Holiday Survival Guide

Holidays can be difficult for sober people, or people struggling to get or stay sober.

Now is a good time to prepare. 

We thought we'd share some tips. You can not only survive the holidays, you can enjoy them. All you need to do is plan ahead. Please add your own in the comments below; this is by no means a comprehensive list:

  • Think ahead. Is it hard for you to be around alcohol? Be honest with yourself. Now is not a time for heroics. Keep your expectations realistic: if it is going to be too difficult, maybe this year is a time to do something different this year. Don't set yourself up to fail. You can spend a quiet time at home watching movies or hanging out with other friends, volunteer at a shelter serving food, or go to a meeting instead.

  • Holidays are usually about family. If there are people in your family who trigger you, be ready. You don't have to go to every fight you're invited to .. plan what you'll say or do if someone gives you a hard time.

  • Have safe people to call - program their numbers into your phone in advance, and tell them you're going to call if things get tough. If everyone around you is drinking and it starts to bring you down, talking to someone else who is sober helps you remember that you are NOT alone.

  • Bring your own beverages. This is especially important if you're going to be around people who don't know you're sober. If you always have a drink in your hand, people won't hand you alcohol or ask if you want something to drink.

  • You don't have to over explain. If someone is pressuring you to drink, be ready with an answer. A white lie is totally acceptable - tell people you're on antibiotics, or you're watching your calories and so you aren't drinking.

  • Have an escape plan. If you can, bring your own car. Plan to go for a post-turkey walk - fresh air and exercise will get your endorphins flowing and help tamp down cravings.

  • Plan your exit in advance. If everyone is going to settle in and drink and you don't want to be part of it ... don't. Tell whoever is hosting that you have to leave at a certain time so you don't get drawn in to staying longer than you want to.

  • Remember to be proud of yourself - shame and guilt are huge triggers. Give yourself credit for staying strong.

  • Think about the next morning, when you'll wake up hangover-free and rested. Think about how horribly you felt the morning after drinking, and how sober you don't wake up and think, "I wish I drank last night."

  • Think through the drink. If you start romancing how nice "one drink" would be, remember how many times you told yourself you were only going to have one and failed. Having one is harder than having none, because once alcohol is in your system the obsession comes alive.

  • Remind yourself the holidays don't last forever, and each holiday is a simple 24 hours, just like any other day. Don't put more importance on this day over any other.

  • Go to bed. If the day is harder than you expected, go to bed early just to put the day to rest. Tomorrow is a new day.

  • Believe in yourself. Getting sober and staying sober takes serious guts - you are brave and strong and true. If guilt, shame and remorse start talking to you, remind yourself that it's your disease sneaking in the back door. Let your sober voice ring loud and proud in your head.

  • Forgive yourself for wanting to drink. Don't expect that you won't be hit with a craving; it's natural. Prepare for how you're going to handle the craving instead of berating yourself for having one.

  • Be grateful.  Make a gratitude list and carry it with you. Try to focus on the gifts you have in your life, all the possibilities that lie in front of you, instead of all the things you can't have. Sober, you can do anything.

Please add more thoughts and ideas in the comments; we want to hear from you. Addiction thrives in the dark, and together we bring the light. 

You are not alone.


  1. Thank you!!! My name is Debbie and I have been reading here for awhile. I am 2yrs, 2 mo and 25 days sober. I am obviously very happy about those days...yet very realistic that I am just one drink away from the madness and darkness if I take a drink. The holidays are tough and this article helped. If anyone needs an encouraging me ( are not alone!!!

  2. I come to this page every now and then and this is a now. Such a well done piece. Thank you for keeping it up. To add a suggestion to why one is not drinking…. I had a counsellor suggest "maybe later" and this generally satisfies people.

  3. Thanks so much for the great list, I am only 18 days without drinking and an Very worried about the holiday season. Reading this made me realize I can skip the parties and go home and go to sleep early. I hope to be able to log in here on Jan 1 and say I made it through

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  5. I remind myself of those past experiences when I was drunk and wished I wasn't . I never want to be drunk again and it used to sneak up on me

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