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How to Enjoy a Non-Alcoholic Holiday

Updated on November 26, 2010
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry ... Or Sorry?

'Tis the season to be of good cheer. And for most people, clinking "cheers" with an alcoholic drink is a holiday ritual. The days and nights leading up to Christmas and New Year's Eve (the biggest drinking night of the entire year) are one giant booze-fest.

If you're a "normie" (normal drinker), overindulging a little during the holiday season is not a big deal. Okay, so you might wake up with a hangover on New Year's Day. You may get stopped by a police sobriety checkpoint. But no worries. You've either designated a driver, or you're well under that magic .08 BAL (blood alcohol level).

If you're an alcoholic, however, the holiday season can be a month-long obstacle course of relapse triggers.


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If you're facing your first holiday season as a sober person, congratulations! Like every other milestone in your first year (your birthday, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, 4th of July -- and every other major/minor holiday you've previously associated with drinking) you will get through this. I promise.

As you get more recovery time under your belt, it does get easier. However, whether you have 30 days or 3 years or 20 years, it's important to stay vigilant, one day at a time.

Having said that, I realize platitudes are no match for the often overwhelming stresses and demands of this time of year. But no matter what does -- or doesn't -- happen for you this year, you don't have to drink over it (even if you want to!). Here are some tips and strategies to get you through any "slippery situation" so you can focus on enjoying the joy of this season.

Happy Non-Alcoholic Holidays!

#1. Fake it when you fill it

Perhaps the hardest challenge is how to get through a party, when your definition of party = drunk. You don't have to isolate to keep yourself "safe." But do be selective about which invitations you accept. When you do go to a social function, plan your exit strategy.

This year, you won't be the one shutting down the dance floor with a lampshade on your head. Nor will you want to be there when the booze kicks in and people start to get sloppy. Believe it or not, you'll actually notice this happening -- if you even stay that long.

More than likely, tho, you'll reach your tolerance point long before that. Rather than feel uncomfortable or deprived (which can quickly lead to "f-it, I'm just gonna have one,which leads to another, and another), consider these party survival tricks:

1. Get there early so you can enjoy people before they get tipsy.

2. Keep a glass in your hand at all times. People really are less concerned about what's in your glass than the fact that you're drinking something. Really.

3. Be careful of refill offers. Even well-meaning hosts can mix up your order or underestimate the importance of NO ALCOHOL. Go to the bar yourself so you're sure what you're getting (or NOT getting).

4. Take a sober buddy with you. He or she can provide moral support. Or keep an eye on your comfort level and whisk you away at the appropriate moment.

5. You've got a cell phone, right? Use it! Excuse yourself to the restroom or go outside and call your sponsor or a sobriety sister or brother . Never underestimate the value of a pep talk.

coffee = the official drink of sobriety!
coffee = the official drink of sobriety! | Source

#2 Change your rituals

This actually goes for any time of year, but is especially crucial during the holidays.This time of year, every activity seems to include alcohol. Old friends want to reconnect -- over drinks, of course. Christmas shopping -- makes us thirsty, so we go have a drink.  Going ice skating? Spiked hot chocolate is just the thing. Trimming the tree, wrapping gifts, opening gifts, baking cookies -- any and every activity associated with the holidays goes better with alcohol.

But if you're an alcoholic and you're serious about recovery, you need to disconnect the drinking from the activity. Some suggestions:

1. Meet friends for breakfast rather than later in the day. Unless you are a hard-core 24/7 drinker, this will eliminate (or at least reduce) the temptation to order an alcoholic drink.

2. Don't give spirits as gifts. It's not that your boss or neighbor or old Uncle Charlie no longer appreciate a nice bottle of Scotch, Beaujolais Nouveau or Hendrick's gin. Their tastes haven't changed. But yours have to. Here's the deal: You have no business inside a liquor store. Or the liquor aisle. Don't go there!

3. Create new rituals. Being sober is not about never having fun ever again (although that's a common fear of newcomers). The idea is to replace old habits with healthy, new habits. It's about doing familiar things in a new way -- without numbing ourselves with alcohol.

#3 Remember the basics: HALT

Magazines, newspapers, TV and blogs are chock full of stories about "getting through the holidays stress free." They all talk about obvious things like eating right, exercising, limiting alcohol consumption, staying within a set budget to avoid a financial hangover, etc.

For years I used to roll my eyes at such advice. I mean, really. Limit alcohol consumption? At this time of year? Who comes up with this stuff???

Well, that was before I got sober. And guess what? One of the first things I learned in recovery is a little tactic called "HALT." It's a shorthand reminder never to let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

It's easy to see how all of these can come into play during the holidays -- even for non-alcoholics!! But if you are alcoholic, ignoring self-care can lead to the insanity of the first drink ...and on to serious and ultimately lethal consequences.

#4 Surround yourself with family

No, I'm not talking about parents or siblings or children who push your buttons. But hey, if you enjoy your family of origin, go for it! If you're like most alcoholics, however, family is one giant trigger (or several smaller, but equally painful triggers). Unmet expectations, unresolved resentments, and some bona fide dysfunction can wreak havoc on your already raw nerves.

Luckily, as a sober person, you have a whole other family to retreat to: your recovery family! And guess what? They understand what you're feeling and why. And they don't judge. And they're here for you. Some ideas on tapping into the positive:

1. If you're feeling off balance, go to more meetings . If you normally hit 4 a week, go to 6. If you need to, go to 2 a day.

2. If you can't physically get to a meeting, try online fellowship .

3. Pick up that 100lb. phone. Reach out and check in with others in your sober network .

4. Keep your ear out for sober holiday parties or outings. Be mindful of the "L" in HALT .

5. You're not the first -- or the only -- alcoholic to need a break from your "other" family. Many AA fellowships host alkathons that run around the clock from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day and New Year's Eve through New Year's Day.

Rediscover your joy
Rediscover your joy

#5 Get out of self

I'm not saying this to sound like a Pollyanna or AA cheerleader. I'm saying this because it works. The single most powerful way to stay sober is to be of service.

Even though this is the season of giving, when you're selfish and self-centered (e.g., alcoholic), it's still all about you. In the hustle bustle of the holidays, it's very, very easy to get trapped inside your own head. And that's not a healthy (or safe) place to be.

Whenever I start to spend too much time on my pity pot, I don't have to go far to get knocked off. But I can't do it myself.

If you open your ears, your eyes and your heart, you'll always find someone who's got it worse than you.

"Service" covers a broad spectrum of things. It can be formal, like taking a meeting into a psych ward or jail. Or it can be informal, like welcoming a newcomer or offering someone a ride. Or it can mean spending a little time with someone who needs you.

Remember: The principle of recovery is that to keep it you've got to give it away.

What better gift than a sober you?


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    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey there, my friend. It's been awhile! I have been quite inactive on HP of late.

      It's been long enough for me that pretty much everywhere I go I don't face any questions about my seltzer water.

      I can handle being around people drinking. When anyone crosses over the line, it's time for "self-care" which means getting out of there!

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      5 years ago from New Jersey

      When I stopped drinking, it took years for people to accept it. I think maybe it challenged them to take a look at themselves. I also found if I kept a glass of plain or flavored seltzer in my hands, people would leave me alone. Also, since I read Tarot Cards, I began bringing them to parties, and reading for people. It kept me busy and I learned a lot. Drunk people get tedious. The joke is funny the first time, less so the second time, and by the 10th time you really need to keep busy or escape!

    • sonia05 profile image


      7 years ago from india

      great hub with cool ideas!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, Christine. I hope the "people who may need it" will appreciate them! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. MM

    • ChristineVianello profile image


      7 years ago from Philadelphia

      These are great tips, I plan to share these tips with some people who may need it.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey there swb. Always great to discover a fellow FBW on HP. Thanks for reading and commenting. Happy serentiy. MM

    • swb78 profile image

      Scott Biddulph 

      7 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

      I love this Hub! I am a friend of Bill W. so I can understand the lingo well. Thanks for a great read ! Scott

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, TG.

      We still have people bring wine as hostess gifts as well. Good thing, because I no longer like to spend money on wine to serve guests. LOL!

      Happy NY to you. Slainte. MM

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub MM, funnily enough I got about 8 bottles of red wine from various peeps over Xmas. This was a good read for someone with a problem, thanks for sharing some really good tips and Happy New Year x

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Such a pleasure to know other ODAAT sisters! I agree, these tips are essential in the early days.But you never know when a resentment or wild idea can come into play (especially during the holidays). So always a good idea to have tools at the ready. Thanks so much for visiting! okmom! MM

    • okmom23 profile image

      Donna Oliver 

      7 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      MM, Perfect timing for such an important subject! All of these tips helped me many, many years ago and I still use them "One Day At a Time!" Voted up and useful.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you so much! These tips helped me tremendously in my early sobriety. Happy to pass on what I know works!

      Happy Holidays to you! MM

    • drpastorcarlotta profile image

      Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 

      7 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

      What a wonderful, informational Hub you have written! GREAT tips as well! I LIKE! Voted useful!!!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      You've made my Christmas Eve, sligobay! ALWAYS a pleasure to find kindred "non" spirits here on HP. My millennium wring in was much the same as yours. Pathetic. Going on 7 years for me.

      Wishing you a happy and non-tempting holiday (although sounds like you are safe because you're doing all the right things).

      Slainte has a whole new meaning in recovery, doesn't it?

      Right back atcha! MM

    • sligobay profile image


      7 years ago from east of the equator

      Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy, healthy, sober and prosperous New Year. I've been a friend of Bill's for 25 years but have fallen victim to the Holiday impulse too many times. The last, thank God, was the Millennium party at the turn of the century. How could one miss that party? I was 'alone in my cups' and celebrated with no one.

      That was a long bender that brought me to my knees in six months. The wreckage was complete. Ten years of continuous sobriety and fellowship have afforded the tools necessary to reach the eleventh, one day at a time.

      Glad to be following you Mighty Mom. My worst day sober is better than my best day on the sauce. Slainte!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Oh lyndre, what a double blessing for you! Congratulations on your new grandson! That's a delightful Christmas gift right there! And to be trusted to babysit... that's awesome. I hear that so often from people that their kids wouldn't let them near their own grandkids. That should be a wake up call to us that we're not functioning, but too often even that doesn't make the message sink in!

      So glad you;ve got things sorted out.

      Wishing you a merry and lovely Christmas and Boxing Day! MM

    • lyndre profile image


      7 years ago from Scotland

      Thanks Mighty Mom.Looking forward to xmas with my new grandson(4 weeks old).

      I am babysitting through to boxing day.I remember when they wouldn,t let me watch the dog never mind a baby.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      That is one delightful comment. 500 hubs -- that's amazing! And I especially appreciate the mentions of your holiday hubs. They sound great and I will go check them out. What fun! MM

    • rickzimmerman profile image


      7 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      MM: Great hub for the sobriety-challenged (which includes more than realize it). I am celebrating reaching my 500th Hub with a special holiday greeting to all my followers! May this Festive Season bring you Warmth, Friendship and Happiness, no matter when or how or with whom you celebrate! To add to your holiday merriment, I offer all of my hubs devoted to this time of year: All About Santa; The Polar Bear; Kris Kringle, the College Years; An Alphabetical Christmas; All About the North Pole; Enjoy Reindeer; and, of course, Little-Known Santas No. 1 through No. 17! Enjoy!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi WeNdY -- I think everyone feels better when they don't drink! And with the new tougher DUI laws, it really is the safer way to go.Personally, I just substitute SUGAR for my alcohol these days. Hey -- a girl's gotta have SOME holiday fun, right? All the best to you. I like your Xmas avatar! MM

    • WeNdYpOoPoO profile image


      7 years ago from Hudson Valley NY

      Good Hub to encourage people who are recovering alcoholics and choose not to drink. I know I feel alot better when I donot drink. Merry Christmas

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey thanks, Micky Dee. No wonder you are such a good athlete! MM

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      7 years ago

      Great hub. I never have a hankering for alcohol. Once on a blue Margarita moon.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you for your comment, bettybarnesb! Happy non-alcoholic holidays to you! MM

    • bettybarnesb profile image


      7 years ago from Bartlett, TN

      Very good article. Christians should enjoy it as much as I did.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good advise, good luck to all during the holidays. You fall, you get up, you dust yourself off.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey thanks, kaltopsyd. I can think of a few people I'd like to share this with as well. Fortunately or unfortunately, I no longer spend time with them. People who drink too much (and know they drink too much) are deathly afraid of "catching" alcoholism from people in recovery. LOL. Hope you are able to save someone some embarrassment or a DUI this holiday season! MM

    • kaltopsyd profile image


      7 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      Great hub, great tips! I think I need to share this with a few people. ;) I'm glad I came across it, Mighty Mom! :D Rated up, useful and awesome!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Susie Duzy. It's not a foolproof strategy, but it does take some of the pressure off if you don't want to call attention to your non-drinking self! Hope you have a happy holiday with lots of cool parties!! MM

    • SUSIE DUZY profile image


      7 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      Great tips. It is nice to party and not drink. Unfortunately, if you don't have a drink in your hand, someone is always trying to push one on you. Good idea to make a fake. Takes the pressure off.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello mylife=adventure. Nothing at all wrong with that tradition! It is a nice tradition for 90% of people. For the 10% who are alcoholics, however, getting 'a little tipsy" is disastrous.

      Enjoy your holidays! Cheers! MM

    • mylife=adventure profile image

      Casey Coulter 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin

      I just enjoy drinking on holidays its pretty much a tradition for our whole family to get a little "tipsy" and share all the times we remember together but good post im sure it helped the people who really need it. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Good point, acaentnna. Alcohol is empty calories. However, when I was drinking, I was a lot thinner -- because I would rather have another glass of wine than dessert, often forgot to eat, and exercised compulsively, too.

      Your attitude "I often have water in a wine glass so I don't drink too much alcohol" shows me you are NOT alcoholic. Good for you for being careful and responsible!

      Happy (early) holidays! Mm

    • acaetnna profile image


      7 years ago from Guildford

      Gosh you have done some excellent research here and written a brilliant hub. Apart from the obvious alcohol is so fattening too - all those hidden calories! At a party I often have water in a wine glass just so I don't drink too much alcohol! No one actually realises - they assume I am drinking white wine!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello dear friends. I'm so pleased that non-alkies take time to visit and comment. But I also know that overindulging affects those around us, as well. I hope no one is put in a position of having to clean up after someone else's partying this season.

      Lorlie -- It's just so great to see you back here! MM

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      7 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      MM, this is such a good helpful, filled with lots of really good practical tips and information

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I'll drink to that...! I have no idea of the challenges of sobriety that one may have. I am fortunate to have other challenges. I think everyone has their own challenges and the wisdom is to know how to deal with them....

      Thanks for sharing!

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Hi MM-Wow. I read about 1/2 of this hub, scrolled to the top, and enthusiastically bookmarked it! You've written one of the best articles on sobriety I've ever had the pleasure to read. Somehow you've managed to get into my head that day I chose to drink.

      Even though I 'had my reasons,' I truly wish I'd had this hub printed out-I'd have kept it with me for comfort and strength.

      Thanks again.

    • lmmartin profile image


      7 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Great article full of useful information that we can all use to cut out, cut back, cut down on our alcohol as well as avoid it altogether. Lynda

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello CR. Have missed you. Saw your comment over on Lorlie's hub (just read it tonight -- was unaware).

      Your strategy is a good one. Purists would pooh pooh NA beer, but not me. I'm for whatever floats anyone's boat and keeps them out of trouble! Good point that no one will steal your beer!

      Hope to see more of your writing 'round here.

      Happy holidays, MM

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      7 years ago from St. Louis

      Hi, MM. I think you've written a great piece that will be of help to those trying to stay sober in what must be a very trying time. I know it's not for everybody, but if I go to a party, I take my own non-alcoholic beer with me. No one is offended, and no one steals your beer!


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