6 Tips for Staying Sober Through the Holidays

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Although COVID-19 might still disrupt holiday rituals for some of us this year, there’s always a lot to look forward to as December approaches. The holiday season means spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and, for many of us, attending parties where alcohol may be served.

That said, if 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 coming cold 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

cookies, staying sober during the holidays
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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. 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 Nonalcoholic 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 nonalcoholic 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!

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8 Easy & Delicious Nonalcoholic Drink Recipes

Trying to avoid alcohol? Looking for new things to serve or drink over the holidays? Download these 8 easy-to-make nonalcoholic drink recipes.

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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.”

This can take practice, but many people get the hang of it fairly quickly. If you’re unsure where to start, try one of these four meditation apps, or these five tips for mindful drinking.

5. Stay Connected to Your Support System

family decorating tree, staying sober during the holidays
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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 sometimes take extra effort during the pandemic era, 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.

Looking for some fun things to do sober? 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.

Get in touch with our team today, or learn more about how it works.

Written By:
Ria Health Team
Our experienced team is committed to transforming alcohol addiction treatment.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
NYC-based content strategist with over 3 years editing and writing in the recovery space. Strong believer in accessible, empathic, and fact-based communication.
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