Holidays aren't just for drinking

How to Deal with the Holidays Without Drinking


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Holidays aren't just for drinking

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but for many recovering alcoholics and addicts, it can be a reminder of their past partying days.

And while being sober is an incredible feeling in itself, it can be tough to remember to stay strong while we watch everyone around us partake in excessive drinking.

The Seasonal Trend

Many people drink more during the holiday season as there are generally more parties, get-togethers and social events. Many of these events inevitably revolve around liquor—for instance, your company holiday party might be held at the local watering hole, or your family may enjoy breaking out the whiskey for their holiday evening celebrations. It’s a time of year when parties abound.

No matter what time of year it is, it’s important to remember our sobriety is number one.

While this is by no means an excuse to drink, it can be tough as we remember to stay strong in our sobriety while everyone around us is seemingly enjoying themselves with a glass of holiday cheer. We may think, “Maybe just this one time won’t hurt” or we might get down on ourselves for being the only one in our crowd not drinking.

Clearly, for the addict, both of these statements are false thinking. We can’t have just one, and in no way is there something wrong with us for being the only ones in our crowd not drinking.

Don’t let the holiday lose meaning to you. Remember that the holidays should be a time of family, reflection and peace rather than an excuse to get wasted and party to an excess. This how you begin your season in a good state of mind.

Practical Options

While it’s true that alcohol consumption increases around the holidays, this doesn’t mean that we have to look at it any differently from our regular daily sobriety standpoint.

No matter what time of year it is, it’s important to remember that our sobriety is number one. We may just need to employ a little extra work around the holiday season as others around us celebrate their drunken way.

For one, we don’t HAVE to say yes to any event that makes us feel uncomfortable or that poses a threat to our sobriety. If you feel that the holidays are always a major trigger for you, you might do something different, like make an effort to attend extra counseling or group sessions. Many recovery groups have meetings on holidays that go late into the night.

You can also make an effort to only attend parties that are either mostly sober, or where you can feel comfortable blending in. Perhaps you can even take this opportunity to try something new, like volunteering at a local shelter or soup kitchen.

The Last Resort

Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid the family gatherings where an Uncle or Auntie is busy tipping back the spiked holiday punch. In that case, if your family members know you’re sober, let one or a few them know that you may need a little extra support to get through the night. Turn on them if you need help and, at the same time, relish in the fact that you won’t be the one hungover the next morning.

If they don't know you’re in recovery, then politely turn down their drink offers and know that you don't need an explanation for your choice. If you want, you can just politely tell them you’re driving yourself or a loved one home. Own the duty of watching family members who are drinking to excess and offer your support to help them get home safely. This also puts you in a position of empowerment as designated driver so that all of your loved ones do not drunkenly decide to put their lives at risk on the road.


Don’t let the holiday lose its meaning. Remember that this season is a time for family, reflection and peace rather than an excuse to get wasted. This is the best way to begin your season in a positive state of mind.

At the end of the day, know that we don’t have to please anyone. We just have to stay safe and sober because we made a commitment, and think of the holidays as a time not only for celebration but for connection.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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