How to Stay Sober During the Holidays

One of the joys of the holidays is socializing and meeting with friends, new and old. However, many gatherings and holiday parties aren’t exactly sobriety-friendly. It’s certainly possible to stay sober at an event where alcohol or other substances are available, but it takes careful preparation. The more precautions you follow, the less likely you will be triggered. Here are eight tips on how to celebrate the holidays sober!

1. Bring Your Own Alternative Drinks

It can be a habit always to have a drink in your hand at a party. Additionally, not every party host will take into account that there might be guests who want to abstain from alcohol. To avoid being pressured into drinking something that will jeopardize your recovery, try bringing your own non-alcoholic (NA) drink. In fact, there are quite a few traditional Christmas drinks that can warm you up without winding you up–for example, hot chocolate, spiced cider, and eggnog. Bringing your own non-alcoholic drink options to functions puts the power in your hands and can stop a stressful situation before it starts!

2. Focus on Food

Help people focus on the “eat” in “eat, drink, and be merry”! Shift the focus of boozy holiday gatherings by making food the focal point. After all, food can bring people together and create fun opportunities for making memories. Some food-focused holiday activities are:

  • a cookie exchange or bake-off
  • cookie decorating
  • building gingerbread houses
  • holiday-themed appetizer competition

3. Have Support Nearby

If you feel confident enough to share, it can help tremendously to let people know that you’re sober and ask for their assistance in avoiding temptation. Support is key in recovery, and if you’re surrounded by others who want to help you stay on track, you’re less likely to achieve long-term recovery. Perhaps those who know you’re in recovery would even help organize an entirely sober event. In this season of goodwill, allow others to show their love for you by allowing yourself to ask for help.

4. Recognize Your Triggers and Limits

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is self-awareness. The first step to recovery is recognizing the triggers that cause you to use. The second step is learning how to recognize your limits. Before any gathering, use some extra effort to understand how your triggers might arise during the event and who or what you may need to deal with them. Limiting your time around stressful people and situations is essential for recovery.

Decide ahead of time what you will and won’t put yourself through and have a “Holiday Escape Plan” in place for when it’s time to go. Make sure to have your own transportation or a dependable person in your support system who will offer you a ride when you need it.

In the end, the best option may be to leave early or simply stay home. That’s okay. If you feel guilty about leaving your family and close ones, don’t worry–focusing on your recovery is the best thing you could do for everyone. Just focus on doing what’s right for you.

5. Go Back to Basics

The holidays can be a time for reflection and gratitude. Carve some time out before gatherings to dwell on why you decided to become sober in the first place. When you center yourself and your intentions, you’ll be able to stand firm in your convictions, even when there’s temptation around.

6. Stay Busy Giving Back

If you want to remain sober during the holiday season, take advantage of every opportunity to help others. Reach out to someone who needs assistance, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, visit a nursing home, or spend some quality time with a family member or friend. There are countless opportunities to serve others, and each act of kindness helps you move closer to gratitude and joy. Keeping busy helps you to exist outside yourself and build something you can be proud of!

7. Continuously Practice Self-Care

One of the best ways to protect your sobriety during any holiday event is to show up with a full battery. You’ll be well-equipped to stand strong in your motivations and the boundaries you’ve set for yourself. How can you do this? Practice self-care leading up to and during the busy holiday season with the following:

  • Proper nutrition and exercise (daily walks, nightly stretching, etc.)
  • Adequate rest
  • Gratefulness (daily meditation, writing in a gratitude journal, etc.)

The stronger you feel mentally, physically, and spiritually, the more you can nurture your well-being–especially during this hectic time of year!

8. Start Alcohol and Substance-Free Traditions

Instead of seeing a “lack” of activities that are no longer on the table, make your holidays more robust with new, alcohol/substance-free traditions. There will be less to miss and more to celebrate! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Participate in a 5K/marathon/ “Santa Run”
  2. Host friends for a board game night
  3. Glide around and go ice skating
  4. Be the judge of a baking contest
  5. Find the perfect holiday tree

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and giving. It’s also a time when many people turn to alcohol or other substances as part of their celebrations. Whether you’re celebrating with family, friends, or coworkers, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the season while staying sober. Keep these tips in mind and enjoy the festivities!


Tell us what you think....

Plymouth Meeting, PA

Intensive Outpatient Program
Outpatient Patient Program

Sicklerville, NJ

Intensive Outpatient Program
Outpatient Patient Program
Mindfulness-Based Program