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7 Tips for Staying Sober During the 2020 Holidays

So you’ve made the brave and loving decision to quit drinking!  Not too hard when it’s a regular Wednesday afternoon but what about Christmas?  What about that week of vacation over the holidays?  What about New Year’s Eve?  Out of all other days in the year, these days at the end of December are the ones where it seems everyone drinks.  So how can you stick to your goals of abstaining?  Here are some tips to get you through:


This is the easiest tip out of the bunch.  A lot of people get invited to multiple holiday get-togethers but this year, with provincial pandemic regulations in place, you have a really good excuse to say “no” to most (or all!) of your invites.  Having a hard time choosing?  Try this- close your eyes and imagine that you just finished getting ready and you’re about to head out the door.  Say to yourself “I’m all ready to make my way over to _____’s house” then stop and listen to your body.  What does your body feel like?  Do you feel anxious at just the thought?  Is your mind screaming anything at you?  Do you feel scared?  Do you feel excited?  Let your gut tell you.  Then try the next person you have on your list and imagine you’re about to leave to go to that party.  Do you feel any different?  If at the end of this exercise you realize you don’t want to go anywhere then that’s okay too.  Again, use the COVID19 excuse or be honest and tell them how you really feel.  Still feel a bit guilty?  Tell them you’ll get together for a lunch date when restaurants reopen! 


You might feel awkward without a drink in your hand and keeping non-alcoholic options is sometimes an easy thing for hosts to miss.  So bring your own!  If you think non-alcoholic beer might be a good option for you (it might not be, read this first) then check out Sober City’s recommendations on best NA beers you can buy at the grocery store.  Maybe bring a few ingredients and make yourself festive mocktails so that it still feels special.  Bringing your own options will make it easier to say “no, I already have a drink” if anyone offers you anything.  Also, contrary to what you might be telling yourself, most people honestly don’t even notice that you’re not drinking alcohol.  And if they do and they offer you some, use one of these quick responses


Bring your own car or ensure that you have your own way back home when you choose to leave.  Try not to rely on anyone to drive you home as the chances of you wanting to leave earlier than them are higher- especially if they’ll be drinking.  Also, tell yourself that it’s perfectly okay if you want to leave early.  For me, any time I went to a social gathering during the first year of my sobriety, I always left early.  Even when I thought for sure I’d want to stay later.  There always comes that point in the night where all the drinkers are suddenly on a completely different wavelength than you and you get the itch to GTFO.


If you haven’t created your toolkit yet, I recommend you have that ready to go soon!  I wrote about it here.  Basically, when things start to get triggery you can turn to your Sobriety Toolkit to calm you down and remind you why you’re on your sobriety journey.


When you were drinking, did your holidays look like this?  Get drunk at numerous friends’ houses on Christmas Eve, get drunk with immediate family on Christmas Day, get drunk with extended family Boxing Day, get drunk New Year’s Eve, spend the first day of the new year with a horrific hangover and loads of guilt.  Break out of that cycle and be the rebel who chooses a different, less predictable path.  Your new traditions might be attending sober support groups, having a small dinner with other non-drinkers (or people who don’t mind skipping the booze), having an at-home spa day, baking for 2 days straight, volunteering, participating in religious activities, babysitting your friend’s kids, creating annual self-portaits, or just spending time with your immediate family for an hour then going home to have a bubble bath and read romance novels.  Whatever your new thing is, make sure it makes you feel good inside rather than full of anxiety.  Don’t want to do that thing where you feel like you suffer through it and fake smile?  Seriously consider saying “no” to that thing.


Christmas 2020 is going to be harder on the vast majority of people, and if this is your first sober Christmas, there’s a really good chance that this year will be extra hard on you.  So forgive yourself for staying up too late or for watching too much TV or for crying as you drove past the NSLC.  Literally hug yourself.  I’d say give yourself a high five but that’s just clapping.  But for real, recognize that you’re sober through arguably the hardest time of year to be sober.  Feeling that FOMO (fear of missing out) and have temptations to drink?  That’s just the old patterns, old coping mechanisms, old habits cropping up.  You are strong enough to push past those feelings and stick to your goals.  Saying “no” to yourself is sometimes the most loving thing you can do.


You might feel anxious even before heading over to your favourite Aunt’s house or to your own parent’s house this year.  That’s very normal!  When you’re sitting at a party where you’re happy you suddenly might feel really sad or jealous.  That’s very normal!  When you happily leave a get-together and head home, you might cry as soon as you get in the door.  Again, very normal!  Things are weird AF right now and you’re not numbing with alcohol.  So you’re going to feel things.  That’s a good thing, even though it feels strange and sometimes sad.  It gets better.  If you don’t have a friend you can text when you’re feeling shitty read these to yourself (take a screenshot!):

  1. Every day I am getting better
  2. I can make it through today
  3. I respect my body
  4. I am proud of myself
  5. This negative feeling I’m experiencing is only temporary
  6. I can make it through this morning/afternoon/night
  7. I am in control
  8. I don’t need alcohol to be happy
  9. I don’t need alcohol to feel worthy
  10. I am worthy
  11. I am strong
  12. I can do hard things
  13. I’m going to be okay
  14. I can leave right now if I want to
  15. I chose how I want to feel, not them
  16. I’m making good choices
  17. I like the person I’m becoming
  18. I am loved and appreciated
  19. I’m doing the best that I can and that’s enough
  20. I am enough

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