Abstinence for the Holidays

Spiked egg nog, mulled wine, and New Years champagne are nearly as ingrained in our holiday psyches as Christmas trees, menorahs, and Santa Claus.

But why? Why do so many of us overindulge in booze year after year, knowing that by January, weíll be feeling puffy, bloated, and toxic?

I’m Guilty

Iím not pointing fingers at other people without owning my own tendency to do the same. Itís so easy to keep pouring the wine at those holiday parties, add an extra shot to that egg nog, and get sloshed at the big New Years bash. (Yes, most doctors I know drink, often to excess. Just because we wear white coats doesnít mean weíre health nuts or saints.)

By the first week of January, I usually feel so gross from the combination of too much food, too much sugar, and too much alcohol that Iím always super motivated to do one of†my quarterly green juice detox cleanses.

But why do we put our bodies through this toxic torture? Why are we so tempted to numb out during the holidays? What are our real motivations for the overindulgence?

The REAL Reason We Drink Too Much

Do we really overindulge because weíre thirsty (um. . . dehydration, anyone?) Is it because drinking is really so awesomely festive? (Is that hangover really fun the morning after?) Is it really because we love the taste of bubbly so much? Is it because weíre so dedicated to making sure we taste that $200 bottle of cabernet someone just opened as an extra special treat? Is it really because drinking helps us bust a better move on the dance floor?

Or is there a deeper reason? Does hanging with the obsessive-compulsive bossman make you nervous? Are you really admitting that the only way you can tolerate hypercritical Uncle Joe is to pour yourself a stiff one? Are you freaked out by a roomful of people at a party that you hardly know? Are you actually self-medicating your social anxiety, rather than imbibing alcohol to feel good?

Or is it something else? Do the holidays bring up painful old stories for you? Do you miss your mom so much you can barely suppress the tears? Does the Christmas tree remind you of how your father abandoned you when you were three? Do all your insecure teenage moments flood over you when the holiday parties rev up? Are you hoping a margarita will numb the sadness, erase the hurt, and help you gloss over the loss?

Or is drinking what you do when youíre just plain bored?† Can you hardly stand sitting around your parentís home while the TV drones on and nobody talks?† Do the holidays make you so stir crazy that you have to drink in order to while away the hours? Is drinking a bonding exercise between you and your siblings? Or simply a ritual you never bother questioning?

Do you REALLY want to overindulge this holiday season?

Could You Give Up Booze For The Holidays?

Iím not trying to be a buzz kill here. Maybe you just drink over the holidays because it makes you feel good to get a little loopy, kick up your heels, and hang out with your friends.† Maybe you really do love that egg nog so much you give yourself that once-a-year treat. If so, more power to you. Iím not here to judge (if I did, Iíd be a total hypocrite.)

But what would a holiday season feel like if you decided not to drink your way through it? What if you pledged to treat yourself to spiced herbal tea, a Perrier with pomegranate juice cocktail in a champagne glass, or a fresh fruit smoothie instead?

What if you promised to notice your social anxiety, work through any painful feelings that come up, and just be with yourself for the holidays? What if instead of drinking for Christmas or Hanukah, you keep your channel clear so you can pray or meditate and feel the power of the REAL reason behind the season?† What if you spend New Years Eve tapping into your†Inner Pilot Light, releasing old stuff that no longer serves you, and setting intentions for the upcoming year with a clear mind and open heart?

What if you start 2012 feeling good about yourself, instead of feeling like you just got run over by a truck?

A Holiday Pledge

Iím going to try giving up alcohol this holiday season, just as an experiment.† Iím already running through how Iím going to explain to my friends why Iím not drinking with them (Iím sure pregnancy rumors will run rampant.) †Iím already wondering what Iíll do to keep myself entertained when everybody else starts drinking at 3pm and Iím stone cold sober at 10 oíclock when the rest of the room is three sheets to the wind.

But when I drink, I notice that I feel less spiritually connected. I have a harder time meditating. Iím less attentive to the†Signs from the Universe. The magic of the Divine feels further away, and I wind up feeling lonely, even when Iím surrounded by people.

Iím already feeling how good it will feel to stay in integrity with my emotions, to stay sovereign with my social interactions, to stay clear to anything The Universe wants me to notice this season. Iím already wondering what other magic will appear in my life when I keep my channel clear for any holy message longing to come through me. What relationships might heal? What creative projects might emerge? What professional opportunity might arise? How might my body thrive?

Iíll still be doing my green juice cleanse in January, because I think of it as preventative medicine and I do it every three months, like clockwork, like vitamins, like check-ups. But Iím already excited to imagine doing it, not out of guilt and self-flagellation, but out of my desire to keep my body the temple for the divine essence of me.

What About You?

Iím declaring my booze-free holiday resolution publicly to hold myself accountable to my decision. Do you want to join me? Anyone else up for giving up alcohol for the holidays this year just to see how it goes? Declare your resolution here so we can hold each other accountable. If stuff comes up for you around this, post comments here, and we can support each other over the next few weeks.

Any holiday teetotalers out there who can give us tips for how to enjoy a fun, festive booze-free holiday?

What if I told you caring for your body was the LEAST important part of your health?†Watch my TEDx talk here to learn the MOST important part.

With a shot of wheat grass instead of brandy,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of†OwningPink.com,†Pink Medicine Revolutionary,†motivational speaker, and author of†Whatís Up Down There? Questions Youíd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.



Carol P.
Carol P6 years ago

Fortunately, I don't really go for alcohol, ever. But I completely failed at my attempts to avoid the chocolate at the office.

Miranda R.
Miranda R6 years ago

GREAT questions asked in this article, thanks!

Sian J.
Sian Jones6 years ago

Wow. I just decided yesterday that my christmas this year would be a time for solitary reflection and meditation - and this evening I come across your article mentioning the same idea! I was considering a wee glass of mulled wine on xmas eve, but after reading this maybe I'll skip it. I would love to start the new year feeling fresh and full of energy. Great article, thanks, and good luck for the booze-free festivities. Happy Christmas :-)

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Ioana Cristina S.

I hardly ever drink but I do have a drink or two at parties or in social contexts where I feel a little uncomfortable. However I look forward to trying a booze free holiday season. Drinking alcohol has never been my idea of having fun anyway. It usually gives me headaches and it makes me sleepy. For me having holiday fun means listening and dancing to awesome music and spending time with good friends. So I'm joining your booze free holiday resolution and will let you know how I'm doing.

Helle H.
Helle H6 years ago

I think drinking is part of our culture, we have to drink this for that season, and another kind of alcohol for easter and so on. Then we're supposed to have a good time and then you just drink too much. Luckily I can have a good time without drinking and I don't care much about traditions, so I'll be fine with a glass of water.

KARLOLINA G6 years ago


Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran6 years ago


Francisco Pires
Francisco Pires6 years ago

Good article, thanks.

Andrea Connelly
Andrea Connelly6 years ago

Lissa, I always read your posts. Your are an inspiration. I drink way too much red wine, but will try to get through the upcoming weeks without. Please wish me luck, it will not be easy.