5 Things To Expect During Your First Sober Family Holiday

The first year of sobriety can be an emotional rollercoaster. It may feel especially difficult to stay sober during the holidays. For most people, balancing holiday events, family gatherings, and many responsibilities, along with added financial pressure can make it tempting to use, especially if you’re newly sober. But you can fight back against these triggers and emotions. To ensure you achieve a sober family holiday, not just this year, but every year be ready for these five things.

1) Expect to Be a Little Uncomfortable

As you’ve probably learned in addiction treatment, you need to be comfortable in social situations without using drugs or alcohol. Between holiday parties, visits to family, and other social responsibilities, you may inevitably enter situations in which people are drinking. These may initially be a bit uncomfortable, and it might be hard to relax without having a drink.

To begin with, fewer people drink than you realize. Only 55% of adults report drinking alcohol in any given month. Take a look around, and you’ll see fewer people drinking than you would have expected. 

It’s okay to feel a little uncomfortable in any situation at first, especially during the first stage of recovery. You may feel it with close friends and family. Remember, you’ve been invited. People want you to be there. Just relax and enjoy the moment. The more normal and relaxed you are, the more relaxed everybody else will be.

Additionally, if you need a little extra support, ask a family member or friend to keep an eye on you to help in these situations.

Take your first step towards recovery.

2) Expect for People to Ask Why You’re Not Drinking

family not drinking on holidays - illustration
family not drinking on holidays

If you were a big social drinker in the past, people will likely notice that you aren’t partaking. Someone may even offer you a drink. For the best results, have a response prepared. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t owe anyone an explanation and it’s up to you whether you share your truth or not. Only discuss your story if you’re comfortable. 

If you don’t want to provide any details, you can say that you’re the designated driver, trying to be healthier, or not feeling well. Responses like these are rarely argued with and people may respect you for your decision to stay sober. Most people will accept your answer and move on. 

3) Expect to Feel Stressed

It doesn’t matter who you are; the holidays are stressful. There’s just so much going on and often not enough time to do it. It’s okay to feel stressed out, but don’t let this be an excuse for you to abuse drugs or alcohol.  After all, you’re looking to achieve long-term sobriety. 

Instead, take time for yourself, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. Listen to how you are feeling and reach out to your sponsor and support network. Keep up with your self-care practices. When you’re feeling healthy, it will make it that much easier to stay on the right path. 

4) Expect to Feel and Be Tempted

You might be exposed to several triggers at the same time during the holidays. For example, you may spend time with stressful friends or family members and return to places you used to drink. During early recovery, it’s normal to wish things could be different. 

Having these thoughts doesn’t mean you’ve failed. What’s more important is how you handle them. Don’t just say “I deserve to drink” or “It’s the holidays”. Always remember your priority is relapse prevention. 

Instead, create a plan for how you will handle potentially triggering environments. You may need to reach out to your sponsor, leave early, or avoid certain events. That’s fine. What’s most important is that you don’t do something you’ll later regret. 

5) Know That It Gets Easier

happy family - illustration
happy family

During your first sober family holiday, it may be hard to believe that things will get easier. But they do. The first year of sobriety is challenging, and the holiday may present the toughest triggers 

You need to stay grounded and remind yourself about the progress you’ve made. Remember the things you enjoy about the holiday season and what you’re thankful for that have nothing to do with substance use. 

When you feel stressed, focus on these reasons to help you stay fully present. Once you do this, you’ll be able to manage your feelings not just during the holiday season but at any time of year.  

Sober Family Holidays: Essential Tips

It’s possible to enjoy sober family holidays. Just follow these tips from our professional care team

  • Manage your expectations. We set high standards for ourselves and our loved ones during the holidays. Don’t be too hard on yourself for feeling stressed or tempted. 
  • Create new traditions. This is a fresh start for you. Instead of partaking in triggering old holiday traditions, make new ones to enjoy with your friends and family. 
  • Keep in touch with your support network. This is the most stressful time of year for many people. Stay connected to your support system during this time. It will not only benefit you but may help other people in recovery.
  • Make a plan. You may now be sober, but other family members may still drink. If the presence of alcohol is a trigger, have a plan in place to help. You can reach out to your support network, attend a meeting, or exit events early. Do what you need to stay sober. 



What should I tell my family about my sobriety before the holiday?

It’s important to communicate openly with your family about your sobriety. Explain that you are committed to staying sober and may need their support and understanding. You can also share any specific boundaries or requests you have, such as avoiding alcohol at family gatherings.

How can I handle cravings during a family holiday?

Handling cravings can be challenging, especially during a holiday. Have a plan in place, such as bringing non-alcoholic beverages, practicing deep breathing exercises, or stepping outside for fresh air. It can also be helpful to have a trusted friend or sponsor you can call if you feel overwhelmed.

What activities can I suggest that don’t involve alcohol?

Suggest activities that don’t center around alcohol, such as playing board games, going for a walk, cooking together, or watching a movie. Engaging in activities that promote bonding and interaction can help shift the focus away from alcohol.

How do I respond if someone offers me a drink?

It’s helpful to prepare a polite but firm response in advance. You could say something like, ‘No thank you, I’m not drinking tonight,’ or ‘I’m staying sober and focusing on my health.’ Most people will respect your decision if you are clear and confident.

What should I do if I start feeling overwhelmed?

If you start feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to take a step back. Find a quiet space to relax, practice mindfulness or deep breathing, or call a friend or support group member. Remember, it’s okay to leave early if you need to prioritize your well-being.



If You Are Considering Rehab

More than anything, patients need to know that they will receive the best possible care. It’s important to remember that the care you need today may be different from the care you need tomorrow. There are many types of therapy available at Ridgeview Behavioral Hospital, so reach out if you need assistance in the Middle Point, Ohio area.

Call (419) 949-8590 to speak with one of our treatment specialists and learn more about our programs. Take our 😍 Mental Health Assessment or our 🧐 Addiction Test.

Related Posts

Call Now