Though the holidays are about much more than parties and alcohol, it may not seem that way when you’re newly sober—or even after you’ve been sober for some time. In sobriety, it’s sometimes as if the presence of alcohol becomes more and more obvious as time passes. It may appear that alcohol is ingrained into everyday activities, especially during the holiday season.
This can be very difficult to come to terms with because it may feel as if everyone around you is celebrating something you’re not a part of.
However, this is far from the truth. Though parties and alcohol may seem like they’re at the forefront during the holidays, this time of year is about much more than that. It’s a time to come together with family, to eat lavish meals, to reflect on a year that has passed and what is to come. But the reality is that more often than not, alcohol is part of this equation for most people. That doesn’t mean you can’t take part in the festivities, though. It just means you have to be well prepared when heading into the holiday season.
The following are tips and tricks I’ve found to be helpful for the past three holiday seasons, all of which I’ve spent clean and sober, yet still enjoyed to the fullest.
1. Have a backup plan
There’s nothing worse than getting too deep into a situation and realizing you’ve failed to plan a way out. Having a plan may mean something different for everyone. It could mean having someone to call should everything become too much, and you find yourself wanting to drink. It could mean bringing along an alternate activity, such as a book to read or a crossword to complete. It may mean having a ride lined up, should you find yourself wanting to leave a party or event. Regardless of what way you decide to do so, be sure to think about how you will get out of a situation should the need arise.
2. Think about all possibilities and how you may handle each one
In other words, for those familiar with 12-step mentalities, play the tape out. Think about the different situations you could find yourself in during the holiday season, and consider how each situation would be handled. Think about the outcome if you decided to drink, versus the outcome, if you remain sober. More often than not, the latter will be the desired outcome, and visualizing that the decision-making process will make it easier when it comes time to do so in real time.
3. Designate your person
When I go to events where I know alcohol will be present and may begin to grate on me, I always have a person in mind who I may call or reach out to, should I get overwhelmed. This person may be in attendance at the event, or just a phone call away. I’ve found it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re physically present. Often just having a sounding board and a voice of reason makes a world of difference in my mindset.
4. Make a mental (or literal) list of all the reasons you chose sobriety
This may sound cheesy, but when I find myself having a pity party for myself over not being able to drink with my peers, it helps to think about all the reasons I stopped doing so in the first place. This could be remembering back to how debilitating my hangovers were and how rundown my body felt, or remember the mortifying situations I found myself in after nights I spent drinking. When those specific situations come to mind, I suddenly feel much more secure in my decision to remain sober. I always seem to come to the conclusion that one night of letting loose and drinking is not worth the negative trade-off that would be sure to follow. Recollection is a powerful tool.
5. Have something on hand to drink
One of the things that used to bother me most about sober holiday festivities was that everyone would be drinking these fun, pretty drinks, and I’d be stuck with water or pop. So instead of continuing to feel left out, I began to plan ahead. When I knew I’d be around people who would be drinking alcohol, I would look up mocktail recipes. Mocktails are cocktails, minus the alcohol. It seemed that when I, too, had a fun drink to look forward to, I somehow didn’t seem as left out. In fact, I already have my fridge stocked with bubbling juice for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And yes, I plan to drink it out of a fancy cup. Just because I’m sober doesn’t mean I can’t take part in the fun.
Though maintaining sobriety through the holiday season may sound intimidating and unenjoyable, that doesn’t have to be the case. As with so many things in life, sobriety is what you make of it. And when you put your mind to it and plan accordingly, the holidays can be even more enjoyable in sobriety.