Enjoying a sober Christmas can be challenging to say the least but this doesn’t mean that we have to give up on the Holidays. Our culture in North America tends to be centered around having alcohol at social events and although it can feel overwhelming to think of not drinking we CAN do it and actually enjoy the Holiday season.
The reality is that as a sober person attending Christmas social events, we can feel like the odd man out but if we prepare in advance we can enjoy Holiday gatherings on our own terms.
This is my 9th sober Christmas and along the way I’ve managed to develop some tools that have empowered me over the Holiday seasons. Today I’m going to share my Tips to Enjoy a Sober Christmas with you and I hope they help someone.
Tips to Enjoy a Sober Christmas
- Ask Yourself WHY You Want to Attend: If you’ve received an invitation to a Christmas social event and you’re feeling unsure, ask yourself WHY you would go. Truly dig deep and be honest with yourself. I know for myself, in early recovery my instinct was to attend EVERY event to have the FUN I had in years gone by. The reality was that the “FUN” I had was always ladened with a booze-soaked perspective. I had always had drinks and we all know that memories of evenings with drinks aren’t always accurate. More often than not the evening began with a good time and at some point in the night, I jumped past the point of “tipsy” into drunk and awoke the next day with a hangover and periods of blackout time.
- Do Not Accept Every Invitation: I’ve learned to comb through event invitations and choose to go to those where I’ll actually have a good time sober. This to me means meaningful conversation, good food, laughter and sometimes dancing. For me the location, evening schedule and focus of the event are all taken into consideration. If an event is taking place at a winery…chances are you won’t see me there.
- Prepare Your Reason: Inevitably someone is going to ask you why you’re not drinking alcohol. Sadly it’s just the way we are these days but know that most people are just curious. Have a brief response ready that you’re comfortable with (I’m driving, have to be up early, drank too much recently, alcohol isn’t a part of my healthy lifestyle), deliver it confidently and steer the conversation to something else.
- Arrive Early & Leave Early: If you’re like me and you want to connect with friends or family at these events in a meaningful way go early! Arriving at events and engaging with others before the booze has had a chance to flow allows me to enjoy people without having the annoyance of tipsy talk and fake smiles. It may sound brutal for me to say that but everyone knows that it’s just boring to try to chat with folks who are past tipsy when you’re sober. Leaving early is acceptable…read that again and allow yourself to feel it. There is NO problem with exiting earlier than your past drinking self would have. Slip away quietly if you’d like…or give the host a heads up beforehand…whatever works for you but know that it is socially acceptable to leave before the bar closes.
- Bring a Sober Friend: There is strength in numbers! Having a sober wing-man/woman or find one at the gathering. This will help to stop the feeling that you’re alone in this sober Christmas.
- Bring Your Own Drinks: Not every host thinks of guests who don’t drink so bring your own! If you’re sober there is nothing worse than standing without a drink in hand to make you feel like you’re standing out like a sore thumb. Personally, I like to mix up some amazing Mocktails and I have a ton of recipes for you to try over on my Mocktail Recipes page (click to see it).
- Stay Connected to Your Program/People: I don’t care if you’re in a 12 Step Program or an online group or just safe people you can text…stay connected! The Holidays can be tough and we need to shore ourselves up with our choices. Reach out before the event and even during it! Get the support from others around you who understand the value you place on your sobriety.
- Have an Exit Plan: In early sobriety we often feel overwhelmed without much warning. Plan an exit strategy, just in case. Keep a cab company number handy, tell the host you may have to leave early….whatever it takes. If you do have to leave and don’t feel strong enough to say goodbyes, just leave. You can phone them in the morning to apologize and explain.
- HAVE FUN & get out of your own head. The struggle to get sober and stay that way is taxing, we get stuck in our own heads at times and forget to have fun. As long as you’ve got yourself centred in the fact that you’re not going to drink on this one day….then allow yourself to get out of your head and have fun.
We sober folks CAN have a Sober Christmas, we don’t need to have 100 proof blood running through our veins to get into the Holiday spirit…and it’s amazing to wake up with no regrets and fond memories!
This year when you’re looking at which Holiday invitations to accept, just take a bit of time to think it through. Will you be able to resist drinking; will you ENJOY the experience….if you find yourself saying yes then GO. If you don’t, remember there’s nothing wrong with declining and enjoying a night at home or doing something else instead.
PATTY KLEMENT says
Excellent tips! Thanks.
Gayle Baxter says
So many tips are really helpful – especially arriving early and leaving early and bringing along a sober friend.
My Christmas period used to be a month long (or longer..) of over eating, over drinking and over committing to turning up at every single event because it was “family” and I felt obligated to make up the numbers.
Now, I arrive right on time and even help out a bit with preparation or “service” and get some quality sober time with the host before they get lost in their own drinking efforts.
Also, tagging along with another “non-drinker” makes for an easier way to decline drinks or step outside of shouts and buying rounds.
And when you’ve had enough of smelling all that “booze breath” and hearing all the same old stories, you can quietly make a quick dash for the exit.
Kimberley R. says
I was just thinking about the poem, Yesterday, today and tomorrow. I used to hear it at most meetings I attended in Toronto, almost 30 years ago. It is such great medicine for everyone.
I Googled the poem which introduced me to this wonderful website. I decided to email it to some of my A.A. family from my old home group in Victoria B.C. (I moved away 6 months ago). Low and behold, they are holding 2 meetings a week on line starting tomorrow night. What a gift to be able to have a virtual reunion during these challenging times.