How to Ditch Alcohol at Parties: Tips for Socializing Without Drinking

The holiday season is upon us! With Thanksgiving passed, celebrations for winter holidays like Chanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa all fall into the weeks between now and the new year.
Holiday festivities are often closely tied to alcohol consumption, leaving many people in recovery for alcohol abuse disorders to struggle during this time of year. Dealing with anxiety or dread around potential holiday triggers can put a damper on your plans to enjoy the season, but it doesn’t have to. Get out there and have fun with this how-to guide to ditching alcohol at parties!

Make Your Needs Known Beforehand

When making your holiday plans, your commitment to sobriety absolutely must stay a priority—that’s a given. The fact that it’s New Year’s or another holiday doesn’t mean that sober living takes a break. When deciding on holiday plans, make sure your family and friends understand your needs and boundaries beforehand. Those who support continued sobriety will respect these needs and work to help make the holiday season enjoyable for everyone.

Offer to provide drinks—there doesn’t need to be alcohol to make delicious holiday refreshments! Dry parties are fun that you can actually remember the next day, with less risk of embarrassing photo or video evidence of your shenanigans.

Remember Your Triggers

One common but often overlooked trigger for people in recovery is celebrations. The fun, jovial, carefree atmosphere can make it more difficult to resist those urges to have a drink and ‘live it up.’ Likewise, being reminded of strained relationships or toxic family dynamics can make turning back to alcohol even more tempting. Don’t let these holiday triggers set you back on your recovery. Be mindful of your triggers and avoid them as much as possible. If you find yourself confronted by a triggering event, follow through on your relapse prevention plan and reach out to a trusted person for support.

Ditch the Alcohol

With more and more people choosing to live alcohol-free, sober holiday parties are more accessible than ever before. There are alcohol-free mocktails, ciders, and other seasonal treats that are just as enjoyable as their alcoholic counterparts with the added bonus of not causing blackouts or DUIs.

It’s entirely up to you if you want to explain to others why you’re choosing to forego alcohol during the holidays. Your recovery story is yours to control and that includes who you share it with and why. While sharing your story during the holidays can help inspire others, you shouldn’t feel obligated to answer prying questions.

Don’t Isolate Yourself

It can be tempting to isolate yourself during the holidays. Dysfunctional families, loneliness, grief, and other complicated emotions may cause us to seclude ourselves and disconnect from loved ones and our recovery support groups. This is often an early sign of potential trouble that may lead to relapse. If you need to take a break and spend some time to yourself to recharge, that’s fine. Just don’t allow yourself to fall into harmful patterns that may lead back to active drinking.

Keep Contact with Your Sober Buddy

While you are responsible for your own sobriety, having someone to support you helps tremendously. Rather that means a friend or family member who is physically there to check in on you or someone you can stay in contact with via phone call or texting, don’t try to go it alone.

Having a friend with you also helps to keep you entertained and distracted from any sort of temptations you may face. While it is advised to stay away from places where alcohol is abundantly available, staying occupied with fun and festivities keeps you from focusing too heavily on alcohol.

Dealing with Difficult People

Sobriety has a way of bringing all the things we bury to the surface. The same is true for the people in our lives including friends, family, romantic partners, and associates. The sad truth is that some people benefit from your dysfunction and would rather see you continue on a self-destructive path than healthy and thriving. This is why part of the recovery process is disconnecting from those relationships that are not conducive to leading a sober life. However, sometimes that’s easier said than done.

This is where building and enforcing boundaries comes in. Remember that while you cannot control other people’s actions or change their minds, you can control your own responses and how you allow people to treat you. Don’t allow anyone to guilt you into maintaining harmful connections, no matter what their relation to you may be. As you remove these toxic people from your life you make room for those who truly care and support you.

Keep the Focus on Festivities

You may feel a bit awkward about being “the reason” nobody drinks at holiday gatherings- you’re not, but the thought is understandable. Just as you are not forced to attend any parties where alcohol is available, they have the option to attend other festivities if they wish to drink. The amount of fun people have at a party does not hinge on how drunk they manage to get—remind your friends and loved ones of that, too!

Break out the board and card games! Play charades, bring out the Monopoly board or the dominoes. Recount all those funny stories from your childhood or learn some new things about your loved ones from their stories. This time of year is about laughter and coming together peacefully, not drunken mayhem.


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