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

  • So i think you are saying that the brain can be repatterned. Right now its patterned to believe that every celebration needs to have drinking in it . You need to reprogram your brain to believe you do not need a drink at these celebrations ….you can develop a new normal but one day and event at a time.

  • Navigating life sober is going to have ups and downs. This too will pass and how we feel about them changes. Particularly after a good night’s sleep. Dancing Rabbit

  • The part I needed to hear today was the reminder that every time I do not drink, I learn a little something that helps me be sober in the next situation.
    The same tools I use today are the same tools I’ll use tomorrow. And the next day.
    Also, “Christmas morning is not improved by being sloshed.”
    Christmas will be my 8 month soberversary. I’m excited to face it with coffee and a good night of sleep.

  • Yes, actually as you said sober is the right way to enjoy celebrations, to really be there, to be sure that what think whats happening is indeed happening! Sober is the right way to really be there only because you truly want to be there or leave if you dont feel comfortable instead of forcing yourself who knows why on doing things you might don’t wanto to. Sober is the only way to be sure it is real.

  • It doesn’t have to be alcohol in your glass to celebrate. You can enjoy the moment better sober. Don’t listen to Wolfie who thinks you need alcohol to celebrate – that is wolfshit!

  • To think that you have to “enjoy” the holidays with alcohol, being sad, sick to the stomach, hungover, is foolish. To truly enjoy the holidays sober, being present, remembering, that’s the true present for your family. No one will care what’s in your glass.

  • This sort of made me laugh. I’ve lost count of the number of times when I’ve raised my (empty) glass to toast the happy couple or whatever, because I’ve already finished my drink and I’m frantically looking for someone else’s half empty glass or the waiter with the bottle. So, no, toasts and celebrations do not require alcohol. Why not ring a bell?

  • Wow. So, OK, I think I knew this, but I had not known it like this, I had not seen the truth that you don’t *need* alcohol to celebrate. I had thought I *could* celebrate without alcohol but that it would somehow be lacking. But you have so clearly shown that, of course, celebrations are better with no drink. They are clearer and I am more present. I was about to start feeling dumb for not seeing this before. But I’m choosing to feel really great that I have finally seen past this Wolfie trick. Thank you, with hugs.

  • Keep the focus on what’s worthwhile in a broader context, think history, think longer term – tune out any short term temptations.

    Whatever words Wolfie puts into your head today, just keep telling yourself he’s not thinking of you! This time the message is to focus on being sociable and sharing celebrations, in blatant contradiction to telling you yesterday that alcohol is an escape from other people and all the bad stuff they bring.

    All Wolfie wants is his fix, and then more and more of it, and will manipulate and lie and invent any excuses to get it. So don’t even think of trusting him ever again! It’s you who has to clean up the wreckage afterwards, when he gets you hungover and broke and shamed.

    Which makes you 100% entitled to stick to the recovery plan, whatever circumstances and Wolfie whisperings that today might bring.

  • Your body, and brain turns to where it’s used to going in these situations. We have to create different paths of thinking, AND practice them to retrain our brains thinking. ? ? ?

  • We have to relearn how to celebrate and how to deal with loss. Whether it’s clinking a glass of a non alcohol beverage or journaling about your disappointment or distress over something. Training wheels on until we get it.

  • Odd to see my comment from a year ago, but happy that I still feel the same way. Stronger actually after an additional 365 days sober. Now that’s an achievement I will celebrate with my mind and body clear and present.

  • I really can’t get over the obvious contradiction of drinking as a response to both happy and sad events. It’s amazing that it never occurred to me while I was drinking, only now, seeing from the clear-headed outsider’s perspective. I tell people who ask, that the first year of going through each event…first birthday celebration, first anniversary, first Christmas, new years eve, wedding…those times were challenging. Oh, and the biggest…vacations! Mostly because the reflex was to drink without thinking. The challenge was “remembering” that I don’t do that anymore. To think for a moment, about not drinking. Now, after more than two cycles of these events (over 2 years going through each event), I have to say, there’s no longer even a bit of apprehension.

  • Hi Belle,
    The words that jumped out for me were patterns and pathways. Creating new patterns and new pathways in the brain that don’t lead to alcohol. Like in the very beginning telling yourself that ” this is my treat for being sober” creates a new pathway that eventually leads away from wolfie and using alcohol to deal with the good and bad of life. And remembering that no one (except a boozer) really cares whether you drink or not.

  • I’m getting better at learning how to celebrate sober! I find a lovely ginger ale in a pretty glass at a party makes me feel good and I’m also learning… no, I KNOW now that the following day, I’m going to actually have a DAY! …I won’t be looking for excuses to ditch out of any obligations and I will feel great!!

  • And that’s how I’ve learned in sobriety. Ive taken each thing as it presents itself and done my best to avoid drinking. At times I’ve wanted to drink but avoided it if it meant not going to an event and just going for a walk or to bed instead. Right actions build new coping habits, one at a time. Eventually I’m living my life, the good and the not so good without numbing.

  • “No one cares what is in your glass!” – Why did I struggle so much with this? I was sure I would be ridiculed and goaded at events where people would be drinking. Have I had a few of my heavy drinking friends seem to be uncomfortable that I was not drinking….Yes. However, that lasted about 5 minutes until their own wofie voice switched on and they most probably internally heard “great that he is not drinking…more for me!” Then, not one more mention of what was in my glass! Sucks for them, but great for me. #Day95

  • I like the idea of flexing my sober muscle. I recently celebrated my wedding anniversary sober with a great big goblet of Seedlip and Fever Tree with a scrummy baked camembert. Instead of getting shit-faced and having blind-drunk sex with my beloved husband, we spent the evening reminiscing about two wonderful years as man and wife- it was fabulous, and I remembered it. Sober is definitely the new pissed-as-a-fart xx

  • Thank you. Particularly for your persistence in getting me to engage. I learnt that my everyday spontaneous brain cannot be trusted. It’s wolfie. And that being present is a much much better way of honouring a celebration. Thank you for making so much sense.

  • Im not celebrating by numbing. I’m numbing, and only numbing, with alcohol. Numbing the bad stuff has a warped surface logic, numbing the good stuff though – that’s really twisted. That’s what shows alcohol for what it really is – all consuming, isolating, selfish. Time to let the feeling back into celebrations. I can do that – I can do it for 1 Birthday, 1 Xmas, 1 New Year. Then I’ll know.

  • The thing that resonates for me is the comment that an anesthetic is not going to improve Christmas morning. It’s really really really hard to get past this belief. I need repeat phrases like this until they sink into my brain so deeply that even my unconscious believes it.

  • Noelle
    I have often asked myself why I need to drink on happy occasions. I used to understand drinking when I’m down in the dumps, but why when all is right with the world? Why when cute little grandchildren are at the party – or for that matter – my own grown children. It cannot be “fun” to watch Mom get loud and slur her words and say “yes” to her fourth glass of wine. This is my first Christmas season sober. I want to focus of the joy of the season, the smiles on the faces of my family. I want to make outstanding meals. I want to remember what was talked about. That will be enjoyable!!

  • I heard that’s it’s retraining, every time you retrain the brain by doing something else, I play the tape forward too, I get the connection in the brain with celebrating and alcohol but it doesn’t stop with one two or three etc etc. And it is numbing out and using an anaesthetic and it’s not real and I need to keep reminding myself real I’d better even though sometimes it may be uncomfortable or very emotional.

  • This resonates so strongly with me! As you know, I just finished my MBA and went through this exact question. Because I’m 200+ days sober, my perspective on this is not the same as would have been three days in. But now, I’ve learned that celebrating an achievement is not improved by alcohol, but made worse. Toasting with sparkling apple cider or a Welch’s nonalcoholic sparkling juice maintains the lovely ritual of sharing a toast, but means I don’t start crying/raging/passing out later that night or wake up the next morning wondering how the night had ended and feeling like death. Sober celebrations mean cake and balloons and enjoying the company of those around me. Of course, by extension, it means that I have reframed what I think of as a celebration. If the people at a “celebratory event” are people whose company I would not enjoy without alcohol, than that is not an event I need to go to. When it’s family (and I don’t have a choice!), I limit my time and plan sober treats for during and after. These days, there are plenty of delicious non alcoholic alternatives, so I don’t even feel disheartened that everyone else has something more “fun” than me! My ginger beer and san pellegrino are much more fun, it turns out.

  • Everything is like everything.

    You were doing practice audios to prep for a live event.

    We have to practice celebrating smaller events sober to be prepared to celebrate larger events being sober.

    Our brain asks for alcohol right now… for everything… therefore you have to practice so that your brain no longer asks for alcohol.

  • How do you enjoy a celebration without booze, you enjoy by being sober. By being present. The idea that you need anesthetic to enjoy a moment is a Wolfie lie, and it isn’t even logical. (My rephrase, and I really like that?). Thank you for omitting the detail list of “this is what you need to do”, a list that I am sure each of our Wolfie brains could knock down with excuses, and instead focusing on the mindset.

    MindfulMe ?

  • I’ve found the rampant drinking by my in-law family a huge negative for our get togethers. Every event starts with drinking. No matter the time of day or the occasion. Glasses are laid out and booze is ready to go when everyone arrives. The noise level gets louder and louder as the event goes on, and, sometimes, harsh words are exchanged and children are left alone to fend for themselves with each other for hours at a time.

    As the only completely sober adult (going on 5 years now), I feel lonely and left out. Everyone else seems to be connecting and having fun together. My therapist says that this connectedness is actually a mirage – relatives are choosing to let alcohol and their buzzes/drunkeness come between them and other people. True connection comes by being full present with others.

    Sure, I could have a drink along with everyone. But I know that would put me right back to where I was before – having 3 strong gins and tonics a night and finding that 3 wasn’t enough anymore. I don’t want to be drinking 21+ hard alcohol drinks a week ever again.

    As Christmas approaches, I find myself employing the same plan as last year – go late and leave early.

    • I have the most dreadful memories of “thinking about drinking” for all the holidays. Before the day even started, I wondered how hungover I would feel the next day. At almost 3 months sober, I loved being present for Thanksgiving and I can’t wait for Christmas and New Years. I can feel the effects of the analogy of sobriety–that is like strengthening a muscle. Each day you work at being sober, each day you get stronger. My drinking celebration will be bubbly Pellegrino in a pretty glass. Cheers to all!

  • I draw from this that you must protect yourself, like you would protect one of your children- from this grows your self love, and then wolfie dies.

  • My favorite piece of this short audio is the comment that no one else cares what’s in my glass. So true! I just *think* that everyone will notice that I’m not drinking, so I keep a nonalcoholic drink in my hand, then no one offers me a drink.

  • I heard that alcohol dulls joy. And I am remembering an example of that–getting too drunk after the children went to sleep to be a good co-Santa. My spouse seeing me stagger and taking over. Then faking my way through Christmas morning like a zombie with a painted on smile. Christmas morning with no hangover is pure joy.

  • I have two stories of celebratory toasting during my hundred-day challenge (I’m at 80 days now).

    A month ago we toasted at work to being acquired by a bigger company we’re excited about. The only beverage supplied to toast with was champagne. There were also cookies on the table for a snack. I had to toast with a cookie. It pissed me off and I did not feel a part of the toast.

    Today we toasted at a family holiday brunch. Everyone had mimosas and, when I passed, my cousin gave me a champagne glass of just orange juice. I totally felt a part of that toast. And when we sat down and toasted again, half my family toasted with the water glasses at the table instead of more mimosas and we all clinked glasses and I felt a part of the celebration again.

    So I am a believer in non-alcoholic celebratory toasts. As long as it’s with a liquid, not a damn cookie. Maybe in the future, I’ll get comfortable toasting with a cookie? lol

  • You’re right! Why would I need to numb myself on Christmas? Why would I want to?! The answer is, I don’t. I’m one who starts out thinking, “This is fun! Ahh, a little champagne. What a celebration!” And then, not so much. I will remind myself of this on future occasions. Why do I want to numb myself and, if I actually have a reason for wanting to do so, will make other plans or implement other strategies to get me through.

  • I stopped enjoying times of celebration because of alcohol and the mental and physical damage it did to me. I’m looking forward to my first completely sober Christmas since… i don’t know… likely over 20 years! That is a celebration in itself… to be clear and present for all the presents!

  • This makes me think hard about “happy” drinking. Celebrating with alcohol does anything but make me happy. Momentarily I get that booze rush but I’m NEVER happy the next day. And…you are right no one cares what you are drinking unless it is another person under the influence of Wolfie!

  • It doesn’t make sense that our society’s answer to disappointment/sadness and celebration/happiness is the same: have a drink! Especially when we’re celebrating something. Shouldn’t we want to be entirely present in that moment? How does toasting with a carbonated glass of alcohol make a celebration any more celebrationy? It has the opposite effect. We celebrate with booze because we feel good, even while each drink we take brings us closer and closer to feeling really, really shitty.

    • I agree with Quiethalfmoon. We, as a culture, and I, as an individual, buy into this notion that celebrations are a cause for drink. And for people who can control their drinking, there is nothing wrong with that. But for many of us, there is something wrong with it.

      I will add to Quiet’s comment by saying: I also felt that some hard effort or accomplishment “earned” a drink for me, like I deserved to “loosen up” or “unwind” because of some “feat” I’d managed. When the “feat” was most often just the act of living in the early 21st century.

      I broke that thought pattern. I no longer feel I deserve to be buzzed. I want to be present for myself and my children every single day.

      • You two are both so right. It’s sad really….
        Glad I’m sober while my son is still young so he can learn different ways x

  • I heard that wether you’re aware of it or not you are in training. And you gradually train, again maybe without even understanding how gradual your progression is, and then all of a sudden it’s New years eve again and the thought of drinking just gently sweeps across your mind before flying away. Trust the process. When you think of New years when you are 6 days sober you put the current version of yourself in that situation and it seems, to say the least, overwhelming. But it’s not the 6 day sober person that will enter that party. It’s another you, a more experienced you, someone who has trained for this for a long time.