A Sober Survival Guide to the Festive Season

Contributor: Lexi de Coning writer for Beachside Rehab

Lake with treesThe holiday season is one of the most demanding times for anyone – with gift shopping, stretched budgets, and family gatherings, it’s enough to raise most people’s blood pressure.

According to a study released by the American Psychological Association around 38% of Americans report increased stress during the holidays .

It’s no wonder then that recovering addicts and alcoholics would find this time of year particularly difficult, especially when so many holiday activities seem to require our over-indulgence.

With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve just around the corner, it’s important to focus on sobriety and healthy habits.

Surviving the Parties

For many, the festive season evokes images of jolly parties and social gatherings. This sense of community is one of the positive aspects of the holidays – it brings people together, and gives us a reason to enjoy each other’s company.

Unfortunately, however, many of these events tend to include alcoholic beverages: eggnogs, champagne, cocktails, punches and pitcher drinks, and so on. For a recovering addict, these celebrations can be a minefield.

Here are some tips on managing sobriety at parties:

• If you’re going to a gathering with close friends and family who know that you are in recovery, you can ask for a non-alcoholic event. People who love and respect you are invested in your sobriety, and will support you by not indulging in your presence.

• If you’re going to a function where you can’t affect what’s being served, take your own non-alcoholic beverages. Most hosts will provide some alcohol-free drinks, but you can’t always rely on that, and you never know what quantities they’ll stock. You can always treat yourself to something you wouldn’t normally buy, like an artisanal festive-themed soda or delicious ‘mocktail’ mix. Having your own drink encourages you to turn down any offers for alcohol.

• Take a sober buddy if you can, or your sponsor if you’re comfortable with that. Having someone else to stay sober with you can be a real support, especially if watching others imbibe triggers cravings. Talk to this person and let them know how you’re coping throughout the night.

beachHave a short response on hand for when people offer you drinks, or ask why you’re not drinking. More often than not, others won’t even notice that you’re drinking soda instead of alcohol, and you won’t be the only one who isn’t drinking. But if you feel that you need a reason and don’t want to tell others about your recovery status, simply tell them you’re the designated driver, or that you’re trying to be healthy. You don’t need an elaborate back-story, but having a premeditated response will also help you turn down alcoholic beverages.

• Watch the menu. Firstly, there may be some food items that contain alcohol – especially puddings and desserts – so you’ll want to avoid those. Secondly, salty snacks can make you thirsty, which has most people reaching for a beer or glass of wine. By all means, enjoy the holiday spreads and smorgasbords, but be aware of what you’re eating and if it’s triggering any cravings.

• If you’re fresh out of rehab, you may want to avoid events where alcohol is being served. If you’re worried about being left out, organize your own alcohol-free soirée, or encourage friends to join you in an activity that doesn’t involve drinking – watch a movie, go ice skating, or even do some volunteer work.

Holiday Travel

Travelling can be one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season, with inclement weather and queues at the airport. When you’re in recovery, however, going home for the holidays can expose you to other challenges:

• Avoid family arguments and disputes as much as possible. These will only put you on edge and exacerbate cravings. If your family knows that you are recovering from addiction, ask them to keep the tensions to a minimum. You can also limit your exposure to difficult family members if necessary.

• Avoid old drinking or drug buddies back home. It may be tough to turn down invitations to reminisce, but if you know these people are going to be drinking or consuming drugs then it’s not worth putting your hard-earned sobriety at risk.

• Get support. Look for AA or NA meetings in your hometown, or make an appointment with a therapist during your stay. Actively keeping up with support structures encourages you to stay on track.


airplane taking off at sunriseWe often get swept up thinking about what other people need from us during the holiday season. But one of the most important things you can do during this time is to pay attention to your own needs.

Continue self-care practices like writing in your journal, meditation, or exercise. Finding sober ways to relieve your stress is crucial all year round, but can really help you manage cravings and avoid relapse during the holidays.

This can also be a good time of year for you to reconnect with family and friends, and let others know how you’re doing. Relish the time to be with loved ones, but don’t put pressure on yourself to be ‘perfect’ for their sakes.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here?

What is your favorite non-alcohol holiday beverage? Share your sober family fun traditions.

About Beachside Rehab: Beachside Rehab is a private facility that provides personalized treatment for every patient. With a holistic approach to recovery, our highly qualified and reputable staff are there to assist you with every need. Situated on beautiful Hutchinson Island in South Florida, Beachside Rehab ensures you’ll beat your addiction in a serene and comfortable environment.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 10, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com