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November 18, 2021
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9 Practical Ideas for Alcohol-Free Holidays

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For better or worse, alcohol has been part of group celebrations since antiquity. People who don’t drink that much the rest of the year may feel that they could let loose a bit when the year-end holidays roll around.1,2,3

While this is not usually a problem for people, individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD) may feel unusual social pressure to drink during the holidays and other special occasions. If a person with AUD has not sufficiently recovered, even a single drink can trigger a serious risk of relapse.1,2,3

Additionally, they may not realize that their tolerance for alcohol has reduced since they began recovery. This creates a dangerous risk of alcohol poisoning for individuals that have not fully recovered from an AUD.1

However, not being able to participate in important social events like the holidays can also bring its own acute risks. This means that affected individuals must have a healthy way of celebrating these important occasions.

If you’re in the process of recovering from an AUD, we have some practical ideas that can help you enjoy a sober holiday season. Call our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers to find AUD treatment options throughout the New England Area.

1.) Celebrate Your Sobriety

Most holidays can have whatever meaning you give them. By consciously choosing to celebrate sobriety, you may be able to further strengthen your ability to deal with relapse triggers that come your way.

2.) Try Not to Feel Bad About Not Following Tradition

Relapse triggers are different from person to person. While isolation may be a key trigger for some people, others might find that seeing certain people like family members or friends that enabled alcohol misuse are worse risks. In the latter cases, it may be wise to stay in or to choose to celebrate at a place where triggers are lessened or easier to manage.

3.) Organize a Sober Holiday Party

Arranging the get-together yourself makes it easier to reduce the odds of relapse. You can make your get-together dry or allow guests to bring their own alcohol for their consumption. Whatever arrangement you’re comfortable with, the choice is yours.

4.) Engage in Creative Activities

Not having alcohol as a fallback for celebrations may encourage you to lean into the parts of the holidays that don’t involve heavy drinking. These can be opportunities to exercise your creativity. You can express this creativity through decorations, food, or themed parties, just to name a few. Creating alcohol-free mocktails can also be a way for you to creatively commit to sobriety during this time, as well.

5.) Celebrate With Your Group Therapy Buddies

If you have friends from group therapy, you can try to organize a simple get-together to celebrate the holidays and the successes you’ve all had at maintaining sobriety. If you don’t have a group, you could try to get in touch with friends who have been positive influences through your recovery journey.

6.) Bring Alcohol-free Beverages to Other Parties

If you’ve been invited to a party or gathering where there is likely to be booze, ask the host if you could bring along some alcohol-free options. Most hosts would probably be happy to allow it. The non-alcoholic options are also likely to be appreciated, especially by those who’ll need to drive back home, later on.

7.) Avoid Being Too Isolated

As we mentioned earlier, isolation can be a serious relapse trigger for many recovering individuals. Even if you stay in, it’s usually important to at least do something related to the holidays, preferably with people you care about. That way, you can still affirm that you are part of the wider community, preventing more serious feelings of loneliness and isolation.

8.) Create a Holiday Relapse Prevention Plan

Knowing that the holidays can trigger relapses allows you to better prepare for them. If meeting with family members, traveling, or other common holiday activities is likely to cause you to drink more than you want, planning ahead can make it easier to avoid or mitigate cravings.

9.) Practice Gratitude

Most holidays are an excellent time to practice gratitude. Actively practicing gratitude can prime your brain for happiness and make it easier to resist cravings related to holiday depression and anxiety. It can also help you better contextualize your recovery gains, possibly helping your commitment to sobriety.

Find Help for AUD in Boston, MA

If you think that you or someone you’re close to has problems with maintaining sobriety, our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers is ready to help. Call (857) 577-8193 to discuss your options for personalized continuing care for AUD.


  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2020, December).The Truth About Holiday Spirits.
  2. Neighbors, C., Atkins, D. C., Lewis, M. A., Lee, C. M., Kaysen, D., Mittmann, A., … & Rodriguez, L. M. (2011). Event-specific drinking among college students. Psychology of addictive behaviors, 25(4), 702.
  3. Lai, F. Y., Bruno, R., Hall, W., Gartner, C., Ort, C., Kirkbride, P., … & Mueller, J. F. (2013). Profiles of illicit drug use during annual key holiday and control periods in Australia: wastewater analysis in an urban, a semi‐rural and a vacation area. Addiction, 108(3), 556-565.

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