The Sober Holiday Guide

By The Fix staff 12/23/19

Here’s what you need to do to round out the year healthy in recovery.

sober woman with Santa hat surrounded by glitter
Roman Samborskyi |

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and cheer, but going into your first holiday season sober can be downright terrifying. Under the best of circumstances, holidays can be tough: there are a lot of expectations, family dynamics and financial stressors at play. Navigating those challenges during your first sober holiday can leave your feeling downright Grinchy. 

If you’re headed into the holiday season sober, planning ahead is important. Here are a few steps you can take to make your holiday merry, or at least bearable, brought to you by Asana Recovery, which offers detox, residential treatment and an outpatient program in Costa Mesa, California.

Be Honest With Yourself

Before the holidays kick into high gear, take some time to yourself to do an honest inventory of where your sobriety journey is at. Maybe you’ve been sober for years, and the holidays are just a minor blip on your radar. On the other hand, you might be facing your first sober holiday, not sure of how to proceed. 

Journaling about your feelings, bringing them up at a meeting or talking about them with a trusted sponsor can all help you feel well-prepared and proactive going into the holiday season. 

Have A Plan in Place

Once you’ve evaluated what triggers and concerns you might be dealing with this holiday season, you can make a plan for how to proceed. This includes big decisions, like where to spend the holidays and whether or not to go home for celebrations. 

You should also consider smaller decisions, like whether or not you want to bring up your sobriety with friends or colleagues. This is likely to come up when people notice you’re not drinking, or when they ask about the goings-on in your life. Decide ahead of time how comfortable you are sharing your story and don’t be afraid to shut down conversations that make you uncomfortable. 

Set Boundaries and Communicate Openly

On a similar note, getting through the holidays sober often means setting and sticking to firm boundaries with your loved ones. Remember, you are allowed to set whatever boundaries you need to protect your recovery. In order to stick to those boundaries, you often have to have frank, honest conversations with the people closest to you. 

For example, if you will not be coming home for the holidays, it’s best to let family or friends know ahead of time. If they ask you to change your mind, you can explain to them why you’ve come to that decision. Or, you might ask that people not drink or use in front of you this holiday season. Let people know that if they are using, you’ll have to leave without warning. 

Communicating your boundaries ahead of time can help make enforcing them less emotional. Everyone will be on the same page with expectations and consequences, so if you need to enforce the boundaries it can be done swiftly, without debate or drama. 

Establish New Traditions

There are likely some holiday traditions that you won’t be participating in this year. Whether it’s skipping the eggnog on Christmas or staying home on New Years Eve, being sober impacts how you celebrate, and changing those traditions can be emotional. 

However, this is also a great time to establish new traditions that are meaningful to you and align with the values you hold today. Consider volunteering, hosting a game night or going on a hike rather than attending boozy parties. Including friends from your sober community can lead to years of fun, healthy holiday traditions. 

Manage Your Expectations

Everyone wants a Hallmark holiday season. However, that’s unlikely to happen. No matter how much planning and preparation goes into the holidays, it’s easy for the magic to fall short of what we were envisioning. This can be especially true in early sobriety, where you’re working to find your footing with a new holiday rhythm. 

If your holidays are not going how you were hoping, don’t be afraid to reach our for help. Attending meetings and talking about your challenges with your sponsor can help you stay ahead of challenges, and ensure that you’re starting a new decade thriving in recovery. 

Asana Recovery offers residential and outpatient treatment in Costa Mesa, California. Learn more by calling 949-438-4504.

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