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Surviving Your First Sober Holiday This Festive Season

As the festive season approaches, you may find yourself face to face with your first sober holiday, which can feel a little daunting.

You have worked hard throughout your recovery this year and now you will be spending Christmas in recovery followed by the start of a new year.

So, you might be asking yourself how you will be able to navigate through the unfamiliar territory of a sober holiday. In this article we discuss a few easy to apply tips to help you get through the challenges of the festive season.

how to survive first sober holiday

Surviving your First Sober Holiday

Unfortunately, society has invented the idea that festive celebrations can only be enjoyed with the help of the widely accepted use of alcohol.

Because there is very little stigma attached to alcohol, it has sadly become sort of mandatory to include it in every possible gathering or occasion.

The commonly used term “drink and be merry” comes to mind. However, if we were honest, there are many ways to be “merry” without drinking.

The important thing to surviving your first sober holiday this December is to have a sobriety plan which can be really useful in helping you stay on track.

We have put together a list of ideas to add to your sobriety plan or strategy which can help you figure out how to get through the holidays without drinking.

After all, you have made it this far and turning back now should simply not be an option.

5 Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

These tips can be applied to most social situations where alcohol is likely involved, whether you are planning to attend your company’s year-end Christmas party, Christmas lunch with your family or friends, or the typical New Year’s Eve party.

Avoid going out alone

It can be really helpful to take a trusted friend with you when you go out. A friend who knows that you are in recovery can be very supportive in helping you avoid falling into temptation.

You may even want to ask your friend if he or she would mind staying sober with you as this will help you feel less out of place in an environment where most people are drinking.


Most social gatherings that don’t take place in a restaurant setting will require you to bring your own beverages.

This is a great opportunity to take along a few of your favourite non-alcoholic drinks. There are many that resemble the taste of well-liked alcoholic drinks, but with zero alcohol.

In addition, this is a great way to avoid having to explain yourself to strangers offering you a drink out of courtesy or politeness.

Do something good

There are certain activities that trigger the release of dopamine in our brains, which is the hormone responsible for making us feel good.

Scientifically, it’s more often the brains response to using a substance that becomes addictive, rather than the substance itself.

Some literature suggests that doing something good for someone else can cause the release of dopamine, stimulating the rewards system in the brain.

So, find a cause that feels close to your heart and spend some time this festive season making a difference.

Not only will you feel internally rewarded, but you’ll make someone else feel happy too. This is also a good way to avoid unhealthy situations which could lead you into temptation.

Stay active

You may find yourself with a lot of free time on your hands during your first sober holiday which may lead to boredom - a common trigger for those in early recovery.

Staying physically active is a really good way to avoid boredom and is extremely beneficial for your health.

Physical activity can improve your mood, sleeping patterns and overall energy levels which are all really great catalysts for sobriety.

Another benefit of becoming more involved with outdoor activities is you get to meet more people who are passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and who can encourage you to keep pushing towards your health and fitness goals.

The power of “no”

You are under no obligation to attend every event or gathering you get invited to. If you feel that you may not cope well at a particular event, you have all the right to politely decline.

In addition, there is no reason to feel guilty about declining an invite. Spending Christmas in recovery can be difficult and saying no without any feelings of guilt should be part of your self-care process.

However, it’s really important to find a balance. You may find that if you decline all invitations, you will end up feeling isolated which can lead to a lapse in judgement and potentially relapse.

To make it easy, say yes when it feels good and say no when something feels off, even if it's just a little bit.

Step Away Rehab in South Africa

We know that your first sober holiday may be causing some uneasy feelings, but we would like you to remember your courage and determination that got you to where you are today.

However, if you feel you are struggling to cope with the festive season pressure, please don’t hesitate to contact us for support.

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