Even though the holidays may look different this year, there is still a lot to look forward to. The holiday season means spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and, for many of us, attending parties where alcohol may be served (even if those parties take place over Zoom this year).
Whether you are sober, or looking to mindfully cut back, the holidays can be a challenging time to avoid alcohol. People might ask why you’re not indulging in the spiked eggnog, or pressure you to participate in a champagne-fueled toast on New Year’s Eve. And then, of course, there’s the usual holiday stress: shopping, expenses, family dynamics, and even the changing weather.
Below, we’ll discuss sticking with recovery during the holidays, or limiting your drinking, while still having fun. No matter the pressures you face this time of year, we hope these six tips for staying sober through the holidays will help you through.
1. Take time for self-care
One of our top tips to stay sober during the holidays is to take time out to look after your own needs.
Gift giving, decking the halls, and gathering with loved ones are meant to be fun. But the pressures of the holiday season sometimes mean that we are consumed with stress, anxiety, and depression rather than merriment. We can alternate between feeling spread thin by a packed social calendar, and feeling down if the season isn’t meeting our expectations.
No matter how hectic things get, be sure to carve out time for self-care between social engagements. Taking time to meditate, get some exercise, practice a favorite hobby, or even just catch your breath, can go a long way. And if you find yourself feeling isolated, especially in these difficult times, check out some of these tips for sobriety during social distancing.
Taking care of yourself will give you the reserves to manage both holiday stress and drinking urges, and let you bring your best self to your family gatherings.
2. Bring non-alcoholic drinks to your holiday gatherings
If you’ve ever been sober during the holidays, you’ll know that one of the major challenges of this season is deflecting attention away from what is (or isn’t) in your glass. Wandering around with an empty cup at a party can lead to uncomfortable conversations about your drinking habits, often with complete strangers, and who needs that?
While the fault ultimately lies with anyone who judges you (there’s nothing wrong with abstaining from alcohol!), filling your glass with a non-alcoholic beverage is one way to avoid someone offering you a drink. It also gives you a way to occupy your hands, helping you side-step your own alcohol cravings.
From pre-made mocktails, to innovations in alcohol-free beer and liquor, there are more tasty alternatives to alcohol than ever before. Explore!
3. Prepare to answer questions about why you don’t drink
No matter what you do, the subject is likely to come up. One of the best ways to minimize the stress of holiday sobriety is to practice your responses in advance, so you can limit your time thinking about it in the moment.
If you’ve been sober a long time, you probably have a go-to answer when confronted about why you don’t drink alcohol. Still, it never hurts to jot down a few more clever comebacks to keep in your playbook. You can even use it as an opportunity for some humor. For inspiration, check out some of Claudia Christian’s top ten most interesting excuses not to drink. You may as well have some fun with it!
4. Plan to respond mindfully to drinking triggers
One of the most important parts of managing holidays and recovery at the same time is knowing your triggers, and how to handle them. Your ordinary drinking triggers are likely to be in higher concentration than normal this time of year. Then, there are stressors that may only happen during the holiday season. These can include seeing specific family members you don’t get along with, or the presence of a favorite beverage. It’s important to have a plan.
Mindfulness can be a very helpful strategy. It allows you to separate yourself from your thoughts, and drinking urges, and simply observe them. You may still feel uncomfortable, but you’ll have a greater ability to choose what action you take, including deciding not to have that “one beer.”
5. Stay connected to your support system
Many people experience an uptick in social engagements around the holidays. Even so, 66 percent of people report feeling lonely this time of year. Despite the festivities, we might be grieving loved ones we have lost, isolating ourselves due to stress, or missing family members we can’t spend time with due to the pandemic.
It takes an ongoing effort to stay connected to people we care about. But keeping in touch with our support system throughout the holidays doesn’t just make for a merrier season. It can also take our minds off triggers like stress, depression, and loneliness. And it gives you someone to text or call if you find yourself struggling with alcohol cravings at a holiday event.
The holidays are about togetherness. It may take extra effort this year, but stay connected to the people who are looking out for you, including sober friends who you can reach out to for support.
6. Create a sober holiday event, and invite loved ones
If you want to make sure you see loved ones this holiday season, but don’t want to deal with drinking pressure, why not create an alcohol-free event?
Whether it’s frying up latkes for Hanukkah, or crafting Christmas ornaments around the fireplace, there are many time-honored holiday traditions that don’t require a buzz. And when you take initiative over the planning process, it’s easier to ensure the evening is both fun and booze-free. If you know other people in recovery, they may be especially grateful that you organized something.
Invite your family for a virtual celebration, or host a small get-together with people from your household. (The good news about spending time together on Zoom is that no one can tell what’s in your cup!) If you need ideas for fun sober things to do, try some of these festive holiday activities that don’t involve alcohol.
Support For Staying Sober Through The Holidays
The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone. Whatever your relationship with alcohol, or your goals, if you feel you’d like some support to drink less this holiday season there are new options. Ria Health’s telemedicine program gives you access to expert medical support, online coaching meetings, anti-craving medications, virtual support groups, and more—all from an app on your smartphone.