, as you do when you are in something together, and they start to feel more community minded, more generous and more aware of their fortunes compared to some people’s misfortunes.

Not surprising really, religious or not (and I have serious misgivings about the effect of religion), the message in nearly all religions is love, gratitude and looking after those less fortunate. Fitting then, that the will to look after others and be part of a community becomes more apparent in the build up to one of the biggest Christian festivals.

As most of us realise in our sober journey, community is the thing that eventually helps us to quit. People are more willing to chat, smile and be friendly at Christmas, so get smiling and chatting!

Being a part of a community is a magical feeing so grab onto it this Christmas time and just try to join in the alcohol-free community events!     

9) Giving 

Giving is a wonderful thing. Not only for the person who receives but for the person who does the giving. Who doesn’t feel warm and cosy inside knowing that they have made someone else happy by something they have done?

I love choosing presents that I know will make those I love happy. I choose them thinking about how they’ll use it, how much they will enjoy it, and loving the pleasure it will give them.

I love that there are far more ways to give back at Christmas, local charity boxes, food donations (horrible that we need so many of these) and many other ways of giving, become more apparent.

But it doesn’t have to be anything physical. Giving a smile to someone might make their day. Taking the time to say hello might make all the difference. Reaching out to someone struggling could mean everything for that person.

I read on my local community Facebook group a message from a man who has been homeless (now he has thankfully found a room), saying how grateful he was for all the people who had stopped to chat, buy him a drink or food and see how they could help. It is awesome that, in a world that can be so materialistic and so self-focused, this desire to help is still there.

Give yourself this Christmas, you might change someone’s future.

8) Togetherness

Whether we all complain about family, arguments and stress at Christmas time, there is still something wonderful about coming together and being together. It doesn’t have to be biological family, sometimes friends and the community you chose can be the family that is really good for you.

But coming together with the people you love, who love and support you is the most incredible feeling. This point is worth considering. Many people drink at Christmas to ‘get through’ family events of parties etc. If you are really coming together with the people who have your back, you shouldn’t need a drink to ‘get through it’. So if this is you’re reason for alcohol this Christmas, it might be worth reassessing the health of those relationships and considering what you could do in the new year to either improve those relationships or move away from them. Remember, you don’t HAVE to do anything, but in your sober life, you do HAVE to look after yourself.

For me, I adore decorating the house with my family, and I ruined it for years by drinking prosecco while doing it. I’d decorate but then I’d drink and become anxious, short tempered, stroppy and upset. Talk about ways to lose the joy! Now we decorate at the start of December and it is pure joy (topped off by watching Arthur Christmas!)

I also find that I can now bake with the children and make festive things without getting totally stressed out by it! Win win as far as I can tell

7) Dressing up  

I for one adore dressing up! I have a cupboard full of evening dresses, sequins, and diamante jewellery. I think I should have been a princess!  

I love that at Christmas everyone makes an effort. Whether it’s a Christmas jumper, Christmas hat, some Christmas earrings or a full on sequin party dress with matching shoes!

I got into the mindset that dressing up was only something I could do when I was drinking or going out somewhere (also usually involved drinking). I still find it hard to find dressy uppy occasions that aren’t party related, so Christmas is a fabulous excuse to dress up for a WHOLE MONTH!

6) The world sparkles

Not just the trees and sequin dresses sparkle at Christmas!

I love the frost that settles on the pavements or grass and sparkles like crystals in the moonlight. I love the frosty mist that hangs over the fields as I return from night shift. I love the clear cold air on a winter evening that is almost painful to breath in. If we’re very very lucky, there is the crunch and sparkle of freshly fallen snow (even if it only lasts a few hours!)

I have a tree at the bottom of my road that loses all its leaves in the winter but keeps its red apples. These apples are then covered in a crisscross of frosty flakes. I am amazed every time I walk past by what is basically a naturally decorated Christmas tree.

5) Music

OMG the music!!

I mean what would Christmas be without music?

Christmas carols are my favourite. I go to as many Christmas carol events as I can find in my town, and usually drag the reluctant boys to all of them! We sing carols in churches, outside the local windmills, in the street, at home, in halls – anywhere I can! I was brought up singing the descant to most of the carols so every time I think I can get away with it I belt out the tops notes, however squeaky they might sound!

There I nothing that warms my heart more than watching my boys in their various Christmas services, concerts and plays. Even when half the children are out of tune and off time, their enthusiasm makes up for it. The older, super cool boys, even soften a bit when singing at Christmas. The toddlers are just too cute for words!

The Baby started December very grumpy with me as I wouldn’t play ‘his music’ in the car (little tyrant toddler anyone?!). But I couldn’t possibly miss out of the first playing of Fairytale of New York, the belting out of ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time’ or the shrieking top notes of ‘All I want for Christmas’. I love that the radio starts small and as Christmas gets closer, they play more and more Christmas songs. The baby has just about accepted it, 12 days in, and has even give his own rendition of ‘Jingle bells’ and ‘When Santa got stuck up the chimney’ as we drive.

My latest discovery, or rather My Love’s discovery, was last year during my first sober Christmas. We were embracing Hygge (cosiness) big time and he found videos on YouTube of crackling fireplaces, extremely effective despite how that may sound! Some of them have gentle Christmas Jazz playing over the top of the crackling logs. There is nothing cosier than snuggling under a warm blanket, by the light of the Christmas tree, some candles and the YouTube fire, with gentle Christmas Jazz playing. Try it, I promise it is wonderful and absolutely does not require alcohol!  

4) Christmas Smells

I don’t care if these smells are real or artificially created by candles, it still works!

Real Christmas trees, which I don’t have at the minute as they aren’t very child friendly, smell amazing! So, I fully appreciate this smell with the real trees at my parents’ and sister’s house.

My favourite candle is the cinnamon Yankie Candle, as cinnamon is the most Christmassy smell.

Ginger bread smells, mince pie smells, baking smells, spiced coffee….mmm, just can’t get enough! It best when you have been outside in the freezing cold and you walk into your house to be hit by a wall of warmth and Christmas smells.

3) Foodie

Smells and taste are so intrinsically linked that it’s almost impossible to write separately about these!

My first Greggs mince pie of the year is an occasion, and My Love scours the Greggs shops waiting for the first batch to come out – he really is amazing!

Coffee, hot chocolate, chai tea, My Love’s random collection of spicy Christmas teas – all so delicious.

Spiced cakes, gingerbread Christmas trees and chocolate. So hard to walk into the shop at the end of the street and not be tempted by some of their festive treats. Christmas is not a time for restraint! 

It is a time for sharing food (not alcohol!) and the choices are fabulous! Every December we make a special trip to M&S and buy a meal to share with all their Christmassy bits like smoked salmon, prawn cocktail, bread, cheese and salad.

Don’t even get me started on the stews, vegetables, soups, breads and roasts that I crave at this time of year!

2) Cosy

I was so worried about my first sober winter, as I am affected badly by seasonal affective disorder and I worried that it might tip me back into drinking. With the help of Hygge, I had an amazing winter! This year I had forgotten my tactics for last year and the SAD hit me badly because it was unexpected! But more on that in a future post.

Hygge is the Danish concept of cosiness. It’s about being together with people you love, doing things together, sharing food together, lighting candles, mood lighting, and warmth. Things that would be needed to survive a Danish winter!

For me it was everything mentioned above but also watching good films, taking time to read books, having a warm bath before bed and doing some Yoga by candle light in the evening.

Cosiness is an act of self-love and self-care because you are taking the time to do things that make you feel amazing and rejuvenate you so you can deal with the long cold dark winter.

Bring on the fluffy PJs, slippers and tea!

For more on being Hygge have a look at the book that saved me during my first sober winter!

1) Let there be light!

Oh, the lights, the colour, the magic!

In this cold dark season, what could possibly be better than warming it up with colourful bright pretty lights?

I have always loved walking or driving around when it’s dark and enjoying the decorations.  Whether it is the lights on the houses or the trees on the street, the lights in town, the Christmas market lights or the glimpses on lights and Christmas trees in the windows of houses. It seems that more people are embracing the decoration of the outside of their houses and I thoroughly approve! (maybe not the inflatable Santas though!

I decorate our house to the max and it is the best feeling walking home from the bus or shop and seeing all warm colourful lights through the front window. I feel so insanely grateful for my home and family when I see it.

I have a multicoloured warm lights Christmas tree (don’t like the harsh LED bulbs that are most easily available – too cold!) so I have to seriously search for the ones I want which makes them more special! We have candles, pretty candles holders, fairy lights in all the house plants, beautiful wooden and German themed decorations. Everything we have has been bought with a special memory attached. My Christmas tree is full of decorations that my mother has bought me. She buys me one a year and the boys think they are the most precious ornaments and take great care of them (well maybe not The Baby!

To conclude

As you may be able to tell, Christmas is my favourite time of year! I spoilt it for so long with alcohol and I am happy that I will never do that again.

There are so many reasons to love Christmas that have nothing to do with alcohol.

Find the reasons that you love Christmas, try some of the things above, decide what you want from your festive time and focus on that – forget what you normally do, or what you are expected to do – find what you love and do that!

At Christmas the world sparkles and so can you.  

What is a SOBER RAVE like?

This is a question I asked myself many times before heading off to my first sober rave for Halloween. I have raved many times in my life, all with alcohol, usually ending in a blur and a hangover. To be fair, I wasn’t sure what a rave was really like due to the alcohol distortion.

So, Halloween 2019 and 18 months sober seemed like a good time to find out.

I haven’t had a night out since I became sober. I don’t get that many as a mother of 3 anyway, but a sober night in town seemed way too scary!  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had nights at social dances, nights at a festival (See Greenman Festival – Sober!) and parties; but never just a night out for a night outs sake.

I kept asking myself what the point of a night out was. I mean, why do we go out on a Friday night into town? I was impelled to go to this one for two reasons, firstly to tell you about it and secondly to support my local sober bar (also because My Love loves dressing up for Halloween and I love dressing up full stop!)

Yet the more sober events we have and the more normal we can make being sober, the easier it will be for so many people who are struggling with their relationship with alcohol to feel that they have a choice not to drink.

I had a think about what I wanted from the evening (see How to party sober at Halloween). I have always adored dancing. More recently I’ve taken up Ballroom and Latin dancing, but I still have that desire to just boogie around randomly to music. I also wanted an excuse to dress up, because there are far too few of those once you are a mother! I wanted a night out with My Love (see note above!) and l also wanted to meet people like me; people who had fought through their own battles to make positive changes in their life, especially by becoming sober. Maybe this night would lay the groundwork for some friendships and some local community.

(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases) 

So, Friday began. 1st November not the 31st October but hey ho, close enough to still call it Halloween. My boys had just come back from a week away on Halloween and we’d gone all out with the dressing up, trick or treating, party games and food. I love celebrations and I love making the children happy, but mix the evening with bickering older children and wilful toddler and I was feeling slightly fraught already.

My boys on Halloween

Friday came and I wanted to take the boys to see the Adams Family (something that, to My Love’s horror, I have never seen). I had been mentioning for a few days that something didn’t seem right with the gears of the car and My Love had made jokes about my dodgy driving. While driving up the hill to the cinema, the gears gave up completely and we couldn’t move on a tiny road, uphill. My Love, still not entirely believing me, took over the driving and we eventually limped our way to a 3-hour parking spot near(ish) to the cinema. My Love was all up for sacking off the cinema and taking the car to a garage straight away, but I had got everyone out to the cinema so to the cinema we would go!

The film was fun, and The Baby was sat remarkably well while munching through a bag of popcorn. Afterwards, My Love got the car to a garage with the conclusion that the clutch had gone and I would be carless until Monday, with all the post half term, paid for activities starting again the next day (not to mention £400 down). Starting to feel slightly more fraught, I got the children into town on the bus and thought, while I’m here I’ll make it worthwhile and get their bus passes. Turns out that at 9 and 11 years old, they looked far too like 19 to be to get an under 19s bus pass without passports!

Needing to get the bus home, it was approaching 5pm by this point. The children hadn’t eaten and were getting ansy. I was still trying to work out how to, without a car, get my children to my mother’s in the sticks (she was having all 3 for a sleep over on proviso that I came after the sober rave to looks after the Bear’s blood sugars in the night), get home, dress up, get to town, party sober and get back to the sticks. Not to put it mildly, I had lost the will. It seemed that the universe clearly did not want me to attend this rave. Do you know why I went? Because I had promised you, my lovely reader, that I would. If I couldn’t just suck it up and make it happen, what kind of example was I?! And thank you for the incentive, it was so worth it!

My mother kindly picked up and fed the boys. She automatically said, make sure you eat, you need to line your stomach, which made me laugh! My Love and I then did a quick rush job to get the face paints on. Thank goodness for Snazaroo face paints, they glide on and off with no fuss – about the only thing of the day that was not a fuss!

(I earn a small commission for amazon purchases)

We jumped on the bus, frightening a few small children as we went and finally made it, at 8pm to the sober rave. We arrived on time, but early for a rave, for two reasons; our last bus to the sticks was at 10.55pm (so not long really), and sober people tend to follow their bodies natural rhythms more and don’t want to stay out until crazy o’clock. Also I had no idea if I was going to hate it and want to escape!

My Love – quick Snazaroo job!

I had started to cheer up a bit and to feel nervous, now that we had made it, but were greeted warmly on the door of Café Sobar by the manager in a captain’s hat and smoking jacket – it suited him well. Morticia stood behind him (I now recognised who Morticia was). It was quiet but still a good few tables full.

I looked around at everyone, mostly in full fancy dress, and wondered what they were hoping for from the evening. Some were lively and loud in big groups, still tottering on 6 inch heels – my desire for those died years ago! Some were in couples, some sat alone. I couldn’t help but feel amazed by those sitting alone. Yes, probably waiting for someone, but to arrive alone, in fancy dress and sit waiting with no alcohol, cigarette, book, phone or tablet to hide behind is something I would never be brave enough to do, so hats off to you.

We started with a Rose Lemonade and J20. Chatting, but in that slightly awkward ‘we’re here on a date, sober, in a rave, unsure of what to do, so better make conversation’ kind of way. The dance floor was empty but the 90s tunes started belting out from two DJs so I thought, ‘I’ve come to dance so I’d better start now!’ I did wonder if the 90s choice was due to the number of people who are now sober but were probably boozing away at school in the 90s – seemed like it was very much the thing then!

My Love dances beautifully in formal dances but doesn’t feel so comfortable with the boogying so he took a while to warm up, but I am so grateful to him for joining in. For me, it came back like I was still at a school disco. I was throwing myself around and loving every minute. Some single dancers joined the floor – I loved the guy in full colourful tie-dye and the male policeman in a skirt, boots and fishnets with huge muscles!

Harlequin, the sad clown, the bad fairy and some amazing blue wigged costume laughed and smiled from behind the bar, serving fizzy drinks, teas, mocktails and smoothies with a dab hand. Funnily enough, I didn’t want lots to drink. Not surprising really as, although I was dehydrating myself with the dancing, that doesn’t even come close to the alcohol dehydration. I had a rose lemonade, cup of tea, some of My Love’s avocado smoothie (sounded dreadful but was light, fruity, gingery and delicious!). I did have a full sugar coke near the end because it turns out my mother was right, I should have eaten more before dancing solidly for 3 hours!

90s made way for techno/trance – sorry if I’m completely wrong on that but hey, you weren’t there so I’ll definitely say it was one of them!! This was around 10pm and the floor was pretty much full. An incredible array of costumes had arrived from a full wedding sari to a beautiful Maleficent. A Donald Trump mask kept popping up next to me as I spun around, scaring the bejesus out of me!

The beats swept through me on the floor and my body seemed to know how I was supposed to move. I pondered that it must be similar to the ‘om’ chant in yoga; the vibrations are on a level your body and mind respond to it naturally and it can be felt by everyone on the floor. It was wonderful to be sober and aware of how much I was being swept up by the music. Also being sober, I could appreciate the skill of the DJs keeping the floor full and moving. This guy had it.

I wondered whether everyone on the floor was so friendly because they all knew each other or just because they had equally succumbed to the music. It didn’t seem to matter either way, maybe these smiles and this shared experience would start new friendships later down the line, at subsequent sober events (or may not if they don’t recognise me without all the face paint!)

As I was getting tired and thinking about heading bus wards, I was jumped by my niece and then more sedately by the nephew and sister. Turn out the 3rd DJ was my nephew DJing teacher who was there to do a set and support his sober friend (small world but growing community). I was so happy to see them and, tiredness forgotten, the boogying started all over again. My nephew looked hugely uncomfortable and said he hadn’t got his sober dancing shoes yet. Whilst this is such a common feeling for so many, he told me that he was impressed that all these people were dancing so freely while completely sober. I felt really happy to have shown him this, because these small moments can impact what we consider normal. For him, dancing always has to include alcohol, but maybe, having seen so many sober people raving, he’ll question that assumption.

For me, I loved every minute of my first Sober Rave and cannot wait for the next one. For me it really is about the dancing and the music (and the dressing up!). If music and dancing are not your thing, the maybe look for a different sober activity that you love.

Thank you to all the team at Café Sobar Nottingham for such a fab event and for all your hard work making the night such fun. Also thanks to DJs Es Vedra, Blimey O’Reilly, Chubz & Nukem and Charlie Four Four.

How to party sober at Halloween

Halloween themed food

Any festive time, such as Halloween, can seem daunting, particularly we’re first sober. Worries about drinking, triggers and social anxiety can all overwhelm the occasion, making what is supposed to be fun, no fun at all.

Do not despair! And do not give up! If you are newly sober, you have already done the hard bit. You have stopped drinking which is an achievement and act of self-love of epic proportions. The rest is just practice and resetting habits and neural pathways, hard at first but much easier as you go on (see Am I an alcoholic? and How to stop alcohol cravings for more on this)

If you haven’t yet, and you want to or you’re just reassessing your relationship with alcohol then have a look at some of my other blog posts such as

But I promise you the more you practice celebrations, the easier they becomes. And sober celebrations really will be fun again!

So, what will Halloween 2019 hold for you? Going out with friends? Staying in with family? Either way can be sober and awesome.

If you are heading out to town or a party, usually alcohol will abound at these types of events. You are forewarned, so now let’s make sure you are forearmed! Here are 7 tips for a fab sober Halloween.

(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases) 

Halloween tip 1 – If you do not want to go, do not go!

Pumpkin carving

Do you want to go out? Now this may seem silly as you’ve probably already decided that you are going, but just check with yourself. Do a little breathing exercise. Breathe in for 5 and out for 5. Concentrate only on the feeling of your breath going in and out. Breathe as slowly as is comfortable.

When you are feeling relaxed, thing about your Halloween activity. In this quiet space, your real feelings about this activity will surface. Do you feel a knot of anxiety in your stomach or a clutch of fear in your chest? Do you feel an excited buzz? Is it a mixture of both? Once you have established your feeling towards your activity, you need to break it down a bit more. It is unlikely that there will be no worries, so try to dig a bit deeper and find out which part is worrying you most.

Here are examples of some worries

  1. Will I drink?
  2. What will I say when someone asks me why I’m not drinking?
  3. What will I say when someone offers me a drink?
  4. I feel silly dressing up
  5. I won’t know anyone
  6. I don’t like dancing

If you can find out which part is worrying you most, you can do some work prior to heading out to tackle those worries. More on this in the following Halloween tips

The upshot is, if you prospect of your Halloween activity is filling you with all out dread, or even filling you with anxiety for every aspect you have analysed, then don’t go. What on earth says that you have to go anywhere that makes you feel that way? If people think it’s strange, so what? Why does their opinion matter? If their opinion does matter to you, or you think they might be upset, then be honest with them. If it’s too early for honesty with this person or you think they won’t understand, this might be the time to have an honest look at this relationship and what is holding you back.  This is you looking after you, which, in your early sobriety, is THE most important thing to do.

You are vulnerable at this point and putting yourself in a position that causes you stress and anxiety will increase your vulnerability and increase the likelihood that you will drink. 

Halloween tip 2 – To drink or not to drink?

The Bot Halloween 2018

Like I have said, this is vulnerable time for you, and going out, surrounded by alcohol, can make you feel so much more vulnerable.

The question of will you drink boils down to a number of factors, which I am looking to address in this blog. A large part though, is that you have to not want to drink. Like the tip above, if you’re feeling that you shouldn’t drink, but actually you want to, maybe avoid the occasion all together. Don’t risk your sobriety when you have done so well. Maybe accept sitting this one out and try again next year when your sobriety is more secure.

So many people get totally freaked out by the idea that they may have to justify why they are not drinking. Unfortunately, this is often the case. I love the quote by Jolene Park, author or the website greyareadrinkers.com.

“Alcohol is the only drug in the world that you have to justify not taking”

Because, although it is madness, it’s true! The justification opens up a huge can of worms and all the hushed ‘are you an alcoholic?’ questions or the ‘you’re not that bad’ comments. Completely no one elses business, but unfortunately most drinkers don’t see it that way!

So, if someone offers you a drink, have a plan. Know beforehand what drink you are going to ask for, don’t even give yourself the option. If you are more comfortable drinking alcohol free alternatives, then drink those. I drank these a lot in the beginning and bars are getting a much wider selection – do your research before you go! If you’re at a party bring your own supplies. These are my favourites and they are 0%. I don’t like to even try the 0.05% or 0.5% but that’s just me (these links earn me a little commission – sorry to my friends across the pond but couldn’t seem to find US links that weren’t extortionate so you you’ll have to go to see what your local supermarket has).

Personally find the gin alternatives revolting but lots of people swear by it, the link is below.

Seedlip non alcoholic spirit

Alternatively, Sainsburys and Tesco have a good choice. Sorry if you are not UK based, I’m not sure about supermarkets abroad, although I know Carrefour in Italy sells 0% Birra Moretti!

Also, prepare a set answer for the ‘Why aren’t you drinking’ question. Could you drive to the event? Perfect get out of jail free card right there and a warm, easy ride home! If not, ‘I’m not antibiotics’ is an option. If you are more comfortable to be open, you can use the sober curious reason or I’m doing Sober October or I’m training for a marathon! Loads of reasons, just pick one for the night so you are not sidelined by the question.

I’m quite open if asked now. I say alcohol gave me anxiety, it doesn’t agree with my stomach and it is incompatible with raising 3 children and working. All completely true and although I get some odd looks, my choice is rarely questioned.

Halloween tip 3 – Go with support  

Vegetable Skeleton

It is so much easier to feel stronger and braver when you have someone at your side. Find someone who knows about your choice and is happy to come along and back you up in your decision. Parties can be scary, especially if there are lots of people you don’t know. One of the reasons most often given for drinking is social anxiety, (see Why do people drink?) so why put yourself in a position that made you want to drink in the first place!

Have a signal with your support for when you need an escape. It is very likely that at some point you’ll be in a conversation you don’t want to be in – whether because it’s controversial, awkward, dull or the other person is now so drunk they can’t speak – so have a back up plan. Signal your support, get another drink (alcohol free!) or go to the loo. Don’t feel you have to stick it out, they probably won’t remember anyway!

Halloween tip 4 – Don’t do what make you uncomfortable

The Bear Halloween 2018

Feeling uncomfortable makes you more vulnerable, so as well as the tips above, assess what makes you uncomfortable.

There is no earthly reason that you should dress up, dance or join in games. Remember – ‘could not should’! You can do anything but you do not have to do anything.

I often get the feeling that I’m going to go somewhere and be the only person dressed up. It always make me nervous. Not very likely at Halloween but if you’re worried, go in normal clothes and bring your dress up stuff with you – simple!

I personally adore dancing and games, but I know it is a no go area for many people without alcohol, so be true to yourself and do what is right for you. Phones are an amazing excuse to avoid many situations you don’t want to be in.

Halloween tip 5 – What do you want?

Me party 1 2019

So much focus can be taken up by avoiding what you don’t want to be involved in, but equally importantly, what do you want to be involved in.

Why are you going in the first place? What do you want to get out of the evening? As I said, I love dancing, so a dance space with good music is pretty much my only reason for going out ever! I also love dressing up and there are just not enough excuses to dress up once you are a mother.

But your reason could be to have fun with friends, or meet some new friends, or meet a new prospective partner. Whatever the reason, surely it is better to have this experience sober so that firstly, it is the real you that people are meeting or having fun with and secondly, that it is an experience you will remember. No hangovers, no guilt, no regrets, no embarrassment and if you’re lucky enough to meet someone – you’ll remember whatever transpires!!

If you’re not sure, use the breathing exercise above to find out what it is that you want to get out of the event. Consider what you used to enjoy at parties when you were a child, there will be some pre-drinking memory somewhere! Once you know, breathe deeply and picture how you want the evening to go. Stick to the positives here because visualisation is an incredibly powerful tool and you can change your experience of the event by using it.

Halloween tip 6 – Exit plan

The baby Halloween party 2019

Plan when and how you are going to arrive, but more importantly, have a plan for how you are going to escape!

You need to ensure that you can leave whenever you are ready to. If you feel stuck, your vulnerability will increase. For this reason, make sure you know how you are getting home (driving is perfect!), and try not to rely on anyone else for transportation, as you will then have to check they are happy to leave too.

Don’t ever feel you have to stay to the bitter end. One of the joys of sobriety is that your body is back in a healthy routine and it knows when it is tired and when it wants to wake up. If we start messing with this natural rhythm, and start getting tired, we make ourselves vulnerable. Most sober people will be looking for bed at 10 or 11pm – so go with what your body tells you not what you ‘should’ do.

So, that’s the end of the how to party sober at Halloween when you are out and about tips. Let’s have a brief look at how to party sober at Halloween at home.

The tips above can all be easily translated to apply to celebrating at home, for example:

  • Party? Trick or treating? – Don’t celebrate if you don’t want to
  • Don’t invite people you don’t want to be there
  • Have a reason that you’re not drinking
  • Know that you can escape to your room or the loo if you need a minute
  • Give the party a clear end time – maybe an afternoon children’s party?
  • Plan the party to do what you want to do and what you are comfortable with

I’m loving Halloween more and more in the last few years, especially since becoming sober. Before that I’d only really celebrated it as a child. This, interestingly, made a few things more obvious, as I hadn’t had that time to grow used to alcohol at Halloween. I had memories of childhood Halloweens and then memories of starting those traditions with my children a few years ago. But alcohol had never been a part of childhood Halloween so I couldn’t understand why our celebrations didn’t feel quite right – almost like I was quaffing back the prosecco with any excuse – which of course I was.

It is way more comfortable sober, because ultimately, I am doing it for the children. We decorate the house, do fancy dress, paint faces, carve pumpkins, make Halloween themed food and set up Halloween games like apple bobbing and pear hanging. I never went trick or treating as a child, so we don’t either, but we have everything set up for the trick or treaters that come our way – surprise doorbell, silly string and sweets. Where does prosecco fit into that?

If you are celebrating at home, try to enjoy yourself but most of all, try to enjoy other people’s enjoyment.

Halloween tip 7 – Be proud of your achievement 

Whatever you do this Halloween, be proud of your achievement. If you went out or had a party and stayed sober – that is phenomenal! So many huge pats on the back for you. Add it to your growing list of things to feel awesomely proud of.

If you decided not to celebrate, that is a brave and courageous act of self-love. In the end it is about you and your sobriety. It is not selfish, it is necessary. There is always the next year or the next celebration, when you can reassess what you can handle.

If you tried and slipped up, don’t beat yourself up. It is all a journey forward. No matter how disappointed you might be that you didn’t stay sober, you still tried and that is incredible. That shows you are on the right path, but just need to do a little more work to get there

See my other posts (links below) for more on this work.

Your journey to being happy celebrating sober, is like everything in your sober journey, one step forward at a time. Each step forward gets you a little closer to your goal.

I’m going to my first sober rave on Friday 1st November in the town centre. I have not been for a night out in town for years, and especially not a sober one. I am going with my husband you there won’t be many people I know – I did ask some friends, but no one seemed that keen when I mentioned the word sober! In my next post I’ll let you know all about it  xx  

Greenman Festival – Sober!

A week before the festival I was all up for selling my tickets online and saying sod it, I’m not going.

Since becoming sober, my anxiety has been so much better. I don’t feel the twisting of my insides and the accompanying black cloud that tells me – this is who you are, and you’ll never escape from anxiety and blackness. I was on such an emotional roller coaster when I drank that every little thing was a cause for anxiety and then an excuse to drink.

When I stopped drinking, I also stopped putting myself in situations I didn’t want to be in. I thoroughly used ‘could’ instead of ‘should’ and questioned everything I was doing. Socially, if it made me uncomfortable and I didn’t want to do it, then usually I didn’t. I was fiercely protective of my newfound sobriety and I was not going to let anything shake that.

So why did I feel my anxiety rearing its head before the festival? It was something I really, really wanted to do, but also something I had never done before, so I only had hearsay on what to expect. One of the things you hear most about are the portaloos – was I really going to spend a week taking the – newly potty trained – Baby to disgusting, stinky, blocked loos? Then the weather forecast, rain all week! I am not good with cold and wet unless I know I have a nice warm shower to get to. I am especially not good at being responsible for 3 cold and wet small people. Where would I dry the clothes? What were the showers like? Where would I dry the towels? How could I pack enough clothes for rain every day? What if their raincoats and wellies didn’t dry for the next day?

I had packed up and gone home a week into a two-week caravan holiday in Wales two years before, due to my anxiety, and felt completely crap about it. Did I want to do that to myself again?

My head went into overdrive and panic mode. I didn’t want my panic to tip me over the edge into drinking again, especially as I had heard festivals were basically giant piss ups with music.

My Love said we could sell the tickets if I wanted to, but on the flip side I did not want alcohol to define me. Could I really say to myself that I was never going to go to a festival just ‘in case’ I wanted to drink? Surely, at 15 months sober, without cravings I would be OK?

So, we packed up the car on the Monday morning and headed to beautiful, rainy Wales.

If you haven’t been to Wales, I recommend it, it is quite literally beautiful. At times you are clearly in the UK, at other times you could be in the Mediterranean. The emerald hills roll down to crystal clear rivers or turquoise sea waters. I have to be grateful for the rain, as without it, the verdant nature of Wales would not be as it is.

(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases) 

We were camped in a huge site in the middle of the Brecon Beacons. On arrival, thinking we were early, we were surprised by the number of cars. We came on settler’s passes, meaning we camped Monday to Monday, rather than just for the festival. But it seemed like every parking space and every pitch site was already full! Little did we know then that 25,000 people would be attending this festival – I had thought about 5,000!!

We picked the first reasonable looking pitch I came to, albeit on a massive incline! As luck would have it, we had a clear view of both the mountains and the main stage. In the evenings, when it was dark, I loved looking up at the odd houses dotted across the mountainside, with their lights brightly glowing against the dark and the car lights making their way up the mountain. It felt insanely cosy. I am sure that those houses don’t have open fires, AGA cookers, the smell of baking bread and simmering stews but it was lovely to imagine.

View of the main stage from our tent

It rained on and off during the first day but was mostly warm. I kicked everyone out while I got organised inside – needing control somewhere! By the evening we realised that the boys tent had a leak and wasn’t habitable. I moved them into the big tent for the night – no sleep for My Love and I sharing an airbed with an overactive, head kicking toddler – but hey, at least the boys were dry! Next day we made it to Abergavenny where they had an Argos. We bought a cheapy new tent and a cheapy pushchair. I was amazed by the set up of regular festival goers with children. They have pull along trolleys decked out with bedding, lights and waterproof covers! I loved them! But The Baby would have to have a pushchair this time, and even that, pushed through inches of thick mud, was a God send for later nights!

I realised, after setting up, that I was doing OK. We were on the main path into the campsite, so we saw everyone coming in and out. Lots of people were walking around with cans of various alcoholic drinks, even first thing in the morning, but it wasn’t making me want to drink. Bizarrely, I did have a cigarette craving – I haven’t smoked in 7 years – but thankfully that passed pretty quickly!  The atmosphere on the settler’s camps was relaxed, friendly and family orientated. Down at the settler’s evening shenanigans, there was a tent with a bar and a stage, and a tent next to it with teas, coffees and cakes. Each was equally full at all hours of the day and night. I was impressed by programme, which had a whole page saying, we know more and more people are choosing not to drink alcohol so here is a page of alcohol-free drinks we are serving. This boded well for the actual festival!

When the festival started, on Thursday, it was a beautiful sunny day with no rain forecast, so we took that day to explore. I was feeling pretty proud of myself by this stage for not freaking out, not panicking and not wanting to drink. I had a little system going. Give children breakfast then find coffee stall. I find buying myself a coffee in the morning is a self-care treat that immediately relaxes me. We discovered early on that unless you want to queue for hours to have a cold shower that morning showers are a no go. We therefore set off early each day, came back in the late afternoon for quick and warm showers, ate supper, and headed out again for the evening. Obviously, I got the boys to wash their hands with soap in the morning as the portaloos really are revolting! Better than I imagined but OMG the smell!! Didn’t help that The Baby thought the flushing lever was the best toy at the whole festival – ugh! But even that, which would have had me freaking big time in my drinking days, was not so bad.

Funnily enough, with me not freaking out all the time, I realised that My Love is not the completely calm person I always thought he was. He was constantly worried about the logistics, the tent, the tarpaulins to keep stuff dry and spider free. I realised how much we both do but in totally different ways. I manage the activities, the clothes, the cleaning and the fun, he manages the car, the tents, the cooking and the maintenance.  Both essential! Although I would have liked to gel better while we were away, it was lovely that my freaking out had not taken over, and I had been able to give some of his concerns the attention they deserved.

Having had the few days extra build up, realising that I was actually having fun, when the rain – light and first, torrential later, and constant all day – came on Friday, I was ready and feeling strong. We were properly kitted up and warm.  We ate food in the rain, listened to music in the rain, did science experiments in the rain, danced in the rain and charged our phones in the rain! In front of the main stage were four small hills all leading on from one and other. The Bear and The Baby had the most fun rolling down those wet muddy hills – repeatedly! At one stage, The Bear accidentally pushed The Baby into a stream so water overflowed his wellies and socks. I scooped The Baby up, took him back to the tent and changed him into dry clothes before heading back out. I realised, my panic and anxiety is all my own doing. The children don’t care if they are wet and muddy, they are having a lovely time! As long as I catch it before they all get cold then everyone is happy. My worry is creating issues that aren’t really there. However at 6 hours, the rain was getting through all of our waterproof clothes and I called it a day. Everyone had a shower, changed into dry clothes, and we set the inside of the tent up with chairs, games and books – no need for music, that was coming loud and strong from the festival site!

The Baby wet, muddy and loving it!

I was seriously proud of myself. Had it rained like that for the whole time, I may have freaked out, but luckily, things never seem as long lasting or dramatic as you convince yourself they are.

Saturday was wonderful. Sunny, warm and teeming with people and activity. We set out ready to get a full day in. The little folk area was fantastic for small people. We did family yoga together first thing, then heard a lot of activity from across the way so went to investigate. It was a charity called the Flying Seagull Project who do amazing work bringing fun and laughter to children in pretty crappy situations.  Their energy and enthusiasm was unceasing. Parents had to join in with the children, firstly singing and dancing to the Greatest Showman and then joining in with playground games. 50 parents and children all playing Bull Dog, What’s the time Mr Wolf and the Big Dipper was amazing to see. I laughed so hard and so much, it felt wonderful. It made me aware of how little we properly laugh in day to day life. If playing playground games with my children made me laugh so much, why is it so much harder to do day to day? I don’t have the answer and I am still reflecting on this!

Laughing with the Flying Seagulls Project

Throughout the day, I laughed more and more. I laughed at the man in a kilt and bomber jacket making children and adults play musical chairs; I laughed at the guys in insane costumes playing a music quiz where you had to sing and dance the answers; I laughed with the couple singing songs for children about protecting animals; I laughed at the incredible science experiments they were putting on which made things I had found difficult to understand at school seem so easy! 

I was laughing and having so much fun without alcohol. It made me wonder if all those who were drinking during these activities, realised that the activities themselves were hilarious or if they believed, as I used to, that they needed to alcohol to enjoy it.

I was constantly drawn to the beauty of my surroundings but at one point, when the boys were playing in a bubble shop that had a constant stream of bubbles coming out of it, I was staggered by the magic that something as simple as bubbles could create. It was twilight, the air was full of bubbles that glowed pink and purple as they floated off, some popping to release little puffs of smoke and hundreds of children laughing and playing underneath. It filled me with wonder.

I can only imagine this is what is meant by mindfulness. I was so aware of everything that was happening: my feelings, my reactions and my surroundings.

The magic of bubbles at twilight

I did not manage to do or see everything I wanted to see or do. Often it was too expensive, there was simply too much to see or we were just too tired. On Saturday night, all completely exhausted at 11.30pm, we headed back to the tent to sleep. Once in bed DJ Four Tet started up on the main stage. The music was celestial and hypnotic, the beats pulsed through the floor of my tent, all I wanted to do was jump out of bed and run to the main stage to dance. The children were asleep so I couldn’t but I did have a little boogie in my tent, imagining that I’ll dance there with the boys one day! I had almost forgotten that music could overtake you in that way.    

Even though we didn’t do everything, we saw music, science, dancing, circus acts, fire shows and comedy. Pretty wonderful!

There were obviously downsides, I am not so unrealistic as to say it was all perfect. I found My Love and I bickering more than we ever usually do. The Baby was an absolute monkey – loving the freedom but screaming when he didn’t get complete freedom! The Bot was a totally ungracious nearly teenager and had a strop every time he couldn’t get what he wanted. The loos were grim and it was an absolute mud bath but the upsides far outweighed the downsides. I’ll give it to the Bear, he was fab!

I truly believe that I would not have enjoyed it as much as I did if I had been drinking. I might have laughed and danced but I would also have cried and panicked. I would have been in my head the whole time and I wouldn’t remember the wonder and magic of it all, or the feeling of experiencing it with the people I love. When I came home, I felt a weight descend on me again. Funny because I thought that I had made the home and the life I wanted. I will spend some time trying to work out what’s going on there. Maybe the festival is escapism, or maybe there are parts of the festival that I could bring home to lessen some of the weight. I’m not sure yet.

So if you are wondering if sober you can manage a festival or just a holiday, please don’t let drinking or not drinking ruin your enjoyment of what is really on offer. There were as many people not drinking at the festival as drinking so you will not be alone. Times are changing and it is easier too not drink now than it has ever been.

So just one last word before I sign off for today. If you have never been to a festival – GO! (and bring soap!)