Easter Weekend SOS

Apr 10, 2023

One barrier people have to getting sober/staying sober is upcoming holidays and special occasions – that wedding, that trip away – ‘I will start after the bank holiday, bank holidays are too hard.’ The reality is that there will always be high days and holidays. There will always be birthdays, parties, Christmases and bank holidays to navigate. Rather than seeing them as a barrier to getting started on your sober life, get yourself and your toolkit equipped and set your intention. You can manage these events and come out stronger, prouder, and more determined than ever to stay and love being sober.

Like all good girl scouts we need to be prepared for when the sh*t hits the fan, which it invariably will because we are in the school holidays. The house will be a disaster, it will all get too much, and there will be much sugar consumed but WE WILL NOT DRINK. We do need a plan though. Let’s put bank holidays through the sober filter so we can call out those possible triggers.

High Days can be tricky and triggering because they are like punctuation marks, sticks in the sand which we then pivot from as we gaze backwards and forwards from, judge our progress, compare before and after.

They are, in reality, just one more day but they don’t feel like one more day. They feel like ‘truth days’. They can amplify feelings and narratives. This can be useful if we are looking at progress and being kind to ourselves and using them as an opportunity to reflect and ask questions about how we feel and feel empowered to take action based on what we need but so often our inner critics set up camp for the day and our heads and hearts are filled with tales of lack or comparison. So rather than being truth days they can be distorted and they can be triggering.

A few years ago I dreaded Easter - I would have my two young children to entertain and my husband, who was a freelancer on a newspaper at the time, used to have to pick up the graveyard shift over the bank holiday. Something about having the kids on my own, even though I’d meet up with my mum, felt lonely and out of step with ‘everyone’ else. My inner rebel hated the conformity of it, my inner traditionalist wanted to dive into the ritual of it, and somehow it just set of a scarcity feeling of not having enough or the ‘perfect’ time. Ugh. So much noise around one day, one weekend. probably underneath was just me, a knackered mum, wanting a lie-in.

Easter hols can trip us up because, perhaps we have done a sober Xmas and that was a big deal, or a surprisingly easy win so we can feel blindsided by Easter - The I’ve proved I can do it so I obviously don’t have a problem, the sun is out, the pub gardens beckon etc etc. It can actually be a cluster F of triggers so better to call them out, get a plan in place and don’t forget - YOU have not come this far to only come this far.

Perhaps you are going away for longer during these school holidays … It’s this attitude to what defines a holiday that we need to unpick. How about looking at a holiday or a high day in terms of ‘allowing’ yourself to wake up without a hangover every day? ‘Allowing’ yourself to be truly in the moment, connecting with the people you love or taking time for yourself to becoming relaxed and refreshed? ‘Allowing’ yourself to come back from a holiday feeling better and rested, so you don’t resent coming back to the day-to-day, because you never really have a break?

Completing an alcohol-free bank holiday is definitely one of the sober muscle builders! But with a bit of planning it’s much easier and more enjoyable than the alternative... shudder. Firstly, we have to tackle the fantasy/reality aspect of drinking:

Fantasy: We will sit at lunch/sunset enjoying a glass of chilled wine, while the kids play quietly and we have a lovely day/ evening with our friends/family/ SO, chatting and feeling romantic/ happy/content/ winning at life. (Notice this is rather unspecific... Often once we start drinking, that’s all we are really interested in.)

What does your drinking on a holiday/ bank holiday evening really look like? Mine was a bit like this...


Reality: Late morning, I begin to bargain with myself about whether or not I am going to drink or be ‘good’, no I ‘deserve’ it - I’m being too hard on myself, it’s a celebration. The anxiety, anticipation starts to build and then I get the ahhhh feeling when I decided I am going to ‘allow’ myself to. Then I begin the countdown. Notice the not drinking but thinking about drinking is dominating my day already so I’m not really present…

Then when we start… I’ll usually bring it forward by a bit because once I have decided I’m going to drink, I’ll want to do it. So I’ll wait and wait ( still dominating my thoughts) Then I’ll one, feel brilliant - it’ll go too quickly and then by bubble bursts - I watch myself like a hawk, if I have another I’ll have used up all my units, we still have to cook and put kids to bed put kids to bed, so unable to relax, so have a bit more before they are in bed. Now relax! Drink another, by then don’t care how much or how it‘ll feel in the morning, smoke cigarettes even though have ‘stopped’, drink another bottle, bed by midnight, wake at 3 am with a pounding head, awake till sunrise, feel hanging the rest of the day... just trying to get through it, a day wasted, feeling guilty and like hell.

That was the reality when I was a drinker. It wasn’t actually fun because what I wanted was the freedom to drink as much as I wanted with no consequences so as William Porter said so brilliantly ‘What you are chasing has already gone.’ I would never be a carefree drinker - it was all about control and regret.

Not only can high days and holidays be ruined by the day-to-day diminishment of relaxation, family fun, and rest if you are drinking. There is also the sheer and utter guttedness that you have fallen off the wagon and have to start all over again. And there’s the loss of sober momentum and self-confidence, and the self-loathing to consider. If you’ve been alcohol-free for a while, you know how hard you’ve worked to get those days notched up. It’s not easy getting sober, but it’s worth it.

To tackle the holiday mentality, we also have to undo the whole ‘reward’ mentality around alcohol – the brainwashing . Alcohol is not a reward, it’s an addictive poison. What if high days and holidays actually meant spending quality time with people you love from morning to evening with no regrets? This is the real gold. And the best way to achieve this? Take a mental and physical sober toolkit away with you and shower yourself with sober treats and rewards.

PLAN for Social Occasions


Over the last few years there has been a full-on sober and sober-curious revolution.There are great alcohol-free drink alternatives, people are more open to people cutting down or stopping drinking altogether and there are so many sober groups that being sober no longer looks like a social death sentence.

Having said this, high days and holidays (bank holidays/birthdays/cultural celebrations) can still feel heavily drenched in boozy triggers. They have a particular mix of feelings as if it’s time out of normal life when normal rules no longer apply. It’s all about having a plan and we like an acronym so we made up another one.     

If you have any concerns whatsoever about a social occasion and how it might trigger your drinking, make sure you PLAN for it fully in advance:

Prepare Be it a holiday or a party, know what AF drinks there will be, know who will be there, plan what you want to wear and feel like, prepare for the tricky times mentally: the airport, the plane, the first evening (if you get through those things you are winning!). Prepare activities that are not based around booze, like party games or sports activities.

Arriving home from a holiday or big social event is often an unexpected trigger, so make sure you have a quiet restorative day planned afterwards with lots of self-care and well-deserved sober treats to manage the social hangover.

Learn Think back to previous events and what you have learned from them. What is like for you in these heightened situations? How easy has it been to manage your drinking before? What are your triggers? How can you protect yourself? Take quit lit and podcasts with you on holiday to keep you engaged in your alcohol-free choice.

Aspire Keep future-focused: play it forward, and think about how proud you will be as you become a morning bird who savours the empty beach or gets up and goes to yoga when everyone else is in bed with a hangover.

Notice Stay curious about your environment, yourself and your experience.
What’s different about it when you’re not drinking? Are there new places to discover? People to talk to? Foods to eat? What do you notice about your mood and your needs?

It can be really useful, especially in the early days, to flip your thinking around what it means to be social when you are on holiday. To focus on mornings – breakfasts and brunches, sunrises and sports, walks and papers and lying in the sun without a hangover. Some people might see being sober as a state of deprivation because we don’t do that one thing. But, in fact, it is the exact opposite – because we don’t do that one thing we get to do EVERYTHING else. Rather than waiting all day for the drinking to start, or getting over the pain of the night before, we get to have the whole day ahead of us. We get to benefit from, and be present in, every moment. At a wedding you get to feel the love, at a party you get to actually connect with people, on holiday you ACTUALLY RELAX!



The HALT acronym is a great tool to check in with yourself and take a break when things get too much:

Hungry – Eat something. Drink water!
Angry – Punch a cushion, go for a run.
Lonely – Phone a friend who respects and supports your sober journey, log on to a sober group – they will always understand and talk you through a trigger time.
Tired – Lie down, get some rest, have an early night, put on a film for your kids. Get outside,

The Gardens of our Sensory Needs



‘The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.’


Understanding, reading and meeting your sensory needs is a super power. Being sober takes work, like removing the bindweed that alcohol has wound around our lives, our occasions, associations and routines. It also takes maintenance and pruning and stopping to scratch our chins and to take a good look at what we want and need in our new lady garden (not THAT kind of lady garden - or maybe that kind of lady garden).

We all have sensory needs and preferences. If we tune in to this part of our experience, it can provide brilliant information to enable us to soothe ourselves, leave triggering situations before it’s too late and enable us to lower our stress response. Being skilled and intimate with our sensory needs is therefore a lethal weapon against the Wine Witch.

Do you feel stressed if things are too loud, or if three people are talking to you at once? (Hello, motherhood.) Perhaps you find it hard to relax if the room is too bright, or feel stressed in supermarket queues. Do scratchy labels drive you mad? Sensory needs are very real needs and certainly if you identify as being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) these can be significant reasons why you drank. I drank literally to make the room quieter, the world a little less busy and, essentially, to soothe a ragged nervous system when my senses were flooded. Once I stopped drinking, I was able to get in touch with my sensory needs and meet them authentically, connect with my nervous system and learn to adjust things before I went out of my window of tolerance into a massive trigger.

If we sprint and crash and ignore the sensory little red flags, the stress in our system builds throughout the day and, like a pressure cooker about to blow, we hit the F*** It button and reach for the wine. I used to ignore the feelings of tiredness building, of thirst or even of needing to go to the loo, then would crash and hit the wine at the end of the day.

The temporary numbness alcohol provides increases cortisol in the body and depletes neurotransmitters, which makes us less and less able to cope over time. So, we MUST slow down and replace that wine (or whatever your poison is) with HEALTHY resources. This way, we build the capacity of regulating our system gently and following our needs of thirst, hunger and tiredness or needing the loo, and this gentle awareness and the subsequent remedies or mini-actions act like oiling a bike chain to help it run smoothly through the gears.

You can balance sensory overwhelm by taking sensory breaks in order for you to calm your nervous system. Check out the table on the next page for some ideas of how to counterbalance overwhelm in your different senses. It’s not just about dialing things down – it’s about replacing stress triggers with alternatives you love and that soothe you.

Looking after my sensory needs is key to my sobriety. I realized, after I stopped drinking that I often drank to make things go quiet. I need lowlights and plenty of alone time. If I look after my sensory needs my mental health looks after itself, to be honest.


What would you put in your sensory toolkit?

Sight : Flames (fire/candles); a room with a view; flowers; trees; eye mask; sunglasses; sitting with your eyes closed in the sunshine; watching Netflix

Sound: Noise-cancelling headphones; binaural beats; birdsong

Touch: Blankets; stroking animals; cosy knits

Smell : Essential oils (bergamot, bitter orange, lavender); cooking with spices; moisturizing lotion

Taste: Decaf Earl Grey; dark chocolate; spicy food; ginger

Introception (internal organ sensations) This could be needing the toilet, being thirsty – any senses within the body we might ignore. Early nights; remembering and answering to HALT triggers (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)

Vestibular (balance/movement)
This could be feeling dizzy or motion sick : Mini breaks throughout the day (even if it’s just grabbing five minutes alone in the bathroom); sitting by the window at work; slowing down

Proprioceptive (sensations in our muscles and joints)
This could be neck ache, back ache or clenched teeth, for example. Massage; big scarves; hot-water bottle; heated blanket; weighted blanket; yoga

Some Journaling Prompts


What are my sensory needs?

What are my sensory preferences?

What resources have worked for me in the past?

Which ones have I been ignoring?

How can I slow down and authentically meet that need?

Tuning into your senses this holiday can help you feel grounded, soothed, within your window of tolerance which means greater resilience against booze triggers

Adapted from Love Yourself Sober & Love Your Sober Year, books by Kate Baily & Mandy Manners.

For coaching with me, courses, membership feel free to look around the site and don’t forget the Love Sober Podcast, an amazing free resource of 200 episodes about sobriety, parenting, mental health, guests and more.

Stay sAFe beautiful people.

Love Kate


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