Audio: Celebrations

This is Sober Podcast Episode #173 for my weekly sober podcast series.

Thanks to rosalita for today’s question.

Is it possible to celebrate without alcohol? what about ‘raising a toast’ – what about acknowledging hard work? what about good days and bad days and any other reason your brain thinks that drinking might be a good idea?

Below i’ve posted a 3-minute extract from this longer audio (the complete podcast is about 15 minutes long).

You can listen to this extract now 🙂 And leave a comment – what do you hear in this audio? Can you rephrase it in your own words? hugs from me


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I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • That was an awesome message. I do not need to pour alcohol on my head to enjoy an event.How can I really be enjoying an event when I am not actually present when I’ve had a few to many?

  • The discord between my very clear understanding that I don’t need alcohol to enjoy celebrations and my FOMO and even MO feelings at a certain moment ahead of and at the beginning of a celebration is interesting to me. If I recognize that I’m feeling the feeling and then pour myself my NA bev of choice in that moment, and bring my attention back to the celebration, I am finding that–wow, I am having fun anyway, without alcohol. It’s a feeling. It can pass and it will pass. Meanwhile, I am present.
    Day 61 and rolling….

  • What I heard for the first time is that dealing with celebrations is the same as dealing with sad things – the tools needed are the same. And that we build on our sobriety, one step at a time. This will be my first sober Christmas in over 14 years so it will be a challenge but I will relish waking up on 26 December feeling good. B happy times everyone

  • I heard that alcohol is not necessary to enjoy celebrations, and that more than that, it is detrimental to enjoying and being present for yourself and others. I heard that to be sober you have to replace alcohol with sober tools.

  • This really struck a chord with me. These are certainly the most difficult times. I was in the gym the other day and was flagging a bit. I thought “if I stick at it and complete my exercises properly and as well as I can today, it will make it easier next time I am in the gym”. Same thing with staying sober when celebrating – practice is key. This will be my first sober Christmas (currently on day 74) and I am actually looking forward to seeing how much more enjoyable it can be. Thanks Belle for all you do. Peter

  • I heard the question differently- it seemed to be based on the belief that drinking was the only way to celebrate any major event and accomplishment.
    And in the answer I heard that be cleverly and kindly picked apart.
    But also to take one’s time to take part in these kinds of events and build up confidence like a muscle. I can relate to the muscle analogy. Much like drinking ,an injury seems to come out of nowhere ; but if I then look back on my final weeks before I get injured I can usually spot the warning signs.
    The other thing I heard was to maybe think about celebrating differently. Being present as appose to numbing out.

  • Of course the first sober holiday (funeral/Friday night/date/event) seems daunting but maybe if you fast forward and realise “in __ days/weeks/months/years this will be EASY! It’ll be like riding a bike!” It’ll help you mentally prepare for for it – which builds up and stabilises the tools you use, as if you expect your wall of protection to fall down its more likely to. So for me it’s not just about knowing the tools to use, as Belle says it’s about taking it slow and building that muscle memory and also FAITH that you will get through this. ❤️

  • I’m sober just over a year, so this is my second Christmas. I was really excited last year to use all my sober tools and knowledge, maybe even a bit smug. This year I’ve found myself thinking about what a drink or two would mean, quite frequently. I’m sure this is common! I know that I don’t need a drink, I know it would improve anything, but I’m thinking about how it will make me feel. All the old feelings. Thankfully I know in my heart I would never act upon these thoughts to find out. Why? My favourite tool: playing it forward. I only need to think about drink number 3 and I’m out! Or the next day. Then I actually feel sad that alcohol is such a big lie. And that I fell for it for so many years. So I’ve discovered it’s ok for me to be curious, that it doesn’t mean anything more than reminding me why. I can close Wolfie down. I’m in control. By that voice coming up, instead of pushing it away, or feeling overwhelmed, I use it as a way to remind myself why drinking is never a way to relax, celebrate, have fun. I can do that just fine with tea and water. At a cocktail bar launch on Wednesday, after being curious on my way there, what would it feel like to have a couple, in the past I would have felt xyz (insert good things), my response: and yeah, then you would have felt xyz (insert bad things). So glad I’m in control and know precisely why I don’t drink!!

  • What I got to think about hearing this was the celebrations that are ‘mine’ and I can decide about and how I can celebrate in completely new ways! Alone or with friends and family. I turned 50 during the pandemic and asked for a dayhike with birthday cake on a beach with husband and daughter. A wonderful day, all soaked with plenty of rain on the cake!

  • I’m hearing that if i rate events with a ‘drink alcohol’ risk of between 0-10, then it’s wise to practice with a zero event (that might be that I managed to get out of bed for an early morning walk, & I celebrate my achievement by drinking my fave cup of tea and eating a croissant). When I practice celebrating these no/low risk events in ways that don’t involve drinking booze, I’m retraining my brain, I’m retraining that ‘how-to-celebrate’ muscle. Start small , practice celebrating low risk events, say no if yr feeling shaky. That’s what I hear.

  • Practice and more practice. What you do every day to stay sober is the same thing yo do to stay sober to celebrate, grieve, to basically live. Being sober, thus present is the celebration. Thx Belle 🙂

  • Hearing you point out that learning to celebrate without alcohol is the same as learning to soothe discomfort without alcohol was a lightbulb takeaway for me. It is just about learning new ways of doing things, and I can do that. Thank you, Belle. ❤️

  • I hear take baby steps one event at a time until it gets easier like strengthening a muscle and definitely have a nice sober treat in celebrating that you just aced that event sober and get to wake us fresh and perky!
    But Christmas isn’t really about getting sloshed as a celebration anyways-might be a nice plan to be fully present in the moment without either worrying about being squiffy or hangxiety. Merry Christmas x

  • What I heard was: start slowly easing into celebrations when newly sober and then take them one at a time and build on success. The tools one needs to get sober are the same ones needed to stay sober, adding more if necessary.

  • Hi Belle, firstly – thanks for all your help. What I heard in that extract is the “sober tool kit” and progression.
    Your podcast about “if you keep on relapsing then you’ve not got the right tools in your toolbox” always stuck with me.
    When you are on day 10 you don’t have many sober tools to work with, you’re like an apprentice who doesn’t get called out to all the complex jobs.
    As you progress you add more tools and become more knowledgeable. Perhaps you have a sober contact that you message, maybe you’ve found out that you can ask for that tonic water and literally NO ONE cares that it’s free from booze.
    Before long it’s day 100, or 1000… and you are now like that trusty old mechanic who has his tools all organised on the wall and knows which socket will fit which car by instinct.
    For me – the definition of celebrating has changed. It used to mean getting wasted, it was just an excuse to drink harder.
    Now I do stuff like wakeboarding for my birthday where I can be present and have make new memories.
    For New Year’s though I will be at home, probably in bed at 10pm. I treasure my sobriety too much.

  • I’m hearing that if we are associating alcohol with certain ‘events’ then we need to retrain our brain to stop that association. We do not need alcohol. In fact, once we have fucked wolfie off we will realise, the longer we are sober that we either enjoy or manage all ‘events’ even better! Some of us may need to manage which ‘events’ we pass on, or leave early from in our early days to protect ourselves if wolfie is still hanging around but once the wolf is gone…. Yee Haa! It’s a whole new world when planning an event… alcohol won’t even come into the equation..!

  • After listening I realized that I was experiencing severe FOMO over that last few days. I am away from home, my husband had house guests and they were certainly partying…it was painful for me. Today, I am over it and I stayed sober and the house guests left. Thank you for all you do Belle.

  • I’m now hearing the same message over and over…. Just keep going in my little sober car, moving ever further away from day 1. I’m looking forward to my first sober Christmas and new year. It’s going to be fun to see what it’s like. Nobody will care that im not drinking …. So long as they can drink, that’ll be all that matters to them. 🚗 (my little sober car )

  • I hear this … that every time you get through a day, a lunch, a date, a party without drinking makes you that much stronger for the next event. You brain builds up new memories on how to handle socialization alcohol free, and after awhile, THAT becomes the go-to thought process.

  • I hear that we could possibly try to go back and remember what it was like to celebrate etc as a child, no alcohol there! Just pure enjoyment and excitement that wasn’t anaesthetised by booze. Kids still enjoy events and parties and being with friends and family, no alcohol
    Needed. I’m avoiding gatherings and certain people
    As I’m only in early sobriety and I’ve learnt already from you Belle that this is perfectly ok to do.

  • i hear someone who was stuck on the superhighway and needed to find an exit that would take her to a grass field where she can walk around and make her own damn path

  • *gentle smile* This is the first time I’ve listened to your podcast. I skim read your emails (I keep getting sucked into reading, but my ambivalent brain – the protector of Wolfie – keeps saying keep going move to next). Then I received a letter I didn’t expect. And today I hear your voice and for the first time I indulge power of podcasts. You’re a real person. If you can do it, so can I.

  • We get FOMO about alcohol but it’s the alcohol that makes us miss out. If you are tired and cranky and mad at yourself on Christmas morning, you will miss the expression on a dear one’s face when they realize they’ve just received a present that they love. You will miss the anticipation of the day, the treasure of every moment of being together and not having school or work. Instead you will be dreading the whole thing, wishing everybody would go off to school or work. If you have FOMO, not drinking is the solution.

  • The idea that alcohol is needed to make good or bad experiences better is wolfie talking. By exercising my AF muscle wolfie gets quieter and everything becomes easier.

  • “It’s not logical “ “It just isn’t true”
    Wolfie, aided and abetted by alcohol companies to make vast profits from our misery, tells lies.
    This struck me with such force today. I am celebrating on my terms not their’s and my terms are sobriety first and foremost and being 100% present.

  • Thank you for that!
    It’s so true why would you want to numb a really lovely day! It’s strange how your brain works but you are right, the only way you can change it is to create new traditions which will take time and effort to change how your brain works. Thank you . Merry Christmas to you x

  • Thing get easier with practise – the more you do something – i.e. attend a celebration sober the easier it becomes and the less self -conscious you feel about it. Oh and nobody notices or cares what is in your glass that you are toasting with. It’s about being present and enjoying the moment with those you are celebrating with. 😊.

  • I used to dread celebrations, weekends with girlfriends, New Year’s Eve, and so on because how would I get home because I couldn’t drive and taxis are hard to find & expensive and how could I get by without everyone noticing how much I was drinking and how would I make sure I got enough alcohol and how would I manage the hangovers. It was so hard! Now 2.5 years on, the penny has finally dropped (I’m a slow learner, lol). Celebrations are so much frigging easier without the booze. And I never knew. Thanks Belle.

  • There are many tasty things to put in your celebratory glass other than alcohol. No need for alcohol on happy or sad occasions as it is not going to help you be present, clear minded, and able to cope with the emotions of the moment. Build your sobriety muscles by testing them out and practicing one sober event at a time. Celebrate your AF life! Thanks Belle!

  • We strengthen the muscle of sobriety every time we choose not to drink. It gets easier and easier with repetition.

  • Right, the same brain that tells you, you need a drink to celebrate, tells you, you need a drink when things go wrong. Wrong on both counts but be gentle with yourself and don’t throw yourself into the fray without some tools and practice.

  • I liked what you said about muscle memory. It is like that. You get a few sober “events” under your belt and you see that most of your fears are all in your mind. You what if a situation to the point of anxiety. Thanks Belle 🙂

  • What stood out to me today is the fact that it’s not even possible to *truly* celebrate something when you are numbed out from alcohol. The question of whether Christmas morning would be improved when sloshed is such a great example.

  • Good topic to discuss as I find events involving alcohol and drinkers the most difficult. I am trying to retrain my brain to think of these occasions in a completely different way. It’s very difficult after years of drinking at all social events to not have alcohol, but I am doing it and I guess every time I attend an occasion and remain sober it gets easier. I hope.

  • This time 2 years ago I was 52 days sober, I hadn’t intended going the 100 days, I had started with a dry November, but I knew in my heart and soul that I felt better without the booze. I hadn’t had a dry Christmas since my last pregnancy 22 years previously and was a bit weary of it. Somehow or other Belles voice got into my brain and I decided that I wouldn’t ruin my momentum by drinking at Christmas. I would try different, I would try sober and make it to the new year having successfully stayed on course, no regrets, no restart, no drinking, chick safe. Do you know what – Christmas was fab as was the following one. Today I know I won’t drink this year and I won’t miss out on any part of the 12 days, I will greet 2023 sober, bright and full of potential. Thanks Belle xx

  • I really needed this tonight thanks Belle. You have reminded me how dumb it is to think anaesthetising myself with drink would make a better celebration. Need to hold on to this mindset and relisten if I waiver.

  • My version: it’s not necessary to use alcohol for happy events, it only dulls the happiness and risks a angry hangover. I once heard a famous actress mention that she never drank on vacation saying “what reason do you have to drink when you are doing something you truly enjoy?”