Updated on March 28, 2024
3 min read

Stay Sober During the Holidays: Strategies and Support

The holidays are usually a fun, magical time, but for people in recovery, it can feel overwhelming. They may feel loaded with potential triggers and stress due to parties or family gatherings.

If you’re struggling to get through the holidays while staying sober, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are various ways to handle stressful situations and communicate openly with your loved ones.

How to Stay Sober During the Holidays

The holidays can make it tough to stay sober, especially with all the parties and get-togethers where there's usually alcohol around. It can also be stressful and carry a lot of social pressure.

We understand how hard you’ve worked to stay sober, so here are some tips to help you through the holidays: 

  • Plan Ahead: Make plans to handle potential triggers by having a getaway plan, bringing your own drinks, etc.
  • Practice self-care: Keep up with healthy habits like eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising to reduce stress
  • Have a support system: Contact your loved ones, therapist, or sponsor for guidance; you can also keep in touch with your support group
  • Stay mindful: Practice mindfulness techniques to stay grounded with your thoughts and feelings to manage triggers or cravings
  • Avoid triggers: Steer clear of any events, people, or places that may trigger you
  • Create new traditions: Start fresh, sober traditions together with loved ones
  • Set Boundaries: Don’t be afraid to say “no” to drinking nights and other events that can jeopardize your sobriety
  • Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to ask for support, especially when you feel overwhelmed or stressed 

If you feel like you need extra support, there are various resources online that can help. Consider using SAMHSA’s National Helpline for resources and information.

How to Talk to Loved Ones About Staying Sober

Although these tips can be helpful, family can sometimes be the biggest challenge when staying sober during the holidays. It’s important to have open and honest communication to make this season enjoyable and safe. 

Here’s how:

  • Be honest about your sobriety to temper expectations.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to tell your family and loved ones about your needs.
  • Aside from saying no to drinks, explain to your loved ones what’s off-limits for you and ask them to respect your needs.
  • Your loved ones may feel frustrated that they can’t do certain activities, so suggest alternative activities or drinks.
  • Let someone in your family be your sober buddy at gatherings, or have them on call if you need encouragement.
  • Explain what recovery looks like for you and answer their questions regarding sobriety.
  • Decide beforehand how much you're comfortable sharing and have simple answers ready if asked about your sobriety.
  • Your recovery comes first, and It's okay to step away from situations or leave events early if needed.

Remember to show your gratitude. Letting your family know how much you appreciate their support can be fulfilling and encouraging.

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How To Set Boundaries With Your Loved Ones

Even with the best communication, setting boundaries with family can still be challenging. But it’s important to let them know what you need to feel comfortable during the holidays.

Be upfront with your family about your limits. Whether it's no alcohol around you, needing to leave an event early, or avoiding specific topics of conversation, be specific and clear.

Lastly, it’s important to be firm but compassionate about your boundaries. Put your foot down regarding things you don’t want to do but be nice about. 

What To Expect After Setting Boundaries

Sometimes, even well-meaning family won't understand your boundaries. Be ready for some pushback and address them calmly. 

Use “I” statements like "I feel uncomfortable when..." or "I'd prefer..." to clearly communicate needs without unnecessary drama. Most importantly, avoid accusatory or judgemental language.

Finally, you don’t have to please everyone. Your feelings and boundaries are important. If someone pushes your boundaries, don’t feel bad about stepping away or leaving the situation altogether.

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Updated on March 28, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on March 28, 2024
  1. SAMHSA’s National Helpline.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 
  2. Melemis S. “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery.” Yale J Biol Med, 2015.
  3. Inks, K. “How to Set Boundaries with Family During Holidays.” Bustle.com, 2022.
  4. Kuta, S. “7 Tips for Setting Boundaries with Family Over the Holidays, According to Therapists.” Apartment therapy, 2022.
  5. Ellis, S. “10 Realistic Ways To Set Boundaries With Others During The Holidays.” Huff Post, 2021. 
  6. McCallen et al. “Setting Boundaries With Family Can Be Uncomfortable. So We Asked A Therapist How To Do It.” The Skimm, 2022.

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