The Sober Holidays Q&A

sober holidays feet in front of a fireplace

It is prudent to keep your newly sober holidays low-key, like hot chocolate in front of the fire with your bestie.

If you or a loved one are experiencing your first sober holiday season, you might worry unnecessarily about saying “no thank you” in the “yes please” season. We want to put your concerns to rest by answering some of the questions you are probably asking yourself. One of the difficulties of recovery is saying no to triggering events; addiction is a yes disease. The holiday season, with its obligations and disruption to routine, can mess with one’s resolve. And when you are trying to manage a substance use disorder, the memories and magical moments seem inextricably linked to your previous drug of use.


We are on the holiday home stretch now but don’t worry. We are here to share insights from the therapists at Sanford Behavioral Health on navigating a sober holiday season successfully and with style. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, eating disorders, or co-occurring mental health conditions, don’t wait to change your life – get in touch with Sanford Behavioral Health today by calling 616.202.3326. 


The Sober Holidays Q&A 

1. What do I say if asked what I want to drink by the party host, bartender, or co-worker?

Answer politely. You might look like a reindeer in the headlights for a minute, but tell them what you want, “Club soda, please.” Please stand firm if the host asks WHY or insists on handing you a cocktail. Remember – you do not have to explain or give excuses.


2. What if someone insists I drink, smoke, or use?

This is one of those unfounded fears – it is rare to have someone insist you imbibe. If someone does, however, you are in a triggering situation, and they are probably not your friends. Hightail it out of there. Enjoy the holidays with folks you know and trust.


3. What if I’m at a dinner party, and the server pours me a glass of wine? Or there’s a champagne toast?

You can nip this discomfort in the bud by making a plan beforehand. Could you ask the wait staff to remove your wine glass or fill your toasting glass with sparkling water? At a work event or with folks you don’t feel comfortable with, politely decline and be charming and lively, and no one will notice. If you are new to recovery or do not trust the situation’s safety, you may not be able to attend some gatherings.



4. If I am having a small outdoor get-together, can I ask my guests not to drink?

Sure. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone you knew and loved was sober this holiday? If you are committed to recovery and do not feel you can be around temptation, ask your friends and family to respect your decision to change your life. Ideally, the home you live in is recovery-friendly. But don’t try to have a big bash early in recovery. It is prudent to keep your sober holidays low-key, like hot chocolate in front of the fire with your bestie.


To get the perspective from another angle, click the link below:

christmas table

Dear Rae: Alcohol-Free Holidays? No Fair!

Dear Rae, I just got an email from my aunt saying our cousin (we’ll call him Bill) is in early recovery from addiction and to support him,  she is not allowing any alcohol in her house for the holidays. I have to admit it makes me mad! My aunt is always the center of our [read more…]



5. What if everyone else is getting drunk or high?

This is an excellent question. Those in recovery tend to glance at their watches when the stories start getting repetitive. Nothing is worse than being the only sober person in an intoxicated group unless you are the only newly sober person. If you must be at a raucous party because of work or your significant other, arrive and leave early.


Alone this holiday season? Three words: telephone, video conference, volunteer.


6. What if I get lonely, bored, tired, or start craving?

Here’s the bad news – your first holiday season will probably not be your favorite holiday season to remember. But you will remember it. If you are at a gathering and are bored, tired, or keenly aware of the party punch bowl – go home. Be polite, thank the host, and split. If you are alone this holiday season, three words: telephone, video conference, volunteer. Connect with loved ones during your critical craving times. Or change your routine – go for a walk, join a yoga class, spoon soup at the local community kitchen when you might typically use or drink.


7. What if I am living with (or dating) someone who still indulges in drugs/alcohol?

This is a tricky question, but you can ask for respect and insist that liquor or drugs are not kept in the house. When in recovery, our housemates’ behavior is more acutely noticed. If you are living with or dating someone with a drug or alcohol problem, or if the home front becomes untenable, seek professional help.


8. Should I tell my boss, co-workers, or acquaintances I will be sober this holiday? Should I tell them I have a substance use problem?

That depends on how well you know them (or how obvious your substance use issues have been). Co-workers, friends, and family will probably be happy you have taken control of your life. Disclosing that you are “cutting back” or “not drinking” this holiday can be a good idea to keep you on track. However, being open about a substance use disorder, particularly to a boss or co-worker, might be better observed over time.



9. Should I tell my extended family my holidays will be sober?

These are the people who push your buttons. The folks you would like to impress. However, they should be your closest allies in recovery. At extended family gatherings, tread carefully – listen to your better judgment and follow the family dynamic. Hopefully, your mom or significant other will pave the way.


10. What should I wear?

Exactly. Think about it – you are upright, upstanding, and SOBER this holiday season. You will remember everything. In the mornings, you will feel fabulous and righteous. There are no regrets (except the money spent on that gift to you, a small, well-deserved indulgence). Take the time to congratulate yourself. Revel in it – sobriety is the holiday gift that keeps on giving – year after year!


Sober Holidays Connection

A sponsor, significant other, therapist, or sober companion will be invaluable during the holidays and for years to come. You can create community, connection, and sober friendships online; this is important if you are alone for the holidays. Rely on those you trust, and do not put yourself near the people, places, and things that cause you to feel uncomfortable. Your recovery is the biggest, grandest, and most confetti-worthy thing you’ve done this year!



Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit