November and December could easily be considered the most alcohol-infused pair of months for the entire year. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve all nearly within the same month, the holiday season makes for an alcohol-heavy time of year. TIME Magazine, among many others, report New Year’s Eve as one of the most booze-fueled holidays of the year. Millions of people worldwide ring in the new year with bottles of champagne. Bars overflow with joyful people creating resolutions, promising a more productive year starting January 1. It is sobering to find out, though, that 58 percent of traffic-related deaths on New Year’s involve or are a result of a drunk driver. Compared to 28 percent of traffic-related deaths involving a drunk driver during the rest of the year, the rate on New Year’s is alarmingly high.
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Staying Sober During New Year’s – How Do You Do It?
With alcohol seemingly everywhere you turn on New Year’s Eve, how can you stay sober during the holiday? Unless they are also sober, parties held by friends and family are more than likely to provide alcohol. The holidays are a difficult time of year for anyone in recovery, even for those who have multiple years or decades of sobriety. The idea that just one glass of champagne as a toast with friends or family could be safe has likely crossed the mind of every alcoholic at some point. When you are new in recovery, especially if it is your first New Year’s Eve sober, it might seem like an impossible feat. However, those with years of sobriety are living proof that it’s possible to stay sober during any and every holiday of the year. How can you stay sober on New Year’s Eve? Read the following tips to help give you an idea of how you can get through the night without taking a drink.
1. Host a sober New Year’s Eve party.
If you have the ability to, host a sober New Year’s Eve party. Rather than going out to parties that will most likely have alcohol, host your own booze-free party. Invite friends and family who you know will not mind spending the night sober. It’s even better if they are friends who are also in recovery. Keeping the guest list small ensures less of a chance of someone going against your alcohol-free party. Converse with each other, play board games, or watch a movie. Buy bottles of sparkling apple cider, make non-alcoholic versions of your favorite cocktails. Provide appetizers, cook dinner together, or have the party catered. Staying sober on New Year’s Eve with those closest to you gives you a good chance of not having to take a drink for the evening. Make sure that everyone you invite understands that it is a sober evening together, that the purpose is to get through the holiday without having to use alcohol to have fun.
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2. Spend the night with a group of sober friends.
If you aren’t able to host a sober party, see if any of your friends are offering one. If no one can host a party at their house, go out for the evening with a group of sober friends. When all of you have the same common goal in mind, you can hold each other accountable. You can see if any of your favorite bands have a concert to attend, go shoot pool, or hit the bowling alley. If there is alcohol at the event you attend, you’re much more likely to stay sober when surrounded by a group of people who are working towards the same thing as you.
3. If you need to go to a party, bring a sober friend with you.
Sometimes you have a family or work get together that you need to attend on the holiday. If there is no way out of a party and you know there will be alcohol there, bring a sober friend with you. Having someone there who relates to where you’re coming from can make all the difference when staying sober on New Year’s Eve. Not only can you hold each other accountable but you’re guaranteed to have at least one other level-headed person to talk with. Talking with someone who is drunk while you are sober can be incredibly overwhelming so having another sober person with you can make conversations either.
4. Make short and sweet appearances.
There may be no way out of attending a party but that doesn’t mean you have to stay the whole time. You do not have to stay in an uncomfortable place if it means putting your recovery at risk. Whether you choose to tell the host your reason for leaving or not, you are under no obligation to stay longer than necessary. By showing up, greeting and thanking the hosts, and conversing with a few people you know, you can make a quick appearance at a party without having to over-stay. Creating plans afterward with a group of sober friends may be a helpful idea so you can reconvene with people who understand where you’re coming from. Remember—the longer you stay at a party, the drunker people will get. While it may serve as a reminder of where you came from and don’t want to go back to, there is also the chance you may find yourself justifying the first drink.
5. Bring your favorite non-alcoholic drink with you.
Most party hosts offer non-alcoholic options like water and soda but bringing your favorite non-alcoholic beverage is a great option. When you have a drink you prefer, it will be easier to avoid alcoholic drinks. Bringing your own beverage and holding onto it also ensures there is no chance that you accidentally pick up a drink with alcohol in it. Many people in recovery enjoy energy drinks or coffee, some like to have a healthy green juice or a specific type of soda. Whatever you prefer, bring enough for at least yourself and perhaps even some to share with the group.
6. Have an escape plan.
There are few things worse than finding yourself stuck in a situation where you feel pressured to drink with no way out. This is why having an escape plan is absolutely necessary. You never know when you’ll need to leave so having a way out as soon as you need it is the smartest thing to do when you attend a party where you know there will be alcohol. Whether you bring a friend with you to the party or not, you need to have an escape plan. It is best to drive your own car wherever you are going so you have a way out at a moment’s notice. If you don’t drive your own car, download the Uber or Lyft app on your phone so you can call a ride. See which people on your phone list are available to pick you up if you need a ride.
7. Build a list of phone numbers you can call.
Building a network of sober friends is important for anyone in recovery. It is especially important during the holiday season, though, to have a list of people you can call at any time. Whether you’re experiencing cravings to drink or you simply need someone to talk you through a difficult situation, a phone list is a fantastic tool. Save the numbers in a group so you can quickly access them when you need to call someone. Check with those on your list beforehand to see if they will be available to take your calls. Staying sober on New Year’s Eve is easier when you’re able to talk to another alcoholic in recovery who can walk you through your cravings.
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8. Attend a local 12-step meeting club.
Many Alano and other 12-step meeting clubs host marathon meetings (meetings all day, every hour, on the hour) on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Look to see if there is a club like this in your area and find out whether they offer marathon meetings on New Year’s Eve. If this is an option, making time to attend a meeting or two during the day before everything starts up can be helpful. It will also be good to know there is a place you can go to be with other people in recovery at any hour of the day when things may be challenging for you.
9. Do not spend New Year’s Eve by yourself.
Isolation is one of the most dangerous things for an alcoholic in recovery. Spending New Year’s Eve alone can be almost as triggering as attending a party where everyone is drunk. It’s easy to listen to your head and give into the cravings when there is no one around to hold you accountable. Whatever you do, do not spend New Year’s Eve alone. Find at least another friend who can come over and spend time with you. When you’re with someone else you can talk out the feelings you experience. If they are also in recovery, you can hold each other accountable or find a meeting or other gathering to attend.
10. Develop a plan to stay sober before New Year’s Eve arrives.
The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that you can stay sober without a plan. Going into any drinking holiday without a pre-determined plan to stay sober is asking for trouble. Before the holiday comes, you should set up a plan to stay sober. Start by using some of the items on this list as a part of your sober action plan. Whether you use a few of them or all of them, decide on a few different ways to combat cravings when they come up. Remember that you never have to be alone in recovery; there are millions of others just like you who seek the same solution. Developing an action plan is especially important if you’re new in recovery this is your first New Year’s Eve sober. Remember that so many have done it before you; you can do it, too. But go into your night prepared and ready for the cravings that will most likely come up. By getting yourself ready beforehand, you give yourself the best chance of staying sober on New Year’s Eve.