Tips For Smoothly Attending a Holiday Party While in Recovery

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two women exchanging holiday gifts next to Christmas tree

The holiday season is a time for celebration and reconnecting with family and friends. Whether you get invited to a holiday work function or family party, it’s safe to assume that the event will have alcohol. If you’re someone in recovery, this may sound nerve-racking, but there is no need for alarm as long as you have a plan in place. Below are some tips for navigating these social situations and dealing with surprises.


What You Can Do to Prepare for the Holiday Festivity  

Decide if the Party is Right for You – For individuals in recovery, it’s important that sobriety remains your top priority as the end of the year approaches. Before sending that RSVP to the holiday party, be honest with yourself. Think about what triggered you in the past. Ask yourself if this situation could bring you way out of your comfort zone. If this event is at a rowdy bar with people drinking, will you be comfortable attending?

Find a Sober Buddy to Join You at the Party – Reach out to a friend, family member, or your sponsor and ask them to come to the event with you. Ensure that it’s someone you trust and can rely on when things seem like they can get out of hand. If no one is available to attend, then come up with a list of people to call when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or need extra support.

Make the Host Aware of Your Sobriety – Letting the host know ahead of time about your abstinence can help them better accommodate your needs. It’s possible they’ll put out non-alcoholic drinks for you or just decide against serving alcohol altogether. And if you need to head home early or take a walk outside, then the host will already be aware.

Connect Regularly With Your Support System – Especially for people in early recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other fellowship meetings are useful for remaining grounded in and focused on your sobriety. By attending as many as your schedule allows, you can connect with others facing similar experiences during this holiday season and keep yourself accountable. On the day of actual holidays, there are often marathon meetings, or “alcathons,” that occur throughout the entire day. If you can’t find a local in-person meeting, join a virtual meeting. There are many happening around the clock and across the country.

Plan to Bring a Favorite Alcohol-Free Drink – Sometimes you are unsure if the host will be serving other beverages besides alcoholic drinks. If you feel uncomfortable asking, then perhaps you can bring an alternative like a seltzer, juice, soda, or an artisanal non-alcoholic beverage for you to enjoy and share with others. Have a drink in hand at all times so no one tries to offer you anything you don’t want.

How to Safely Enjoy Yourself During the Holiday Event

Have an Exit Strategy for Tricky Situations – Although you might feel confident and ready to attend the holiday party, it’s important to keep in mind that you might encounter unexpected bumps along the way. Be prepared by having a plan for these uncomfortable situations.

During the party, you could be met with surprises, like a nosy guest or family member. They may ask, “What have you been up to? Haven’t heard from you in a while.” If your struggle with addiction is private to you, then these conversations may stir up feelings of shame, guilt, and anger, especially for those newly in recovery. There is no need for you to talk about any subject that makes you uncomfortable.  Respond with a general answer, “Nothing much. Just been taking some time for myself.” With talk of mental health being more commonplace, this won’t seem unusual to most people. Similarly, if you get to the party and decide to leave, you don’t owe an elaborate explanation to anyone. Politely thank the host and head home.

Carry a Meaningful Recovery Token that Reminds You of Your Sobriety – When you’re feeling a moment of weakness, step outside and look at an object that reminds you of why you’re sober. It could be an AA coin or a picture of a loved one who’s supporting you through your recovery journey or a loved one who you need to be sober for.

Communicate with Your Sober Buddy Throughout the Night – Come up with a signal that you can use when you’re feeling anxious. Perhaps someone opens a bottle of liquor at the table and starts pouring drinks for everyone. If that is something you’d rather avoid, your buddy will know to keep an eye out for your signal and be ready to interrupt and free you from those types of stressful situations. If a friend or relative couldn’t join you, step outside throughout the night and call people that you know can help you refocus on your priorities.

Participate in Fun Party Activities – There are many ways to enjoy the holidays without having the celebration center around alcohol. Take the initiative to turn up the music and get everyone dancing or start a board game. Board games bring people physically and mentally together and keep the conversations focused on something other than drinking. Another option could be to help in the kitchen. While everyone is out in the living room partying, you can still be actively participating by helping the host with whatever needs to be cooked or cleaned.

What to Do After Leaving a Holiday Party

Check-In with the Recovery Community – If you didn’t get a chance to attend a fellowship meeting before the party, it would be a great opportunity for you to stop by a meeting afterward. If you had a successful day, be sure to share your win with others who will definitely appreciate your achievement. You can inspire them with your experience and give advice on what helped you. In doing so, you reinforce all the positive strides you are making in your recovery. If meetings aren’t for you, then reach out to your closest loved ones to talk about your experience.

Make Time for Your Self-Care – Reward yourself for making it through the night by working through triggers. If you felt a little uneasy at any point, that’s okay. The most important thing to remind yourself is that you didn’t pick up a drink and you remained committed to your sobriety. When you get home, do whatever you normally do to unwind. Practicing self-care is an essential part of living a healthy and fulfilling life free from drugs or alcohol.

With careful planning and keeping sobriety in mind, you can have fun at any holiday event that comes your way.


If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help. Call 888 (833) 4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.