Blog | Addiction Recovery

How to Prepare for the Party Season When You’re Sober

When you’re sober, you face the year-round challenge of social gatherings that involve alcohol. These gatherings become even more frequent and difficult to navigate during party and holiday seasons.

As Everyday Health[1] explains, “The holidays involve seeing old friends and family (not all of whom you get along with), and rituals that may have involved drinking or using drugs in the past. It all adds up to potential holiday triggers to go back to old ways.”

The party season can also be the relapse season, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning, you can deal with increased numbers of parties, larger crowds, and general holiday stress. You can enjoy them safely and have good, sober fun as well.

Stay Connected to Your Recovery

Group counselingHolidays are often busy. There’s shopping for Christmas and getting supplies ready for a Fourth of July barbecue. No matter the planning and prepping going on, don’t let your sober routine get pushed aside. Make time to practice your recovery skills. Continue to attend meetings, meditate, write a gratitude list, or go to therapy sessions. Continue to do everything that helps you stay sober and happy. If meetings are cancelled or your counselor is out of town, make backup plans. Arrange to meet sober friends or call other people in recovery who make you feel safe and supported.

Be Nice to Your Body

Take extra good care of your basic health during the party season. Make sure your body is strong and your mind is resilient in the face of extra stress. Get enough sleep — or if you do have a few late nights, take regular naps or rest breaks. Try to maintain balanced diet and eating habits.

As Dartmouth College[2] explains, “When you eat and what you eat affects your blood sugar levels, which in turn affect your energy and mood…Eating consistently throughout the day provides your brain with a constant source of fuel to help stabilize your energy and mood…Concentrated sources of sugar like soda, candy, fruit juice, jam and syrup can create radical spikes (and drops) in your blood sugar levels, which can leave you feeling irritable and tired.”

The holidays are full of tasty treats and irregular meal times. This can increase stress and other negative feelings which in turn challenge sobriety. Eating well and finding time to exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block, can support your recovery during holidays.

Use Mental Reminders

You may worry that you are missing out on the party season if you’re sober. Even if you see others drinking and having a good time, remember that you have a different relationship with alcohol. What are you really missing out on anyway?

You’re missing out on wasted money, wasted time, embarrassment, and serious mental, physical, and social repercussions. You know you enjoy your sober life. You know substance use hid a lot of misery and unhappiness. Remind yourself how far you’ve come. You aren’t really “missing” out after all, are you?

Coping with Stressful People

The party season can create social stress and problems between family members and friends. Prepare yourself. Set clear boundaries with individuals who have caused stress or conflict in the past. Have neutral conversation topics in mind, and steer conversations towards these. Bring up good memories. Don’t take negative comments personally. Offer to help people who seem overwhelmed or irritable. Lend a hand in the kitchen to both step away from the crowd and to help potentially stressed friends and family members. Overall be kind to the people who create the most stress or conflict. Your support and positivity may be just what they need.

Make Your Own Holiday Fun

If events seem to be based around alcohol or drug use, prepare to create your own fun. Bring non-alcoholic beverages with you, and bring enough to share. You won’t feel left out when people make toasts or walk around with drinks in hand. If being around drinking seems like too much, you can turn down any and all party invitations. You can also organize a party of your own. As the host you choose the guest list and ensure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options and food.

Enough Is Enough

At certain times during the holidays, you may feel like it’s all too much. Being around drinking, drug use, stressful family members, or peers who don’t have your best interests at heart challenges the strongest recoveries. Put your mental and physical health first.

Know when to call it a day and step back from the festivities. If you need to leave a party early, thank the host and slip away quietly. If you feel that you can’t leave a special event, take little breaks by getting some fresh air, texting a sober friend, listening to some calming music, or meditating for a few minutes every now and then. If any of your coping methods upset other people, remember that your recovery is the most important thing. Keep in mind what the holidays are really be about: goodwill, generosity and peace.


[1] http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/how-stay-sober-over-holidays-tips-from-people-recovery/. “How to Stay Sober Over the Holidays: 9 Tips From People in Recovery.” Everyday Health. 2 Dec 2015. Web. 12 Apr 2017.

[2] http://www.dartmouth.edu/~eap/Healthy%20Exchange%20PDFSummer%2008.pdf. “Healthy Exchange.” Dartmouth College. Summer 2008. Web. 12 Apr 2017.

Written by Beth Burgess