December 4, 2021

7 Tips to Keep it Sober & Social this Holiday Season.


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The holiday season is upon us.

With that, there will be copious amounts of socializing, gathering, and partying happening in the coming weeks, not to mention the overconsumption that often goes hand in hand with the holidays.

For those of us who are newly sober or maybe experiencing the holidays sober for the first time, perhaps you’re feeling a bit shaky about how to handle the onslaught of social situations. First off, you’re not alone—it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed. Doing something for the first time (or the first time in a long time) can feel nerve-racking, and you might feel unsure of yourself.

Let me put your mind at ease by saying you can do this! There’s always a first time for everything, so like anything else, the first holiday party might feel awkward or foreign, but this feeling won’t last forever. You can and will get through this!

The best way to move through the holidays sober and social is to set yourself up for success by thinking ahead and creating a plan. Without a plan, we are more likely to revert to old patterns and behaviors (aka drinking) or succumb to the subtle social pressures to drink.

Here are some helpful tips to support us through the holiday season:

1. Be selective.

We will likely get a lot of invites for holiday events. We don’t have to say yes to everything. We can commit to what feels manageable given our energy, the type of events we’re being asked to attend, and the frequency.

We are under absolutely no obligation to attend everything we’ve been invited to, so this is our invitation to release that (self-imposed) belief right now. We should choose events that we think we’ll enjoy and skip the rest. When we’re tired and stressed out, we’re less likely to make solid decisions supporting our sobriety/recovery, so we need to be choosy when it comes to what social events we go to.

2. Just say no.

In the same vein as being selective, please get right with saying “no.”

Again, we don’t have to go to everything we’ve been invited to. It’s okay to say no. We don’t need to explain it or offer anything beyond “Thanks for the invite, but I can’t make it this time.” It’s also perfectly okay to change our mind on an event we had previously committed to.

If we are prioritizing our sobriety and attending too many events is causing our sobriety to feel a bit shaky, then our answer needs to be no. Period.

If we’re worried about how people might react to our no, we need to let ourselves off the hook; whatever anyone else might be thinking about us not attending isn’t our business anyway, and they probably aren’t spending as much time worrying about it as we think they are.

Also, think of saying “no” to others as a way of saying “yes” to ourselves!

3. Have a plan for the events we attend.

When the time comes to attend an event we said yes to, we can take a few minutes beforehand to figure out what we want it to look like. What alcohol free (AF) bevvies are we bringing with us? Are we taking a wingperson? If yes, have we communicated that we’re not drinking and will they support us in this?

If flying solo, does giving the host a heads up about our AF status feel helpful? When are we arriving and what time do we want to leave by? Do we feel cute and comfortable in our outfit? Think the entire event through (including our outfit as feeling cute and comfortable will support feeling confident) and create an experience for ourselves that feels fun and manageable, while prioritizing our sobriety.

4. Phone a friend.

Even if we do have a wingperson at the party, it’s always great to have a few available on speed dial (or group chat) too. We can give them a heads up about our plans and ask them to keep their eyes peeled in case we need some extra support in the moment.

5. Have an exit strategy.

Similar to making a plan for the evening, we give ourselves permission—in advance—to leave early (or any damn time we want!) should we feel we want to. If it’s our jam, we could also give the host a heads up that we may duck out early or we’re also welcome to ghost the whole dang party, should we feel we need to make a quick exit.

6. Bring our own AF drink.

This may seem obvious, but when attending social events, we can bring AF drinks that we know we’ll enjoy and look forward to drinking. We shouldn’t hope that our host has thought ahead and stocked their fridge with all our favorite LaCroix flavors and planned a seasonal mocktail.

We can plan something enjoyable for ourselves and bring extra in case we want to share!

7. Have some quick responses in our back pocket.

We can expect that the majority of folks we encounter at holiday parties won’t comment on or challenge our choice to not drink. That said, there is often a wise-cracking partygoer who feels compelled to ask why, as though an answer is owed to them.

I find it helpful to have a few quick responses prepared (and practiced) in advance so that we can communicate them confidently rather than trying to come up with something on the spot. Keep it simple and don’t overexplain.

Some examples:

>> I’m not drinking right now.

>> I don’t like booze.

>> Drinking doesn’t make me feel good, so I don’t do it.

>> Drinking doesn’t work for me.

These should be sufficient in quelling the curious minds. In the event that someone is persistent in their line of questioning, a simple “I answered that” and then moving to a different topic works well.

One of the many misconceptions that exist about the sober life is that it’s boring, lonely, and asocial, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s entirely possible to have a bumpin’ social life as a sober person. In the beginning, it can feel challenging because it’s new and that’s okay. Please remember that it won’t always feel this way, and with practice, a plan, and some boundaries in place, we can create the exact social experiences we want while honoring and prioritizing our sobriety.

Happy (sober) Holidays!

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