By Jennifer McDougall
The holidays are a time of joy and celebration but can also be stressful. When planning to celebrate with family and friends, it’s essential to think about your own needs and those of other people. You might want to continue some traditions you’ve had in the past, but you also may need to adjust them if they don’t work for you anymore – or if they never worked for you in the first place. If alcohol is part of your holiday tradition (or if it used to be), there are many ways to have fun without drinking. Here are ten ideas:
Be honest with your friends and family.
If you have a problem with alcohol, it’s essential, to be honest with your friends and family about it. Please don’t feel like there’s a stigma attached to being sober; it’s something that can bring people closer together. So from here on out, don’t worry about hiding or making up excuses for why you no longer drink alcohol—be open about your sobriety with everyone.
- Talk about how you feel about alcohol in general.
It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about all the bad things that drinking has done for you, but by talking about how much better life is without alcohol, others will see how much happier and healthier they could be. They’ll also understand what it means when someone says, “I’m not drinking tonight.” You’re not simply saying “No thanks,” but explaining why this decision has been made through personal experiences and feelings towards the substance itself.
Plan alternative activities like going to a movie or other event that doesn’t involve drinking.
If you are hosting a get-together or going to one, consider planning alternative activities like going to a movie or other event that doesn’t involve drinking. You can also plan and make arrangements with those most likely to need a sober ride home. Finally, don’t forget to have some non-alcoholic fun! Some ideas include:
- See a comedy show
- Attend a play, musical performance, or concert at your local theater
- Watch movies at home as an alternative way of spending time with family and friends without having alcohol present during the festivities
- Host a sober dinner party with your friends and family.
- Have a game night.
- Bring alcohol-free beverages with you so you have options wherever you go.
- Have a painting night with friends and family.
Create new traditions without alcohol.
- Make a list of the traditions you want to keep and add any others that come to mind.
- Share your lists with your family or friends and discuss how each tradition can be updated to be alcohol-free.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude.
In addition to the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, there are plenty of ways to show gratitude for what you have. Be thankful for what you do have, not just what you want. Focus on the things within your grasp and appreciate them fully—even if they aren’t exactly what you imagined or hoped for.
Let’s start with the obvious: being grateful for sobriety is a great place to start. You can also list everything in your life that you give thanks for each day—your health, job security, family, and friends. Then go deeper into specific areas of gratitude like nature, artistic endeavors, spirituality or religion, or anything else that makes life worth living!
Pay attention to the things you can control, not those you can’t.
There is a difference between what is in your power and what is not. And although it’s important not to dwell on what’s out of your control, it’s equally important to make peace with it. This may sound like sage advice coming from a therapist or coach—and maybe it is—but there are many ways that this concept can be applied in everyday life.
One way: focus on the things that are within our control rather than worrying about those that aren’t. For example, if we want something done at work but don’t have the authority to make change happen ourselves, then perhaps we should focus on talking with others about their concerns too, so collectively, we have enough clout for them to do something about it.
Remember what’s most important about your holiday traditions, and build on that foundation.
Holidays are a time of joy and celebration. But they can also be stressful, especially if you’re trying to figure out how to make things work without alcohol.
The holidays can also bring up guilt, as many people feel like they’re letting down their loved ones by not drinking or participating in activities that involve drinking with everyone else. That’s why it’s important to build on what you love about your traditions instead of trying to recreate them in an entirely new and healthy way. Here are some ideas for doing that:
- Focus on the people who matter most to you this holiday season, not the things or activities that have always been part of your tradition. You may have had a tradition of going out with friends after work every Friday night before Thanksgiving, but if that means spending less time with loved ones, try something else. Invite your family to your house for dinner instead or a nice walk outside where you can have conversations and catch up on each other’s lives.
- Focus on values rather than traditions themselves—what do these celebrations mean? What do they teach our children? How will we use those lessons in other aspects of life? All too often, we come home from travel exhausted and only want “one” more thing before bed each night (that usually turns into two more things). As adults, we get caught up looking forward because there’s so much excitement around being able to do whatever we want whenever we want; however, parents, remember that kids need structure during this chaotic time too. Kids need to know what’s expected of them and why they’re expected to do what they’re supposed to do.
Don’t overdo it! Take care of yourself and get plenty of sleep and rest.
Practice more self-care during the holidays so you can enjoy the season with less pressure. Try to take time for yourself to exercise, get a massage, or enjoy a long bath with scented candles. Self-care can also include eating healthy meals, taking your vitamins, and not drinking alcohol. Get plenty of rest and exercise to avoid the holiday blues. It’s also important to soak up the sun during the winter months as much as possible to boost your mood and keep your immune system strong.
Another big part of self-care is setting boundaries. This is the best way to maintain balance and avoid getting into situations where you feel overwhelmed and burnt out. Having strong boundaries allows you to protect your energy and have the freedom to enjoy your life without feeling obligated to the demands others put on you or try to take advantage of you. Having boundaries also help you stay more focused and avoid distractions. This is especially important when maintaining sobriety and avoiding relapse.
Reach out to a friend or family member who’s sober or in recovery for support.
They might be able to help you identify your triggers, which can help you heal and experience lasting sobriety. Who you surround yourself with can greatly impact your ability to cope and find peace. The holidays can be especially challenging regarding peer pressure and temptations.
Your support team may also be able to offer insight into how they dealt with past holidays that were especially challenging for them. If you’re struggling with alcohol-free traditions and want to keep yourself accountable, consider reaching out to a friend who has been sober for a while and ask them what they did during past holiday seasons that helped them stay on track.
Focus on giving back to others in need during this special season of giving.
Many people find it easier to focus on themselves during the holidays and forget that some don’t have as much as them. If you want to make sure that your holiday spirit goes beyond yourself, consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or shelter, donating to a charity (your local animal shelter is always looking for help), helping out a friend or neighbor in need, doing something nice for someone else—or simply giving back to your community.
There are many ways to make holidays special without alcohol.
- There are many ways to make holidays special without alcohol.
- Focus on the things you can control, not those you can’t.
- Remember what’s most important about your holiday traditions, and build on that foundation.