5 Tips for Navigating the Holidays Sober

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Between preparing holiday feasts, coordinating travel plans and dealing with family dysfunction, the holidays are a challenging time of year for everyone. Add in navigating sobriety, and you’re in for even more of a challenge.

Indulging and the holidays go hand-in-hand, so how can you be sure to avoid all that temptation while keeping your sobriety intact well into the New Year?

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Everyone can benefit from a bit of advice on how to navigate sobriety during the holidays, whether you’re newly sober or a relative of someone in recovery. Here are five ways to stay sober during the holiday season.

1. RSVP wisely.
During the holidays, alcohol is flowing freely. While you may want to be a Scrooge and say no to holiday gatherings altogether, avoiding every social interaction just isn’t realistic. There are probably a few parties that you want to attend, but you know that alcohol or drugs will be present there.

Before you RSVP, check in with yourself: Would people still attend even if alcohol wasn’t being served? If the answer is yes, by all means, go! If the answer is no, it’s best to politely decline the invitation.

2. Be prepared.
Prepare yourself for any temptation that lies ahead by coming up with to-the-point responses to politely turn down a drink or party invitation. You don’t have to share every detail of your recovery with every person you see this holiday season–unless you want to. You also don’t owe anyone a long-winded explanation for why you don’t want to have that spiked eggnog or go to that party. A simple “No thank you, but I’d love a club soda with lime” or “I would love to come, but I have a lot going on during the holidays this year and won’t be able to make it” is short and sweet.

It’s also wise to come up with an escape plan should you encounter any situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Attend parties with a sober friend or install an app like Uber or Lyft on your phone to make a quick getaway.

3. Spend time with people who support you.
During the holidays, it’s even more important to surround yourself with people who know about your recovery, understand what you’re going through and are happy to support you. This time of year is all about spending time with friends and family, right? Since these are probably the people who support you in your recovery, stick with them during the holidays. And if you attend meetings, keep going. If you’re traveling, try to find meetings to attend before you get there.

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4. Exercise.
Cold weather and hearty meals make us feel sluggish, so it’s important to stay active–even when you feel like you’re in hibernation mode. Going for a walk around the neighborhood, ice skating or warming up with a hot yoga class are all great ways to squeeze in a little exercise during the holidays.

If you’ve established any new healthy habits that are a part of your daily routine, like morning meditation or journaling, stick with them. Any activities you rely on to aid in your recovery are even more important now.

5. Remind yourself how good it feels to be sober.
Putting your thoughts onto paper is pretty powerful. Set your intentions for getting through the holidays sober by writing them down. Whether you write a letter to yourself a month from now or put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, remind yourself how great it feels to be sober every day.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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