How I survived my first sober Christmas
Photography: Amy Shamblen // Unsplash
Words: Emma Vidgen // @emma_vee
Ahhh, December. It’s a time for festive cheer, after-work swims and mid-week hangovers - or at least it used to be for Maz Compton. The media personality and author of The Social Rebellion hasn’t had an alcoholic drink in four years. She’s one of the growing number of women choosing to live a life less (artificially) lit. The Pinterest 100 reports searches for “sober living” have increased by 746 per cent. We’re increasingly saying no to booze, not because it’s affecting work or causing problems at home; we’re simply tired of the relentless cycle of drinking that so often accompanies being a modern day woman. “It's not like I had these quote-unquote spiral, out-of-control, hit-rock-bottom moments. I just got to a point where I was like, ‘I don't think I want to do this anymore… and I’m not really sure how to stop’. But I guess the only way to stop, is to stop,” Maz says.
“I got to a point where I was like, "I don't think I want to do this anymore… and I’m not really sure how to stop. But I guess the only way to stop, is to stop.”
A MOMENT OF CLARITY
The death of her close friend and manager in 2014 was a catalyst in Maz’s journey, triggering her to reassess every part of her life – including her relationship with alcohol. “It was just something that I did all the time. And I didn't give it too much thought until it became a situation where I was like, ‘I think I'm doing this too much, and I don't know why I'm doing it,’” she says. “I think this happens with a lot of people. We start drinking with our friends and it's no big deal. And we have a couple of those nights, and life is great. Then all of a sudden, you find yourself thinking, ‘Oh man. I'm drinking when I'm happy. I'm drinking when I'm sad. I'm drinking because my friend got married. I'm drinking because someone's turning 30. I'm drinking because it's Friday. I'm drinking because it's Monday.’ And you, all of sudden you have alcohol attached to every single part of your life.” Since giving up booze four years ago Maz has become a passionate advocate for living life without it. In honour of what researchers say is the most hungover day of the work year, we asked her to recount how she survived her first Christmas party season as a newly-sober person.
christmas bq (before quitting)
Before Maz gave up drinking, Christmas was synonymous with family, friends and lots of socialising. “When I was in my 20s, Christmas Eve was spent out at the local pub with friends, and so Christmas morning would be a slow start to say the least,” Maz says. Although her family celebrations were never a boozy affair – “there was a healthy measure of church in there too”– the precursor provided plenty of opportunities to overindulge. “The lead into Christmas was always a lot of late nights, Christmas events, drinking champagne on yachts and backing it up the next day,” Maz says. “No one ever sat me down and said, ‘In order to work in media, you have to drink five nights a week.’ But no one ever sat me down and said anything else, either. So it was this thing where you just go along with. Fast forward, you know, eight to ten years in media, and that becomes who you are.”
the power of ‘why’
The year of 2015 was a year of many firsts. After initially quitting drinking for a month, she felt so good, she just… kept going. One question, or rather, one word kept resurfacing for her: Why. “My biggest question has become 'why'? ‘Why do I feel like I 'have' to go to this event? Why do I care what people will think if I just don't go? Will anyone notice if I don't post it on Instagram?’” Maz says. “These questions came up time and time again, and eventually I realised, actually no-one really cares that much. The party will go on if I am there being a ratbag or not.”
With every drink she didn’t have, her resilience began to grow, until eventually Maz completely let go of the pressure to drink. “You start to understand the things you think are real like 'It's my job I have to', 'people will miss me if I'm not there,' 'I will miss out on something amazing,' are all just a bit of BS we use to justify our behaviour,” she says. “Once you can let go of this and realise there is much more to life than being the life of a party, you will go to bed earlier.”
“Once you can let go of this and realise there is much more to life than being the life of a party, you will go to bed earlier.”
the joy of being selective
By the time the first booze-free party season rolled around, Maz had been sober for 11 months. “Any social anxiety I had around being in a public forum and not drinking had well and truly lost its edge,” Maz says. With almost a year’s worth of birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and parties under her belt, Maz’s new lifestyle was gaining serious momentum. But that didn’t mean she just kept doing what she’d always been doing. “I definitely started getting good at listening to my needs and saying 'no' if I just didn't want to go to a thing, and guess what? No one really cared that I wasn't there!” she laughs. “After a year of not drinking, your social stamina to stand around in loud bars and listen to people tell the same stories, wears thin.”
In the past, when she felt pressure to attend events every night of the week, now, she became more selective. “I had redefined my relationship with alcohol by then and I was really comfortable heading out to the events I wanted to go to sans booze,” she says. “The more comfortable you become within your own self, the less reassurance you need from other people, and so the less you need approval which means you stop doing things just to appease others.”
SPARKLING NEW TRADITIONS
Now, Christmas is still about friends, family and lots of socialising – just without the alcohol-induced exhaustion. “I have two step children and having kids around at Christmas puts this beautiful new lease on the season - it's silly in different ways,” Maz says. “Neither my husband or I drink and our families know and totally respect our choice.” When Maz gets tired at this time of year, it’s because she’s so bloody busy doing the things she loves – not because she’s hungover. “I thought very early on in my decision to stop drinking that life is for living, so if I am going to choose to not drink, I am going to make it a great and enjoyable choice,” she says. “There is no time to be bored when you finally get your mind back. My head swims with ideas. I am more vibrant, full of life, creative, outgoing and energetic than I have a ever been and I can assure you that's 100 per cent my choice.”
HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FIRST SOBER CHRISTMAS
Start new traditions: “New Years now is different too. We go to bed early after a really lovely meal and wake up before the sunrise, head to the beach and watch the first sunrise of the new year on a beach somewhere. It's a really lovely new tradition and there is something magical about seeing that first sunrise on a new year rather than watching the last one go down on the past. It gives me a renewed sense of excitement for the year ahead.”
Don’t let fear overpower you: “Booze free anything isn't as scary as you think it will be. The scariest thing is what you think in your head may be the worst part and it's not that bad. Yes, some of your family might give you shit for not drinking, but I say that's on them. Why are they so bothered by your choice? Are they too scared to see what a day of celebration looks like without the crutch of alcohol? Why do we have to drink to be 'Australian?' I promise you, if you don't drink, you won't regret it and you will survive it.”
Make a list of the things you always wanted to do… then start doing them! “When I stopped drinking, I didn't stop living. I joined a gym and I went to bed earlier, I got up at 5am and meditated on the beach. I started writing my first book, I eloped, I opened two businesses in two years, I used the money I saved in a year of not drinking and went of a fitness holiday in Thailand. I did SO many things that I simply would not have done if I was telling tall stories at the bar.”
For more information, or to order Maz’s book head to www.thesocialrebellion.com .