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Staying sober through the holidays can be a big ask even for those not in recovery. People who drink just occasionally consume three times more alcohol than normal over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Needless to say, people in recovery feel the pressure too, but staying sober is totally doable. Here’s some tips for a sober thanksgiving!

Be prepared & realistic

It’s important to understand that discomfort is a part of life. Unfortunately drinking for many of us is how we coped. We will find ourselves triggered but it’s how we react to the triggers that matters. Having sober friends on speed dial is always a good idea, and taking breaks outside for some air can relieve some pressure. It’s also a good idea to have an escape plan when things are getting too uncomfortable. Allowing people to know before hand that you’re sober and may find it difficult is one way of dealing with the issue. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, then explaining you may have to leave early to feed your cat or pick a friend up is also an option. Getting to a meeting before the gathering can definitely keep you grounded. And don’t forget that run marathon meetings all day and night during holiday season to offer support wherever you are.

Bring your own

If you’re heading to a gathering of family and friends, you already know that some of them will be drinking alcohol. It’s best not to assume, even if they know you are sober, that they will have thought to provide non-alcoholic drinks for you. It’s easier to take your own so you feel safe in the knowledge you’re not being left out. Likewise, when it comes to toasts, make sure you have a drink in your hand already. It’s also easier to already have a drink than to have to explain that you’re not drinking.

Finding acceptance

Especially in the first few years, not drinking at holiday time can feel a little like you’re missing out. There is a certain kind of grief about leaving your old life behind, regardless of how chaotic your drinking may have been. We tend to retain the memories of the good parts of our drinking days when surrounded by others who are inebriated. But don’t be fooled. Remember there’s a reason you’re not drinking now and it’s usually never because you had fun and could control your behaviour! Holiday get-togethers are different now and if you want to remain sober, will continue to be. Which leads me to my next point.

Making new traditions

This can be tough if your family already has decades old traditions, but you can still make your own so you have something to look forward to. There’s always the option to get together with other sober friends before or after you family event. It’s also okay to just not go to family events if you feel your sobriety is threatened by alcohol being around or family behaviours. Looking after yourself first is totally acceptable and necessary.

Making changes in any part of your life for the better takes some getting used to. If you’ve lived a long time in chaos due to problem drinking peace, can feel strange at first. You may feel bored and unsure what to do with yourself. However, stick with it. Bit by bit your life will become all you could have wished for and your dedication will pay off. Things like Thanksgiving and Christmas will become a breeze and you will approach them with new eyes and enthusiasm.

Happy Thanksgiving!






  1. A few suggestions about having a non-alcoholic drink at a party or other event where others are drinking alcohol (assuming you feel comfortable being there in the first place):
    •Make sure you hang on to your own drink. If you don’t, you might accidentally pick up someone else’s drink containing alcohol.
    •If at all possible, make your own or get it from the bar yourself. Then there won’t be any mistakes.
    •Sometimes people, especially those who have a drinking problem themselves, can be pretty curious about what you’re drinking, and even offended if you’re not drinking alcohol. Already having a glass in your hand generally alleviates the issue. I’ve used plain orange juice with plenty of ice. Problematic people like that assumed I was drinking a screwdriver and no questions were asked.
    •At a dinner party or a wedding where the wine is flowing freely, turning your unused wine glass upside down signals to the server that you’re not interested, and they’ll pass you by without comment.
    •If there’s a champagne toast at midnight on New Year’s Eve, ginger ale in a champagne flute looks identical to the “real thing”.

    Have a happy, safe and sober holiday!

  2. Geraldine buck Reply

    ThNk you for the information about keeping sober at thanksgiving and Christmas, I am in recover for 3.5 years now, it took a while for me to get the peace in my life whilst not drinking alcohol. Getting sober wax the very best thing I have done in my life, I have sometimes counted the hours when times were really tough, I always attend meetings and stay in touch with other alcoholics, this helps me to remember how precious my sobriety is and how hard I worked to achieve it, if anyone is struggling with alcohol just reach out for help as soon as you do this you will feel so much better, please remember that it’s the first drink that gets you drunk, I don’t have money or property but I have the family I lost because of my drinking and I can honestly say that I have a sober life beyond my wildest dreams
    Much love from a very grateful alcoholic.

  3. On 1-28-2023 I will be sober 43 years. ONE DAY AT A TIME.


  4. Last February12th I celebrated 40 years of sobriety. I am always vigilant around lots of people drinking, but I can honestly say that it really does not cross my mind in a troublesome way. We have a huge family on both sides and sometimes ask many as 30 for dinner and they all drink !!!!

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