Mental Well-Being

Guide to Navigating the Holidays Without Alcohol

November 29, 2023

‘Tis the season for holiday parties and celebratory toasts. Raising a glass may be a holiday tradition, but people who are in recovery may want to celebrate with sober alternatives. While alcohol can be intertwined with traditional holiday celebrations, there are many ways to navigate the holidays without a drink in your hand. Check out these suggestions from the Hancock Health Connection Center:

Staying sober during the holidays

If you’re currently in recovery – or if you are taking a holiday break from the hard stuff – consider these expert tips for holiday hurrahs.

Start by being honest. Now is the time to put yourself first. Whether you’re newly sober or you’ve been in recovery for years, you must honor your concerns about alcohol-related activities. If that means you need to take a year off from your friend’s big alcohol-fueled festivities, that’s OK. Give yourself permission to do what is right for you.

Identify your triggers ahead of the celebration. Does your buddy harass you about skipping the holiday shots? Is the family celebration something that drove you to drink by about 4 pm last Christmas? Are you ready to see your ex with a new flame at the annual holiday party? Knowing your triggers is a powerful step in the journey to sobriety. If you can’t avoid them, be ready to step away before they have a chance to get under your skin.

Practice saying no. There are many ways to graciously refuse a well-intentioned offer of alcohol. Your decision to remain sober is valid. Prepare yourself with quick responses, like “Your signature cocktail looks great, but I’m not drinking alcohol right now” or “I’m going to pass on the wine but thank you for your lovely hospitality.”

Enlist a supportive friend. Everyone deserves an ally. Do you have a friend who’s willing to stay sober alongside you? Are they someone you can trust to have your back if you feel pressure to partake? Sometimes there is strength in numbers, especially if you feel like an outlier.

Consider different holiday traditions. If you’re just not up to spending time around alcohol this year, adjust your plans to include new traditions. How about treating yourself to an early morning walk along one of the Hancock County trails? Invite your supportive friends over for an alcohol-free potluck dinner followed by cookie decorating and board games.

Supporting your sober friends and loved ones during the holiday season

Whether you’re planning an intimate family gathering or a big holiday bash, remember that not everyone may want alcohol. Make sure your holiday plans include non-alcoholic options and considerations for people who are abstaining for any reason.

Have an honest conversation. Just as we encourage people in recovery to be honest with themselves, we also encourage their loved ones to have a similar conversation. Find out how your friend or loved one feels about being around alcohol this year. Ask if there is anything you can do to make them feel more comfortable in your home. Establish expectations before the event and accept that some traditions may change. For instance, if your loved one refuses to be around alcohol, you need to decide if you want to host a sober gathering. If that’s not an option, accept that your loved one may be missing the family gathering this year. Perhaps you can plan an alternate holiday dinner before or after the big day. There are no one-size-fits-all answers. Give each other grace.

Offer non-alcoholic options when you host. If your mulled wine is a big hit at your holiday celebration, consider mixing up a batch with non-alcoholic red wine for your guests who aren’t drinking.  There are a lot of non-alcoholic drink recipes on the internet that will make your guests feel recognized and welcome.

Never question a person’s decision to abstain. If someone says they’re not drinking alcohol, accept their decision with a smile. Don’t press them for an explanation, even if this is the first time you’ve ever known them to skip the bubbly on Christmas Eve. Those conversations can happen later, at a time when you both feel safe and comfortable opening up to each other.

Seek help and support as needed. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol, the Hancock Health Connection Center can help. Our support navigators are ready to connect you with appropriate local resources, like individual and group therapy and case management that eliminates barriers to recovery. Everyone deserves a happy holiday. Reach out for help by calling us at 317-468-4231.

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