The holiday season is marketed as a joyous time of year for everyone, but there are several reasons why people prefer to avoid Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations, especially those who are dieting, under financial stress, or trying to avoid alcohol. People who are newly sober find the holidays especially stressful, as alcohol-free parties are a rarity. But that doesn’t mean celebrations need to be avoided entirely. If you are recovering from alcohol dependency and you want to get into the holiday spirit without the temptation of “spirits,” here are a few tips that might help:
1. Bring a “fun” non-alcoholic drink to the party
There are plenty of festive alcohol-free drinks that taste great—and most taste better than booze anyway. If you’re going to a private party, bring your own juice blend, flavored iced tea, ginger beer, or one of the many trendy artisan sodas that are widely available in stores these days. If the party is at a restaurant or event space, you can opt for cranberry juice with a twist of lime, club soda, or something else that looks like an actual cocktail so people won’t ask why you’re not drinking.
2. Practice saying “no”
It’s easier to avoid alcohol if it’s never offered, but holiday hospitality virtually guarantees you’ll be offered a drink or two, and not everyone will take a polite “no” for an answer. That’s why you should have a few phrases handy to decline with grace—and without the need to divulge your personal reasons for abstaining. Some examples include “I’m trying to get healthy” and “I’m going easy for a while.” You can even say you’re the designated driver, even if you’re not—most people won’t ask beyond that.
3. Utilize the sober buddy system
Even if you manage to avoid temptation, sometimes being the only sober person at a holiday party can put you in a less-than-festive mood. Consider bringing a friend or family member to join you in sober revelry, for companionship and also support in your efforts to steer clear of alcohol.
4. Don’t forget to eat
This doesn’t mean busying yourself with hors d’oeuvres throughout an entire holiday party, but hunger can work as a temptation trigger. If you’re worried about overeating unhealthy snack foods and desserts at a party in order to avoid alcohol, fill up on a healthy meal before you go.
5. Suggest something else to do besides drink
If your friends or family don’t have a holiday celebration formally planned and you’re asked for your input, suggest something other than a standard party with food and drinks. Going to a holiday movie, ice-skating, or driving through neighborhoods famous for their holiday light displays are great alternatives that aren’t centered around drinking.
6. Have an exit plan
Even if you’re feeling strong enough to be in the presence of alcoholic drinks without succumbing to temptation, the risk of relapse is high in emotionally charged situations. So if you’re attending a party with family you don’t get along with, or a gathering of friends that includes exes or other people who put you on edge, be aware of escalating tensions and have a plan to leave if you feel you’re close to losing control.
7. Avoid risky venues
A holiday party at someone’s house is one thing—a party at a bar is another. Even if you’ve been sober for a significant amount of time, being back in “the scene” can trigger temptation, so you might need to pass on events in venues that revolve around alcohol, such as bars and wineries.
What to do if you relapse over the holiday season
Avoiding temptation around the holidays is difficult, and if you happen to have a drink at a party or suffer a more serious relapse, the most important thing you can do is forgive yourself. Recovery is a process, and even one off day doesn’t erase all the days of sobriety that preceded it. But if you’re struggling to get back on the road to recovery, please seek help. There are many resources available to help you overcome alcohol dependency and addiction, so reach out today. Give us a call at (858) 784-7867.