The holiday season means different things to different people. Even people who don’t ascribe to any particular faith want to feel the holiday spirit. Many traditions have become synonymous with the holiday season, but one in particular can cause problems for those in recovery. Alcohol is now a central part of holiday festivities, which makes this season of joy a dangerous time of year for those who struggle with alcohol addiction.

Regardless of you or a loved one’s personal history with alcohol, it’s important to know how to stay sober and enjoy the holidays without drinking.1

The following are three simple and effective ways to celebrate the season without substances:

Bring Your Own Alternative

Santa holding coke bottleOne of the most difficult aspects of holiday sobriety is that not drinking feels awkward. When everyone around you has a drink, it’s hard not to feel conspicuous. The simple solution to this problem is to bring your own non-alcoholic drink. Club soda, tonic water or even fruit juices are perfect alternatives. By supplementing the alcohol in mixed drinks with your alcohol-free substitute, you’ll be able to enjoy the same social experience as everyone else without putting your sobriety at risk.2

This method depends on a person’s confidence that he or she can attend parties where alcohol is present without relapsing. If you are new to recovery and feel uncertain about your ability to remain sober at a holiday party, make other plans.

If you are new to recovery and feel uncertain about your ability to remain sober at a holiday party, make other plans.

Don’t Overdo It

Many substance abuse problems develop as a way to self-medicate. Finding healthier and more effective ways to cope with stressful or emotional situations is one of the most important parts of recovery. Since the holidays come with a great deal of stress, it’s important to be aware of your limits. Whether it’s the financial strain of Christmas shopping, difficult relatives or some other factor, err on the side of caution by removing yourself from a situation before you become overwhelmed. It’s also a good idea to have an accountability partner you can turn to when you need additional support. It’s also important to take care of yourself during this time. Make sure you’re taking care of your basic needs first — through good nutrition, exercise and rest — so the stressors and triggers that come with the holidays don’t get to you.

Create Recovery-Friendly Traditions

If you don’t feel comfortable attending events where you know alcohol is on the menu, consider organizing your own alcohol- and drug-free events. These events don’t have to be exclusively for people in recovery, although that’s always an option. Host a group baking session or scrapbooking event by telling your friends to come over with a box of their favorite photos. Plan a friends-and-family game night, or invite your support group over for a New Year’s Eve party. None of these activities need to involve alcohol, and all are enjoyable and memorable ways to create new traditions when hosting your family and friends.

There are many ways to protect your sobriety without forfeiting the happiness of the season. The holidays are a time for togetherness and for showing loved ones how much you care. The people who care for you will want to support your recovery. Don’t be afraid to tell your family and friends of your preference for alcohol-free festivities that support your sobriety.

Finding Help for Alcohol Addiction

If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol abuse, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.

Written by Dane O’Leary


1 Sara Cheshire. “5 Ways to Celebrate Without Alcohol.” WebMD. Web.  Accessed 27 June 2017.

2Enjoying a Happy and Sober Holiday Season.” Sober Holiday. Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Web. 27 June 2017.