Sober holiday party tips from a recovered alcoholic

How can you make it through the holiday season (and its parties) and still stay sober? 5 Tips from a recovered alcoholic here.

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Stress around the holidays

Most of us feel some level of stress in anticipation of the holidays. Memories, family dynamics, expectations, financial worries-these are just a few of the things that cause us anxiety at a time that should instead be about community. We may react differently to the anxiety. Some of us go into hyper mode and stay busy with shopping and planning, while others tend to isolate, but underneath it all lurks the disease that has caused us so much past trouble.

So, how can you stay sober during a time of possible high stress? We review here. Then, we invite your questions or comments about staying sober around the holidays at the end.

Top 5 sober holiday party tips:

  1. Understand past disappointments
  2. Know what to anticipate in your family
  3. Reach out for support from friends in the recovery community
  4. Give the gift of your presence (not presents)
  5. Focus on helping others

Sober holidays require extra attention

It’s early December, and a storm has moved in, bringing with it wind and rain and grey skies. Maybe it’s the change in weather, or maybe it’s anticipation of the upcoming holidays, but sometimes my mood wants to match the grey sky outside.

For a lot of us, having a sober holiday season requires that we pay extra attentiveness to our recovery. Looking back, all the way into my childhood, I can remember an odd combination of excitement and stress leading up to the holidays. Everything had to be perfect; everyone had to have the right gift; too much money was being spent; the uncles and aunts and all the rest would show up and try to get along; the uncles would get drunk and argue about politics; and it was up to my mom to run the show.

Tips 1 & 2: Be truthful about the past and your family.

In early addiction recovery, the holidays were a challenge because my relationship with my family had become so broken that I had no idea what to expect during the traditional gathering. Understanding past disappointments and knowing what to anticipate in your family goes a long way in developing a way to manage your recovery during the holidays. Once you’re truthful about what you’re dealing with, both the frustrations that come with family and your own recovery, you’re better prepared at maintaining your hard-won sobriety during the holidays.

Tip 3: Reach out for help.

For me, the best way to ensure a sober holiday season is to reach out to my friends in the recovery community. An extra meeting or two each week can be helpful to me, and perhaps my own presence and words of support might be welcomed by someone I can reach. In between meetings, the phone is a powerful tool for staying connected and can even be a lifeline to help you escape the room during a holiday get-together.

Tip 4: Be present.

When I was new to recovery, and since I had no money for gifts, it was useful to talk to my sponsor ahead of time and to be reminded that my sober presence was all I had. It was up to me to make that presence as attractive as possible. What I remember most about that evening (over 27 years ago) is helping clear the table and wash dishes, which is something that would never have occurred to me during my drinking years.
That simple act of being helpful plugged me into a feeling of connectedness that has stayed with me to this day.

Tip 5: Be of service.

The concept of service that is so central to recovery has simplified all my interactions, and the payoff has been huge. When my motives were purely self-serving and all my actions were based on furthering my own agenda, my world inevitably collapsed. With an attitude of willingness to be helpful, my life has been rebuilt on an entirely new basis, and I love the result.

Staying sober during the holidays

If there’s anything I’d suggest in this holiday recovery guide, it’s that I still avoid drinking environments, as I find it unattractive when people cross the line into inebriation. If I do attend a celebration where people are drinking, I can nurse an iced ginger ale, and it’s nobody’s business what I’m drinking. I’ve been in recovery long enough not to be all that vulnerable to other people’s expectations or behavior. Tome, a sober holiday means being at places where I can be of maximum usefulness to God and my fellows.

I missed Christmas by a week and a half during my final winter as a drunk. I remember showing up at my parents’ house in early January, where I found the tree still up and a few lonely gifts waiting for me. Thankfully, that episode need not be repeated.

Got any other addiction recovery and holiday tips to share?  Please leave your questions or comments in the section below.

About the author
Jake Sandino is a writer focused within the realm of addiction and substance abuse. He achieved his own recovery through a holistic alcohol and drug rehab approach.
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