Tips for Staying Clean and Sober During the Holidays

The holidays are a joyful time of year for some, but for others, it can bring on more anxiety than any other season. From the crowds of shoppers to the overflow of family gatherings or time spent away from loved ones, it can be tough on anyone to make it through to the New Year in a peaceful state, let alone those in recovery.

For people who are struggling with their sobriety or know that the holidays are a prime time for their cravings and temptations to creep up, it’s important to have a plan in place for staying sober during the holidays. By being proactive and knowing how to handle holiday parties, family dinners, travel time, or other events that may cause additional stress or challenges, you are more likely to succeed in staying sober during the holiday season.

If you are a recovering addict or a loved one of someone who has struggled with addiction in the past, here are a few ways to stay sober during these festive holiday months.

Provide Alcohol-Free Alternatives

Wine, eggnog, and other holiday spirits abound at dinner tables and social gatherings each December and into the New Year. If you are hosting such an event, make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options available for your guests. Expand beyond the standard soda, coffee, or tea, and create non-alcoholic versions of punch, hot cider, or other wintertime favorites, so no one has to miss out on the flavor or fun of these seasonal drinks.

Schedule Engaging Activities

Many families who gather for the holidays center a lot of the activity around lounging around, often with drinks. This lack of engagement can lead to boredom, which is not a good spot to be in and can lead to someone in recovery thinking “just one” won’t hurt. Rather than face this potential scenario, make sure you have plenty of plans on your calendar that don’t involve alcohol, such as ice skating, baking, or heading to the movie theater, concert, or a play.

Stick to a Meeting Schedule

Don’t let the holidays be an excuse to skip AA meetings. Even if you’re traveling, research meeting times and places before you go, so that you have a healthy outlet set up in advance, for when you find the temptation too strong. The holiday season typically conjures up feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and anxiety that might catch you off guard, even if you’re not a recovering addict. It’s a smart idea to have a built-in support system ready to lend a hand or a listening ear when you need them most.

Adjust Your Priorities

The holidays can be overwhelming. It’s not uncommon for people to feel pulled in several directions. One reason is because of the expectations put upon people by family members, friends, and even co-workers. Don’t feel like you have to say ‘yes’ to every invitation or promise to stay at an event later than you think is best.

Practice saying ‘no’ when you feel your schedule is getting too full or you’ve been talked into something you’d rather not do. Decline invitations graciously. Dedicate a set amount of time at events you know you need to make an appearance at. Map out which events you need to attend as well as which events you can avoid altogether.

Identify Possible Triggers

The holidays can be a difficult time for anyone, especially if there are unpleasant memories that surround them. By pinpointing sensitive areas and talking them over with a trusted friend, you can avoid the possibility of relapse. Keeping emotions bottled up without allowing them to be released in a healthy way is a sure way to face problems down the road.

Exercise Your Body (and Mind)

When the weather gets darker and the days become shorter, it’s all too easy to hibernate inside. Exercise gets the endorphins going and makes you feel motivated to take on the holidays. It’s also a good stress reliever and can help clear your mind before you set out for a family function or holiday party where you know you’ll be faced with certain triggers. Additionally, if meditation isn’t already part of your daily regimen, look into different apps or guided meditations that might work for you.

Brace Yourself

The holidays often bring around old friends and family who may not be up-to-date with the most personal parts of your life, like your recovery. Plan ahead for ways to exclude yourself from potentially uncomfortable situations or think of what you want to say to the questions that most likely will be asked. Having a game plan can help you from feeling on the defensive. Those who respect you will respect your sobriety and the ability to have fun without the need to drink.

Celebrate Your Sobriety

This is important. It’s most likely been a difficult road to get you to where you are today. Embrace your sobriety and be thankful for your health and look forward to the future ahead in the New Year. Focusing on the positive can help you stay sober. It’s an achievement you should be proud of and feel good about going into the New Year.

For friends and family members of people who are in recovery, take the time to talk to your loved one ahead of time. Talk through any concerns or challenges on either side. Work together to set them up for success and ensure they have the support they need throughout the holidays and into the New Year.

Create a welcoming atmosphere that honors their sobriety and lend a helping hand to those you love, if they should need it. The holidays are a time to practice kindness, offer forgiveness, and embrace feelings of joy. As you go through the coming weeks, keep looking forward to the opportunity of each new day.

If you or someone you know is dealing with alcohol or drug abuse during the holiday season, call 888-481-4481 to speak to a medical professional at Casa Palmera today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.