Though the holiday season isn’t traditionally centered around drinking, it may seem that way for newly sober people. Here are some ways to ensure your holiday gatherings stay fun and alcohol-free.

Whether you’re celebrating at a family gathering, work function or holiday party, it can often feel like many activities are centered around drinking. As a result, it can be easy to feel alienated when you stop drinking. Many newly sober people may feel as if they’re out of place at events where others are drinking socially.

Fortunately, you’re more than capable of having a fun-filled gathering without drinking a single drop of alcohol. The holidays don’t have to revolve around drinking, and there are many ways to stay sober while still having fun at holiday celebrations. Here are a few tips that can help you stay sober throughout the holiday season.

Know what you will do if someone offers you a drink

Since you’ll be at a party, someone may offer you a drink without knowing you’re sober. If you don’t have a plan in place for when this occurs, you may feel pressured to accept a drink. First off, it’s important to know that you can refuse a drink without explaining yourself — you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your sobriety. Another way to avoid this situation is to keep a glass of water or soda in your hand. People are less likely to offer a drink if they see you are already sipping on something.

Have an answer ready if someone asks why you’re not drinking

If you refuse a drink and someone asks you why, you’ll need to decide how you’d like to respond. Decide before the party whether you’re comfortable being honest about your sobriety and how you’d like to approach this question. You can tell them the truth, explaining that you had a problem with alcohol and have decided to stop drinking.

However, if you’re not quite ready to talk about sobriety with others, especially strangers, it’s perfectly fine to use another response instead. You can simply say you don’t feel like drinking, or offer another excuse like you’re a designated driver or that you have to be up early. Another response option is to say you’re watching what you put in your body during the holiday season, which means cutting back on alcohol to avoid negative long-term effects. Whatever your response may be, have it ready so you aren’t caught off guard.

Know what you are going to drink during the party

You may feel less left out and less tempted if you have a fun, tasty drink in hand. If you’re going to a restaurant, this may mean looking at the menu ahead of time. If the event is at a friend’s house, you can bring your own drink. Mocktails (cocktails minus the alcohol) are a fun way to spice up your beverage for the night. There are many recipes out there, and some are even fancy holiday-themed concoctions.

Make sure there is someone else present who knows you have stopped drinking

This strategy may be the most helpful one of all. As long as you’re comfortable confiding in a friend, it’s a pretty easy tip to follow. Just tell someone you trust that you have stopped drinking, and let them know you would appreciate their support at any parties you both attend. This way, if you do pick up a drink, there is another person holding you accountable for your actions. This can be especially valuable during early sobriety, when you’re still feeling tempted to drink.

Have a way out

Sometimes, simply being in the presence of people drinking can become a bit too much to handle. In times like these, it’s probably best to remove yourself from the situation altogether.

Before going to the party, make sure you have an escape plan prepared in case you need it. If you drove yourself to the function, you can leave whenever you’d like. If you don’t drive, you may want to contact a trusted friend and ask if they could pick you up if you need out. You could also look at the bus or subway schedule ahead of time to plan a route. Ride share apps like Uber or Lyft are also an option for leaving a situation when you are ready. Whatever it may be, make sure you’ve figured out a way to leave to avoid feeling trapped in an overwhelming situation.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that the holidays aren’t really about drinking at all and that you can still enjoy an exciting, sober life during the holidays. With that in mind, it’s important to be prepared when you find yourself in the presence of people drinking. Though everyone is different, these strategies should be able to help you have a fun-filled and sober holiday season!

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By – Beth Leipholtz
Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. She enjoys writing about her recovery and the realities of getting sober young on her blog, Life To Be Continued, and as a contributing author for The Recovery Village. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for updates. Read more
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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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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.