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Six Ways to Celebrate the Holidays Sober

The holidays can be difficult for many reasons. If you’re working to maintain sobriety, you face a unique set of challenges as you navigate the season. The month-long celebrations, parties, and alcohol exposure may seem like a daunting minefield.

But there’s good news; you can have a successful holiday celebration that’s completely sober. Many people who go through recovery establish new traditions and find ways to enjoy the season without threatening their sobriety. 

You aren’t alone. Just because you’re sober doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful, joyous holiday filled with satisfying celebrations. Read on to discover our top ideas for celebrating the holidays while sober.

1. Start A New Tradition

Celebrating the holidays when you’ve been through a significant life change—like recovery—can be difficult. You probably already have traditions you’re used to celebrating. However, those old traditions may no longer be appropriate.

For many people, alcohol may play a large role in their holiday celebrations. If it was the same for you, it’s time to turn your attention away from traditions that center around alcoholic beverages and start new traditions to enjoy.

Starting a new tradition can be an opportunity to discover something you didn’t realize you love and to create meaning in this chapter of your life. Some ideas include:

  • Volunteering with a local charity
  • Participating in a fun run 
  • Attending a local holiday event
  • Creating a holiday craft
  • Decorating your home

2. Celebrate With Sober Friends

If you participated in recovery in your hometown, chances are you have some new friends who are also maintaining their sobriety. Consider hosting your own holiday party or coordinating with other sober friends to celebrate.

Hosting a sober party is a great way to enjoy the holidays. You can serve delicious food and non-alcoholic beverages, such as punch or mocktails. Or you might focus on activities such as board games or decorating cookies.

3. Get Outside

Depending on where you live, it may be customary to spend most of the time indoors during the holidays. It’s common to have parties inside or gather around the fire, which encourages alcohol use. But if parties are one of your triggers, you may want to explore the idea of getting outside and staying active.

Outdoor activities can help take your mind off stressful situations and away from triggers. Even if it’s cold, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the weather and environment this time of year. Depending on your location, you can try:

  • Hiking or walking
  • Ice skating
  • Sledding
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Camping
  • Surfing or other water sports

Ask a friend or two to join you and make it a group activity. You may just start a new tradition for your sober community.

4. Focus on Food

If your celebrations historically revolved around alcohol, you may feel wistful about leaving those traditions behind. Instead, shift your focus to making delicious and creative food for your friends and family to enjoy.

For instance, you might want to try a new recipe for cookies and decorate them with a group. Set out cookie cutters, frosting, sprinkles, and any other decorations for people to use. Encourage everyone to get creative and have fun with it.

You could also research your heritage and cook one of the traditional foods your ancestors made around this time of year. Food connects us with other people, and the holidays are a great time to deepen that connection.

A few other ideas for focusing on food are:

  • Making gingerbread houses
  • Hosting a cooking competition
  • Trying a new recipe every year
  • Roasting smores around the fire

5. Bring Your Own (Non-Alcoholic) Drinks

Chances are you’ll get invited to a friend’s party where alcohol will be served. You may decline this invitation politely if you don’t feel ready to be exposed to drinking. There’s nothing wrong with turning down invitations to preserve your sobriety.

If you want to attend, there are a couple of strategies you can use. Try to communicate with the host about your sobriety if you’re comfortable. That way, they won’t offer or expect you to drink alcohol.

You can also bring a friend with you who knows about your sobriety. They can be your accountability partner and keep you supplied with non-alcoholic drinks. Set up a system for communicating your triggers and how to handle them when confronted.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to come prepared with your own beverages to enjoy. Offer to bring a mocktail or a non-alcoholic punch. Or simply pack a few sparkling waters, sodas, or your favorite beverage while you’re there. 

6. Honor Your Recovery

The fact that you’ve maintained your sobriety this long—no matter the time—is something to be proud of. Why not take a moment this holiday season to celebrate how far you’ve come? 

Your celebration of sobriety can take place alone or with supportive loved ones. You may simply wish to set aside an evening to reflect on everything you’ve accomplished and remind yourself why you continue to work towards your goals. Holding the importance of your recovery in mind can help you get through the holidays.

Alternatively, you may enjoy hosting a party to celebrate your sobriety. You can even invite your friends from recovery and make it a group celebration. Practice gratitude by going around in a circle and sharing what you’re thankful for and what you want to focus on during the holidays.

Get Help When You Need It

The holidays aren’t an easy time—sober or not. You may encounter people, situations, and memories that stir unwanted emotions. Making a plan for how you’ll celebrate is one helpful strategy, but you may need more support to get you through the season.

Continue to attend your support groups and treatment sessions through the holidays. It may feel tempting to take a break, but staying on track with your treatment can make the season much more successful.

If you need additional support, don’t hesitate to contact your sponsor, therapist, or a trusted friend to talk it through. There’s no shame in asking for help; you may find that someone else needs that communication as much as you do. 

If you haven’t started your recovery journey yet and feel inspired to take the first step, there’s no time like the present. Reach out to a treatment center to get started today.

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