Whether you’re newly sober or have earned plenty of coins, you’re probably not surprised to learn that many non-drinkers report the holidays as the toughest time of year. The fact of the matter is that the holiday season brings on a whole new set of triggers we don’t experience at other times of year. Not only do the big parties and celebrations provide temptation, but there’s also family expectations, work stress and travel, all things that can cause us to want to drink.
Should You Still Go to the Holiday Party?
Holiday parties are an especially common trigger for people who don’t drink. But should you skip them all together? Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. Each person is an individual with their own comfort levels, and it’s perfectly OK to abstain or engage based on yours this season.
If you’re just getting comfortable with the idea of abstaining from alcohol, it’s natural for avoidance to be your first response. And here’s the thing: that’s totally healthy and a legitimate coping mechanism. If skipping the festivities is the best way for you to avoid drinking, don’t feel shame or guilt for doing so. Prioritizing your health and well-being is always the right answer, even if it means disappointing friends and family.
On the other hand, if you feel like you can be a part of the usual celebrations without too much distress, you should go to the party and enjoy the benefits of socializing and catching up with friends. Doing small things like bringing along a six pack of non-alcoholic craft beer or getting a group together to play a board game can help. Below we have outlined a few more helpful tips that will make sober mingling a bit more bearable.
Ways to Make Sober Mingling More Enjoyable
When you’re sober, you have to rethink the way you do a lot of things, including talking with friends and strangers. The reality is that, in the moment, alcohol makes you friendlier and less anxious, which can help you open up and feel more relaxed in a group. But we all know that comes at a cost! Here are a few things that will make you feel as confident and conversational as ever when mingling without booze.
- Sip a Fancy Mocktail — Walking around the party with a drink in hand will make you feel more relaxed and will help suppress the urge to head up to the bar and order a drink. If you were always a cocktail-lover, bring the fixins’ for a fancy mocktail. Starting with some non-alcoholic sparkling rosé, you can whip up super festive holiday mocktails and share with friends.
- Bring Your Own Beverage — BYOB means something totally different now that you’re sober, but that doesn’t mean you should show up empty handed. If you’re not into mocktails, bring a bottle of alcohol-free champagneor some non-alcoholic beer. Side note: alcohol-free beer has come a long way since the days when O’Doul’s was the only option. These days, you’ll find flavorful non-alcoholic IPA, weisse beer, lager, stout and more to suit your preferences. A big tumbler of ice water or sparkling water works, too.
- Be Up-Front About Your Sobriety — Sharing your sober journey with others not only helps keep you accountable, but it also helps you connect with others and ward off peer pressure. When you’re mingling with new and old friends, make sure to mention that you’re cutting back or quitting drinking. Explain why you have made this decision and present it firmly so they know it’s not up for debate. Be sure to emphasize that you don’t judge others for drinking, but that this was the right decision for you.
- Bring Along a Distraction — Many newly sober people find it challenging when drinking and socializing are the main activities on the agenda. But introducing a new element of fun can help distract you from your cravings and help you mingle with new groups of people. Bring along a board game, a video game or a deck of cards and gather a group to play.
- Bring a Treat to Share — We’re not saying you should replace drinking with food — in fact, when you’re just getting sober, keeping a healthy diet is extra important — but give yourself a little extra room for error this time of year. The egg nog, Christmas cookies and hot cocoa are even tougher to resist when you’re already struggling with sobriety. Bringing along a special treat to share is a good way to break the ice and spur conversation that doesn’t center around drinking.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Leave Early — In your early days of sobriety, you may find it difficult to be around people who are drinking, especially in the later hours of the evening when the crowd is drunk. Give yourself permission to leave before things get rowdy and don’t beat yourself up for making this decision. While it might make you feel bored, the reality is that it’s a decision you’re making to take yourself out of a potentially harmful situation.
- Get Curious and Ask Questions — Many people consider alcohol a “social lubricant” and something that helps them open up and engage with others more easily. But the reality is that we should all be working on our sober conversation skills, as it can help us grow in work, dating and making friends. Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know others as you mingle during holiday parties. Make sure to ask a lot of questions, actively listen to peoples’ answers and chat with people who give you the same respect.
If you do decide to engage in the festivities this year, the best thing you can do is prepare yourself beforehand. Whether that be by stocking up on alcohol-free beverages to bring along or by boning up on your sober conversation skills, the result is the same — you’ll enjoy your time spent socializing and won’t have to deal with the repercussions the morning after.