Whether you’re choosing to remain sober or limit your drinking this New Year’s Eve, these tips can help you celebrate the new year in a safer, healthier way.

There are just a few more days left in this difficult year. Your New Year’s Eve plans are likely either in progress or already set in place. Whether you’re planning to ring in the new year privately or with a small group, you’ll have to ask yourself a question: “Will I be drinking?” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to increase their alcohol and drug use to cope with quarantineunemployment and uncertainty. You may be struggling with alcohol use, or you may just want to start 2021 with a clear head. Regardless, there are many ways to say goodbye to 2020 completely sober.

Sober New Year’s Celebrations at Home

If you’re used to drinking during celebratory events, ringing in the new year during COVID-19 may seem difficult without any alcohol. However, celebrating at home or at the home of someone you trust can help you avoid the triggers to drink you’d experience at a party while keeping you as safe as possible from the virus. Some ways to enjoy a sober New Year’s at home include:

  • Video chat with loved ones: Virtual gatherings through Zoom and other video chat platforms means no holiday traffic and no awkward conversations with strangers. It’s also a little easier to not drink if they can’t get it in your hands. 
  • Host your own party: If you’d still like to meet face-to-face, the CDC has recommendations for having small groups over for a sober celebration. Fill the table with fun board games or find a fun but competitive video game to play (just remember to change the channel before the ball drops at midnight!).
  • Bring on the treats: If you aren’t drinking for New Year’s, you can still revel in a decadent treat: sweet, savory or otherwise. We’ve gotten through 2020; we kind of deserve it.  
  • Encite colorful hijinks: Switch the champagne glasses for a different kind of toast to the new year. Pop confetti, throw streamers or start a silly string war with the people you live with as the clock strikes midnight. 
  • Start 2021 with a midnight moment: Start watching a movie at a specific time on New Year’s Eve and highlight the stroke of midnight with a climactic movie moment, like the Death Star explosion, The Princess Bride catch and 19 more ideas

Sober New Year’s Celebrations in Public

If you plan to go out for New Year’s Eve in 2020, have a plan to do so as safely as you can. While your options for public festivities may be limited, the temptation to drink at an event won’t be. These tips can help you navigate triggering situations and maintain your sobriety:

  • Find a sober venue: There are New Year’s Eve celebrations and venues that don’t serve alcohol at all. Check your local online listings to find an alcohol-free event near you.
  • Volunteer to be a designated driver: If you’re going to a place that has alcohol, you can hold yourself responsible by being the designated driver. This way, you’ll also have a good card to play when someone asks the question, “Why aren’t you drinking?”
  • Stay with sober people you trust: If you feel like the temptation to drink may be too overwhelming, stick with other sober friends who can help hold you accountable. If everyone in your group is drinking, have a sober friend you can call if you feel you’re about to “just have one.”
  • Have an exit plan: For newly sober people, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed in situations where they used to drink. If you find yourself coming close to getting a drink, it may be time to drop out of the situation entirely. Give yourself permission to leave if you need to. It may also help to think of an excuse earlier in the day that you can use later, such as, “I have to be up early for a family event.” However, you can also be upfront and honest if you’d like.

With these New Year’s safety tips, you can ring in 2021 safely and under the conditions you choose. Remember, while some people can manage their alcohol intake, it can be a struggle for others. Alcohol can be addictive and dangerous, so it’s important to recognize if and when it’s time to seek help. If you think that you or someone you love needs help for their alcohol use, call The Recovery Village. We’re here to help, 24-hours a day, even on holidays.

a woman wearing glasses and a blazer.
Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease): Holiday Celebrations and Small Gatherings.” December 11, 2020. Accessed December 18, 2020.

Atwell, David. “Starting 2020 Right: 21 Midnight Moments.” Reel World Theology, December 31, 2019. Accessed December 18, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.