I stopped drinking about ten years ago. Recently, I’ve had several people reach out to me who are newly sober, asking for advice on how to handle the holidays when you’re not drinking. Some of these people tried a “Sober October,” and liked it so well that they’ve decided to keep going for a bit longer and a few, like me, recognized patterns in their drinking that they didn’t like and decided to quit for good.
Now that I’ve braved ten sober holiday seasons, I’ve come up with my own tricks and tips for surviving the holidays. So, if you’re sober-curious or have stopped drinking and are nervous about what the holidays look like without “beer goggles” on, here are my tips for surviving the booziest time of the year.
Plan a festive holiday breakfast or lunch
Sure, there’s something extra festive about an after-hours holiday get-together. It’s an excuse to wear a bit more makeup than normal and pull out the sequins. There’s also something about the evening that makes people want to drink more—especially around the holiday season. So, if you’re concerned that an evening event will tempt you to drink, plan to meet with friends and family for a breakfast or lunch gathering. You can still do a smokey eye and wear your sequins, but you’ll shine even brighter with a clear head and no regrets the next day.
BYOT (Bring Your Own Tumbler)
Take your own tumbler with your non-alcoholic beverage of choice to gatherings. This has been my go-to sober tip for any kind of social gathering. If you show up with your own insulated tumbler full of your favorite non-alcoholic beverage (my go-to is usually a flavored sparkling water with a splash of limeade or juice), no one will bat an eye at you or question if you need something to drink—I promise!
Have ‘The Talk’ Beforehand
Make a plan for a successful sober holiday party or family gathering and this includes letting your spouse, partner or date know beforehand that you’re not going to be drinking. This will alleviate some of the pressure you might feel and will help keep you accountable, in case you feel tempted once you get to the party. It’s also not out of the question to ask your partner to abstain from drinking, especially if you feel like it would be helpful for you.
Settle in Early for a Long Winter’s Nap
Make no excuses for ducking out early from a gathering or heading to bed as soon as Santa has finished up at your house. One of my favorite parts of sobriety is getting good sleep and waking up feeling refreshed. During the holidays, we all need a little extra rest and, like I always say, “nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” (That’s a lie: what I really say is, “nothing good happens after 10 p.m.” #grandma)
Make a List and Check it Twice
Take a moment before you attend an event or gathering to journal or write down your “whys” for not drinking. Having those thoughts front and center in your brain before you’re in a tempting situation might help you feel more grounded and sure of your sobriety.
Plan to Exercise in the Morning
If you have a fitness class to attend, a run to participate in or even just a walk at the park in mind, you’ll be less likely to want to drink the night before. Having an “appointment” for exercise is a good idea during the holidays for anyone—sober or not—because it can keep you on track with your fitness goals and possibly even keep you from gorging at the cheese table (or maybe not).
Everybody Loves a ‘Double Dizzle’
Commit to being the designated driver if you and your friends are gathering for a holiday event. Everybody loves it when someone freely offers to drive and, with the added accountability of being in charge of getting everyone home safely, you’ll be that much more committed to keeping it on the straight and narrow.
I vividly remember my first sober holiday season. I was really worried about how to make it through all of the social engagements without drinking. There’s just something about the festive atmosphere of a holiday party that makes it feel appropriate to over indulge. I also worried that I’d feel cheated out of the “treat” of having a drink by the tree after the kids had gone to bed, or a mimosa or Bloody Mary on Christmas morning.
But, you know what happened? Instead of spending my holiday parties feeling out of place and cheated out of a good time, I enjoyed myself. Instead of feeling sad that I couldn’t have champagne on Christmas Eve, I was absorbed in watching my children experience the magic of the season. And, on Christmas morning, when they ran into my bedroom to wake me up at 4:30 a.m., telling me that “Santa was here!” I was able to leap out of bed and take on the day—truly making the most of the most wonderful time of the year.
You can hear more about Jenny’s journey to sobriety on the Laughing All the Way podcast.