Health Alcohol and Drugs The OutLife guide to a very sober Christmas Take some time to think about what helps you feel grounded and in control By Scott Pearson As the festive season is well upon us, I was having a think about what I could write that might help others stay strong in their decision to be sober or cut down. The best thing I can think to share is my sober/self care toolkit. For those of you not well versed in these kind of toolkits, essentially it is a collective group of things or actions I identified in early sobriety that I know I need to do to stay on the straight and narrow. So, in an effort to help those who need it, see below for my sober/self care toolkit: Exit Plan A year and two months into being sober, and I have an exit plan for most events I am attending. Though I have found that I rarely use it. An exit plan is there so that should you decide where you’re at is not serving you positive realness, you can leave before you feel the urge to drink to mask the fact you’re having a shit time. Remember that you’re not having a shit time because you’re sober, you’re having a shit time because the venue or the people just aren’t working for you. In sobriety we have have standards! Speed Dial Have someone close to you on speed dial. This sounds silly (and I realise no one actually uses speed dial anymore because this isn’t Mean Girls) but it’s so important to have someone to speak to if you are feeling overwhelmed. I have a strong group of other alcohol free legends that I know I could call at any time and talk through how I’m feeling. This immediately means I am more at ease because my support system is so strong. Gratitude Being grateful doesn’t come naturally to me, and I noticed that since it started getting darker earlier I had started to become Mr Grumpy. Write down five things I am grateful for before I go to bed helps me remember how fortunate I am for so many reasons! Mindfulness This one is a huge help if I’m going somewhere I don’t know and I’m going to be surrounded by heavy drinkers. Over the last year I’ve learned that if I focus on my breathing throughout the day if I have something stressful coming up, it helps calm my anxiety. Disclaimer: recently I avoided some situations as I didn’t feel strong enough to be around super drunk people, so if you feel this is something you’d benefit from, remember it’s ok to say no to things. Food I cannot stress how important it is to make sure you’re full when you’re going out anywhere. Sometimes it’s hard for your brain to figure out the difference between hunger and thirst, so don’t get caught out by thinking you’re thirsty when you are in fact hungry! Sleep As I type this I am running on six hours of sleep. If I don’t sleep for seven to eight hours a night regularly, I start to become The Grinch. Sleep is obviously fundamental for us all, but I notice that as soon as my sleep pattern is off, I am more likely to question my decision to be sober. Most of these things might seem simple, but a combination of all of the above are what help me when I’m struggling. If you think you could benefit from having a sober toolkit, take some time to think about what it is that helps you feel grounded and in control. Write a list of the things that make you feel good, and try to implement them as frequently as possible. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and as ever, if you feel you need some additional advice then don’t hesitate to contact me via Instagram @theboywhodranktoomuch or via email [email protected] Sleigh this festive period! What Next? Support If you want to connect with other LGBTQ+ people then head to the OutLife forums to chat with our friendly, non-judgemental community. Drinkaware has a great list of alcohol support services in the UK. These include helplines, support groups, and online chat services. Switchboard is a support line run by LGBTQ+ volunteers that will be open across the holiday period 10am - 10pm (0300 330 0630). They're there to talk about your sexuality, your mental health, or anything else that may be bothering you. You're not alone. Mind - the mental health charity has a whole suite of online resources to help you through the Christmas period, these include managing loneliness, eating problems, the rise of old, uncomfortable feelings, and places where you can find support. Samaritans dedicated support line will also be there to listen over the Christmas period. All calls to them are confidential and they'll be open over the entire Christmas period. Call on 116 123 (UK), 116 123 (ROI).