The holiday season is a time for celebration—from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Eve. It may feel like the whole month of December is packed with parties, and those parties are stocked with alcohol.
How can you enjoy your first sober Christmas when it feels like you’re the only one not drinking? Don’t worry, there are lots of ways to stay sober over the holidays and still have a great time.
1. Change Your Focus
While everyone may be drinking alcohol to celebrate the Christmas season, that’s not the point. Christmas is a time to gather with loved ones, give thoughtful gifts, and remember the birth of Jesus (if you’re religious).
Instead of focusing on how difficult it will be to stay sober, focus on:
- the true meaning of Christmas
- why you’re sober and what happens when you’re not
- a positive attitude (you can get through this)
- genuine social connections (without alcohol getting in the way)
- Christmas decorations and lights
There was a time when you didn’t drink at Christmas, even if it was when you were a child. Remember the magic of that time and think of what you love about the festive season, rather than the challenges you’ll face this year. You have a chance to experience that magic again.
2. Prepare For Stress
Stress is a major trigger for alcohol or drug use, and it’s hard to avoid during the holidays. To keep your stress levels as low as possible, do a little preparation.
Here are a few tips to minimize stress:
Have A Plan
If you know you’re likely to encounter a difficult conversation or situation, prepare a response in your mind. Have an escape plan or an excuse for leaving early if necessary.
Make A To-Do List
A list keeps you from having to hold everything in your mind, which can be overwhelming. It also prevents you from forgetting things you need to get done. Plus, you get the satisfaction of crossing things off as you accomplish them.
Mindfulness is being present in the moment and aware of the world around you. Don’t get distracted by mistakes you made last year or problems you might have in the future. Breathe deeply and enjoy each moment as it comes.
Only Do What’s Necessary
Maybe you don’t need to get a present for everyone you know. Or host a Christmas Eve party. Despite what you’ve done on Christmases past, this year it may be wise to take it easy.
3. Give Yourself Permission To Say “No”
You don’t have to go to every Christmas party. Between family gatherings, office parties, and celebrating with friends, your schedule can get pretty full this time of year.
The holiday season is overwhelming enough without back-to-back obligations on top of not drinking. Choose the event(s) that are most important to you and give yourself permission to say “no” to the rest.
4. Let Go Of The Need To Explain
You may feel uncomfortable attending a Christmas dinner or party and staying sober. People might ask you why you’re not drinking, and what would you say?
The fear of being interrogated doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying your first sober holiday. Explain the situation if you’re comfortable sharing, but let go of the need to explain to everyone. If you don’t want to talk about it, answer briefly and change the subject.
There are lots of reasons someone may choose not to drink—for you, it’s the best choice you could make.
5. Take Care Of Yourself
It’s the season of giving, but that doesn’t mean that you only think about others. Taking care of yourself is important too, especially early in recovery.
Quality sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise can combat stress, improving your physical and mental health. Focusing on being good to yourself and making positive choices reduces the chance of relapse.
Take some time to treat yourself, too. Take a warm bath at the end of a long day. Have a cup of hot cocoa and watch the snowfall. Reward yourself for staying sober or find a way to relax without drugs or alcohol.
6. Make Mocktails
When you’re at a holiday party, it may be harder to resist drinking if there aren’t any non-alcoholic drinks. Not everyone thinks about the person who wants to stay sober. You can make it easier on yourself by bringing your own juice, soda, tea, or mocktail.
A mocktail is a mixed drink without alcohol. It could be elaborate, like a virgin mojito, or as simple as cranberry juice and tonic water. You can still enjoy a yummy beverage without the mind-altering (and regret-inducing) effects.
7. Ask For Support
It’s hard to be the only sober person during the holiday season. But you’re not alone. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) hold meetings throughout the holidays. These groups bring together people just like you who face the same challenges and want to stay sober.
If you’re uncomfortable attending holiday parties clean and sober, ask a friend or family member to join you. You don’t have to drink to have fun. Instead, you can enjoy spending time together and not waking up hungover on Christmas day.
If you’re struggling to stay sober this Christmas, it may be the perfect time to get help for alcohol or drug addiction. Reach out to a treatment specialist at Ark Behavioral Health to learn about personalized rehab programs today.
Patrick Cronin is an Addiction Specialist and the Director of Community Outreach at ARK Behavioral Health.