20 Stupid-Simple Ideas To Stay Sober For The Holidays
In the United States, the fall and winter holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are all the rage.
It’s a time for merry music, pretty presents, food, family and friends.
Yes, the holidays are special times indeed.
But things aren’t always snowballs and candy canes.
For those of us with histories of alcohol abuse, dependence or addiction, if we’re not careful, the holidays can do us more harm than good.
While, yes, this time of year brings togetherness, gratitude and good will for the year ahead, let’s be honest… holidays can also be stressful.
Tricky family dynamics, heightened expectations, travel delays and congestion…
These situations can make it really freakin’ hard to stay sober.
So, what do you do?
How do you manage to stay sober during the holidays?
20 Tips To Stay Sober During The Holidays
Today I want to share 20 of my best tips for staying sober during the holidays. Hopefully, you can use this list to put together your personal game plan, so you can start your new year off right!
1- Don’t Go
I know, I know.
Maybe you feel not going isn’t an option.
For many that may be true, but I believe we all have choices.
It’s not cut and dried all the time – I get that.
But depending on how deep your problem with alcohol is or was, how dangerous it can be for you to relapse or how committed you are to your social obligations, it may be the right choice this year.
Some company holiday parties are absolutely booze-filled messes, for example.
If you can’t decline your family gathering, might you be able to wiggle your way out of that one?
Think about what you really absolutely must do and see if you can trim the fat off the rest.
Not forever, just this one time.
Next year you can re-evaluate your position and see how you feel.
2- Keep A Drink Handy
If you want to stay sober at a Christmas party, keep a non-alcoholic drink handy!
Sparkling water, tea, soda, juice, milk… anything but booze.
That way people see you already have a drink in hand and won’t ask or offer you one.
It’s also a neat mental trick to keep yourself feeling preoccupied too.
3- Keep A Support System (In Your Purse)
An person or group of people who “get it” who you can reach out to for real-time support if you’re struggling is key.
Even if you have a real-life support system, social media is a highly recommended free resource for when your in-person support is unavailable.
These social media forums are full of supportive people who really understand, and since they are world-wide there’s pretty much always somebody around who will respond!
I can’t speak highly enough of this tactic.
4- Make It A Challenge
A great way to stop drinking for the holidays is to make it a challenge!
Striving to stay dry all November and December includes holidays, right?
If you stay ready you don’t have to get ready!
5- Tell At Least One Person
Depending on the type of event you’re attending this may not be feasible, but if you can, tell at least one person in attendance what you’re trying to do.
It really helps.
Maybe if it’s a family or friends gathering you can tell your significant other or your bestie.
Somebody who has your best interest at heart and who will look out for you.
My go-to is my hubby!
Though we’ve agreed he can drink although I don’t, last holiday season he abstained in my presence just so I wouldn’t feel alone.
Having somebody down for you like that makes a world of difference, especially in the earliest days of sobriety.
6- Shift Your Mindset
A neat little trick I used to stay sober during holidays earlier on in my journey was to change my focus and mindset.
If I wanted to drink, I chose to make it more about observing than doing.
I was like “let me sit back and watch others drink and see how they act, how their behavior changes, how much they drink, etc…”
This was eye-opening for a few reasons.
First, this was how I initially came to notice that most people really don’t drink all that much.
When you’re at the party knocking back shots, you think “oh everybody drinks”!
So, you feel weird first if you don’t drink because you think people expect it.
Let me tell you baby, you probably are one of the only ones drinking as much as you do.
If you step back outside of your own experience and really observe others, you’ll see with your own two eyes that many, many people at the party just aren’t going that hard.
Secondly, you notice how quickly people get lit and it’s either entertaining or annoying.
And it makes you not want to be that girl.
Seriously, adopting the perspective of observer rather than participant is HUGE when stepping out sober for the holidays.
It gives you something new to consider on many fronts.
Try it yourself and see!
7- Have Another Coping Plan
If you know your family is insufferable and stresses you out, or you can’t get out of that holiday party.
Or you have long days of travel ahead and you know you’re going to be anxious, tired and stressed…
HAVE A PLAN.
You have to take responsibility for your own outcome and if you know upfront that you’ve got a shitstorm coming, batten down the hatches!
For some ideas, check out How To Cope With Stress In Early Sobriety.
8- Start Sobriety Well In Advance
This may seem obvious, but I think it’s worth mentioning.
Don’t wait until the week before Christmas to decide to quit drinking.
If you’re considering taking a break, do it early so you have a bit of momentum built up.
This doesn’t work for everyone, but if you have 60 days of sobriety under your belt, you’re less likely to give in because day 61 is Christmas.
Whereas if you have 3 days of sobriety under your belt…
You feel me?
9- Have Excuses At The Ready
Personally, I hate that alcohol is so common we feel like we even need excuses for why we don’t want to drink.
But in some situations, you’ll certainly get pressured if you say you’re not drinking.
Especially on a holiday.
So again… preparation is the name of the game!
Have a solid excuse or two so you know how to navigate the awkwardness of “why aren’t you drinking tonight? Not even wine”?
10- Remind Yourself Of Your “Why”
From time to time it’s good to check in with yourself to be reminded of why you want to be sober in the first place.
The holidays are a great time for such self-reflection.
If you can, take out a pen and paper and make a list of all the reasons maintaining sobriety is important to you.
In what ways can or does sobriety make you better? What effects does it have on the lives of those who love, care for and depend on you?
Keeping a strong connection to your why just may be the kick in the pants you need to keep it together – even in the toughest of times.
11- Select Events Carefully
If you have multiple events to choose from, choose wisely!
If you want to stay sober during the holidays, you’ll have to be careful about the company you keep and the places you go.
There’s no way around that.
12- Find Sober Events
Christmas 2017 was my very first sober holiday and I still to this day credit finding a sober Christmas party to attend as one of the BIG changes I made to set me up for success.
If you can, find a SOBER holiday event. Even if it’s with strangers.
It will push you out of your comfort zone, yes.
But it could be eye-opening.
The sober party I went to turned out to be lots of fun once I got over my soul-crushing social anxiety at the time and finally relaxed.
I met some amazing sober people – one of which I’m still friends with today – and it showed me for the very first time that you can turn up and have real, legitimate fun in a room of people without booze!
It doesn’t mean every party you go to has to be a sober one, but it’s great exposure, for sure.
Search meetup.com in your town and see what’s available starting early December!
13- Have An Escape Plan
This is pretty simple and straightforward.
Just know how you’re getting home and have a plan to exit gracefully if you get overwhelmed or too tempted.
14- Start NEW Traditions
So, this is where I’m at personally for Christmas 2018.
I’m realizing that I always got anxious and stressed and felt the need to drink during the holidays because I wasn’t doing things that I really wanted to do.
It was always obligation to travel long distances or spend time with people who I honestly don’t go out of my way to see on regular days.
It felt forced, unnatural and not like a celebration… but rather a chore.
I told my husband earlier of a fantasy I have where we’re all just in the living room on Christmas Eve, wearing matching Christmas jammies (corny but cute – don’t judge)… baking homemade cookies and maybe a cake.
Presents under the tree.
Watching classic Christmas movies (Home Alone, anybody)?
Listening to Mariah Carey’s Christmas Album on repeat Christmas music, taking photos with the selfie stick, playing board games…
That’s my idea of a good time with those I love and cherish.
That makes me NOT want to drink, but be alert, clear-headed and fully able to absorb every amazing moment!
Now maybe your holiday fantasy is different, cooler and less cheesy, but I mean think about it…
What do you REALLY WANT?
I argue that when you’re doing things that you really want, things that light fire under you and fill your bones with joy and anticipation, you don’t want or have to drink.
If your holiday activities drive you to drinking… try to think of new ones you might enjoy and make moves to make them happen!
YOU are the creator of your own life.
YOU are responsible for your own happiness.
Take control of your situation and bend things to suit you to the best of your ability.
Yes. If you want to stop drinking you ultimately have to Create A Life That Excites You More Than Alcohol.
15- Focus On Other People
If you’re at any party – holiday or not – a quick way to avoid the temptation to drink is to focus on other people.
Focus on the person who is standing in the corner, alone. Go talk to them, make a new friend.
Chat up your coworkers. Go talk to your grandma a bit more. Snowball fight with your little cousin if you live in a snowy locale.
The holidays are supposed to be about bonding and sharing so… don’t drink!
Bond and share instead!
16- Focus On Giving
If you happen to be totally alone for the holidays and don’t have family or friends to spend it with (been there, done that), instead of drinking for company, go be useful and do something kind for someone else.
Pick something… anything.
Donate toys to kids. Sing Christmas carols. Go to a food bank to feed the homeless. Go pay visits to the elderly.
There are tons of better ways to use your time than to drink – even if you feel lonely or alone and want to find the answer to your sorrow at the bottom of a bottle.
You already know how it ends anyway… the answer won’t be there.
17- Make Self-Care A Priority
This is key to ongoing sobriety in the first place, but its triply important if you tend to stress out during the holidays.
Take care of yourself.
I think as women we are so guilty of putting others needs in front of our own.
You need to stop doing that so much all the time anyway, but especially during a time when so much is expected of you.
If people are flying into town to come visit you and you’re opening up your home and preparing space and food and events… you need to make sure YOU are good.
It can’t always be about THEM.
You matter too.
If you let your self-care fall by the wayside, you are increasing your likelihood of relapse or falling apart when the heat gets turned up.
If you don’t have a self-care routine, start one and use it!
It doesn’t have to be huge or time-consuming.
It just has to be something you enjoy, something you can do pretty much every day in some fashion, and effective.
Even taking an extra 10 minutes in the bathroom intentionally saying “this extra 10 minutes is ALL MINE”… and lotioning your whole body, applying a little extra makeup, spending a little extra time on your hair.
Or before bed doing light stretching and breathing to loosen your body and shake off the day.
These things don’t have to be huge or time-consuming but they have to be intentionally just for and fully about you.
You need it. You deserve it.
It will keep you sane and sober.
18- Journal Regularly
Journaling regularly is also something I recommend as a consistent activity if you want to stay sober.
It can be a gratitude journal, a sobriety journal, or just a daily personal journal where you write out all your feelings and thoughts, but it’s something that will help you stay sober during the holidays.
You need a place to vent, to clear your head, to just… dump everything out without shame or fear.
Check out How To Start A Gratitude Journal For Sobriety for a step-by-step tutorial.
In alcoholism recovery there’s an acronym HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.
Before you pick up a drink, consider if either of those is the culprit for your craving.
Handle that first, then re-evaluate before going in.
20- Attend Meetings (If That’s Your Thing)
Finally, if meetings are your thing, now is probably a time to ramp up your involvement.
If you don’t attend meetings, it’s a good time to re-check your options and plans for really difficult times.
Personally, I don’t use AA or group meetings, but I do have a list of counselors I can set an appointment with if I find myself struggling.
I also found a different non-AA group I’m willing to go to as a last-resort.
It’s just a good idea during a stressful time of year to check and re-check your backup plans, and/or ramp up your efforts for things you’re already doing.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.
This is that.
You CAN Enjoy Sober Holidays – If You Prep For Them!
So, there you have it!
20 Super Simple Tips To Stay Sober During The Holidays!
I hope you can pull at least 2 or 3 ideas from this list
to use to get yourself through a potentially stressful time of year.
But beyond that, I wish you a season of love, light and laughter, and a beautiful, bountiful new year to come.