Whether you are sober or trying to cut back on drinking, it can be particularly challenging to avoid alcohol during the holidays. Alcohol-centric gatherings combined with seasonal stressors can be particularly triggering for those who wish to avoid alcohol or limit their drinking. By remembering the benefits of not drinking and following a few tips, you can still have a merry and festive season sans alcohol.
Benefits of Sobriety
Whether you’re sober or sober-curious, avoiding alcohol comes with many benefits, including*…
- Better skin
- Weight management
- Improved nutrition
- Improved immunity
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Better sleep
- Improved stress levels
- Improved confidence
- Improved mental health
- Improved relationships
- Improved cognitive functioning
- Decreased risk for developing mental health issues
*Source: Verywell Mind
Although it can be tempting to turn to drinking when dealing with the stress that comes with this season, this is actually counterproductive, since alcohol can make anxiety, depression and other bad feelings even worse. Fortunately, there are many healthy ways to deal with issues that have nothing to do with alcohol!
6 Ways to Avoid Holiday Drinking
- Plan ahead for triggering situations: By first identifying situations that can trigger drinking beforehand, you can plan ahead for what to do if/when faced with those situations. Triggers can include people, events, dates and places. Knowing these triggers can help you reduce exposure to them. If you’re unable to always avoid your triggers, working with a therapist to create a toolkit of coping strategies and an emergency plan is extremely helpful. Remember: It’s always okay to leave a triggering situation if possible.
- Stick to your boundaries: “No” is a full sentence. Stand firm in your boundaries when pressured. Leave the situation, event or location where you’re being pressured, or walk away from the person pressuring you. Know that it’s not “rude” to leave situations where people are not respecting your boundaries, and that there is no reason to feel guilty for doing so. Come up with a list of possible situations where you may be pressured to drink, and practice different ways to say “no.” Some excuses you can use include: “I can’t because I’m driving.” “Alcohol doesn’t mix well with my medication.” “I’m allergic to alcohol.” “Alcohol makes me feel sick.” “I have to get up early tomorrow.” “I don’t drink.” Check out this blog post for other useful ways to decline alcohol.
- Use the “Buddy System”: Find a friend (or friends) who doesn’t drink and/or will hold you accountable to not drinking that you can rely on. Join a sobriety group—such as Alcoholic Anonymous (AA)—and find a “sponsor” who can help you when you’re tempted to drink. Hang out with friends or other loved ones who don’t drink in settings without alcohol. Use your therapist as a resource and ally.
- BYOB—Bring Your Own (Non-Alcoholic) Beverages: Bring your favorite non-alcoholic beverages with you to events where there may be alcohol. There’s more refreshing non-alcoholic (NA) options now than ever! Fun festive NA drinks include hot chocolate, hot apple cider or sparkling apple cider. You could also bring your favorite soda or juice, flavored seltzer water, or even alcohol-free wine or mocktails!
- ‘Tis the season for alcohol-free events and traditions: You don’t have to go to events/parties with alcohol involved. Turning down invitations—for whatever reason—is 100% okay to do. In lieu of these types of events, there are plenty of alcohol-free activities you can do this season—such as hosting your own alcohol-free holiday party, going ice skating, baking cookies, making holiday decorations with friends, and much more. Check out this list for more fun alcohol-free holiday tradition ideas.
- Work with a therapist: Behavioral interventions—such as therapy and support groups—can be extremely beneficial when it comes to managing and reducing alcohol intake. Therapists can equip you with coping strategies and provide help navigating the emotional aspects that can trigger drinking.
Please note: If you’re a chronic heavy drinker and have decided to go sober, it’s important to first consult with a medical doctor before quitting drinking. Your doctor can help you go sober in a safe way so you don’t experience dangerous symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, as well as help you find additional treatment options and support.
Embracing sobriety or cutting back on drinking during the holidays can lead to even more joyful and rich experiences this season. By planning ahead, creating and sticking to your boundaries, leaning on your support system and coming up with your own traditions, you can enjoy all the merriment this season has to offer without relying on alcohol.
You don’t have to go through this journey alone. Valera Health offers a gamut of virtual mental healthcare services so you can get the high-quality care and support you need and deserve. Our services include individual therapy, group therapy and support groups, psychiatry, medication management and more.
We also offer many support group options that can help you navigate the emotional aspects that lead to drinking among peers and licensed mental healthcare professionals. For established Valera Health patients, our Co-Occurring Disorders Program is designed to help individuals navigate the emotional aspects of substance use and recovery. While our Co-Occurring Disorders Program tackles mental health and substance use disorders, it is not a substitute for detoxing off of alcohol or other substances.