Sober Holidays: How To Stay Sober At Parties

This post was originally published at The Recovery Village. 

Though the holiday season isn’t traditionally centered around drinking, it may seem that way for those new to sobriety.

Whether you’re celebrating at a family gathering, a get together of friends or a work function, drinking may seem to be at the forefront of each activity.

And when you stop drinking, it may feel alienating, as if you have no place at these types of functions if you don’t plan to drink. But this isn’t the case. The holidays don’t have to be about alcohol, and there are ways to stay sober while still attending holiday celebrations.

This will be my fourth sober holiday party season, and I’ve gathered some sobriety tools along the way. Though these strategies may not work for everyone, they’ve been helpful to me. So, here they are:

Know what you will do if someone offers you a drink

Since you’ll be at a party, this isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility, so it’s important to have a game plan. Not having a plan may lead to accepting a drink, which is probably a bad idea. First off, know that you can refuse a drink without explaining yourself. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. But in order to avoid this situation altogether, just keep a glass of water or soda in your hand. People are less likely to offer a drink if they see you are already sipping on something.

Have an answer ready if someone asks why you’re not drinking

This can be helpful if the above situation does occur and someone offers you a drink then casually asks why when you refuse. This could be as simple as telling them the truth, that you realized you had a problem and decided you needed to stop drinking alcohol.

However, some people aren’t quite ready to admit that to others, especially strangers. And that’s OK! There are plenty of other responses that can be your go-to. Obviously, you can say you just don’t feel like drinking, and most people will leave it at that and not push for more information. Or, you can say you are the sober driver, which may be the case anyway. Another response is just that you’re watching what you put in your body during the holiday season, and that means cutting back on alcohol to avoid the negative long-term effects. Whatever your response may be, have it ready so you aren’t caught off guard.

Know what you are going to drink during the party

I always find that if I also have a fun, sweet drink, then I don’t feel as left out as I would otherwise. This may mean looking at the menu ahead of time if the function is at a restaurant, or bringing your own drink if you’re going to a coworker or friend’s house. Mocktails (cocktails minus the alcohol) are a fun way to spice up your beverage for the night without consuming alcohol. There are many recipes out there, even ones specific to the holidays. Google is a helpful tool in this case.

Make sure there is someone else present who knows you have stopped drinking.

I find this to be the most helpful strategy of all. And, as long as your are comfortable confiding in a friend, it’s pretty easy to do. Just tell someone you trust that you have stopped drinking for X, Y and Z reasons, and let them know you’d appreciate their support at any parties you both attend. This way, if you do pick up a drink, there is another person holding you accountable for your actions. In early sobriety, I found this to be vital to my sobriety, so I made sure someone always knew that I was sober. Then I wasn’t as tempted to drink.

Have an out

I’ll admit it—sometimes being in the presence of people drinking and/or drinking excessively just gets to be too much. In times like these, it’s probably best to remove yourself from the situation altogether. If you drove yourself to the function, then this won’t be a problem, as you can leave whenever you’d like. But if you got a ride or took public transportation, it may be harder to just pick up and leave. So before even going to the party, make sure you have an escape plan should you need it. Maybe this means contacting a friend and asking if they could pick you up if need be. Maybe it means looking at the bus or subway schedule ahead of time. Whatever it may be, just make sure it’s something that you have thought out so that you don’t find yourself trapped in a situation you don’t want to be in.

In the end, the holidays aren’t really about drinking at all, and you can still lead an exciting, sober life during the holiday season. However, it’s important to be prepared should you find yourself in the presence of people drinking. Though everyone is different, these strategies should at least provide you with a starting point. Happy holidays, and stay sober.

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