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Give Yourself the Gift of a Sober Holiday

Nov 21, 2022

A first sober holiday can feel daunting to people in recovery. Spending time in settings where drinking was customary in the past can illicit feelings of resentment and fear. Also, being offered alcoholic beverages or feeling compelled to explain why you’re not drinking can be stress-inducing. If you are new in recovery or do not feel spiritually or emotionally “fit,” it may be best to stay away or develop a plan for the holidays. Be prepared to decline alcoholic beverages respectfully, make sure you have your own transportation to parties, and feel free to limit your time at social gatherings where alcohol is served.

Your first holiday season in recovery will feel like stepping into foreign territory. There’s a lot of adjustment happening all at once, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed at first. But learning how to navigate the twists and turns of a time heavily associated with festive gatherings, office parties, and special holiday drinks is in your best interests and will ensure you have a sober holiday.


The goal of attending holiday parties while in recovery is to connect and have fun with people in your life who matter while bringing all you can to the situation. Your choices should help you achieve that goal at each and every gathering. For parties where alcohol is served, you can follow a few simple steps to ensure you have a fun sober holiday.

1. Make sure you are spiritually and mentally fit before attending. If you are not, find another suffering alcoholic to support. This will take you out of your own head and show you how much you have changed.
2. Bring all you can to the situation. Ask yourself: “How can I be of service here? What can I do to help?”
3. Bring a sober friend to join you. Having a “teammate” or fellow member of a 12-Step program join you in this environment can ease your anxiety and help you be accountable to each other.
4. Bring a non-alcoholic version of a holiday or specialty drink. There are tons of holiday mocktails and delicious beverages that you can make and serve to others.
5. If you need to, set a time limit for each gathering you attend. It could be as little as 30 minutes or an hour. You don’t have to overstay, and you do not need to justify why you are leaving.
6. Openly share your recovery if you would like! You may find allies among the crowd who will offer encouragement and support.
7. Provide your own transportation to and from holiday parties, so you don’t depend on someone who’s been drinking to get home.


It’s customary to spend a lot more time than usual with immediate family members and extended family. If you’ve been making amends to repair the damage your past drinking caused in these relationships, you may find less stress in your interactions. There’s no guarantee of peace within the family during the holidays, though. A variety of environmental factors could create tension and make family time difficult. It’s okay to set boundaries for yourself. Your presence does not mean being asked about recovery is mandatory, nor is having to deal with pressure to have “just one drink.” Be thoughtful about your words and actions at all times, which can be challenging when you’re around people who have known you for a long time and during your worst periods. Reaching out to a trusted friend or sponsor before and after visiting family can help you manage the stress productively and protect your sobriety.


Remain mindful of the stress you’re feeling when around people who are drinking this holiday season. Watch your thought life and be prepared to listen to and follow your intuition in every circumstance. Having an exit plan in mind for any gathering can be extremely valuable. For example, the exit plan can involve a short phrase you practice to tell people you’re leaving, driving your own vehicle, having an alternative place to go instead, calling a friend to meet up, or treating yourself to a solo activity you enjoy. Of course, you never want to feel trapped in a situation, so considering what exit plan options best suit you ahead of time will be worth the effort.


With family obligations heightened at this time, it may seem natural to disconnect for a few weeks from peers who are in recovery, too. Instead of taking a break from them, invite them to be a part of how you celebrate your first holiday in recovery. If you’re comfortable bringing a friend to a family gathering, go for it. You can also set aside time to meet with your friends, attend a meeting, connect with sponsees and peers in recovery, or share stories of hope during the holidays. Just because you may be the only person in your family who’s been in treatment this year doesn’t mean you should ever feel alone in your mission to have a sober holiday and stay sober in the new year.


Origins Recovery Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs, call us today: 866-875-1558.

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