As the saying goes, the holiday season is the time of year to eat, drink and be merry. This is the time of year when holiday parties and family get togethers dominate the social calendar. However, this time of year can provide a substantial level of anxiety for those who are new in recovery. Not only does the newly recovering addict have to navigate the temptation and triggers of social events, they must also deal with the stress of the season itself.

For some people who are recovering from alcohol abuse, these pressures may be too much to handle, and they may start drinking again to cope with the stress. While this time of year can be tough on those in recovery, there are some simple ways in which recovering alcoholics can turn down alcohol and have a happy holiday season.

Tips to Turning Down Alcohol During the Holiday Season

family during the holidays

Start Each Day with a Plan

Before anything else, the most important tip to remember to turning down alcohol during the holiday season is to start each day with a plan to stay sober. While this is the number one priority for alcoholics every day of the year, this is especially true during the holidays. Your ultimate goal is to find healthy and proactive ways to stay sober each day, whether it is going to 12-step meetings, volunteering, working with your sponsor or engaging in a creative hobby or pastime.

Evaluate Each Situation

During the holiday season, your mailbox and inbox gets flooded with countless invitations to work parties, family functions and other social events. Another helpful tip to turning down alcohol at holiday parties is to carefully assess each social events and identify those that may be high risk. If you are early in sobriety, it may be best to steer clear of holiday functions while you focus on strengthening your recovery. If you have some considerable clean time, attending a holiday function that is a medium or low risk would be acceptable as long as you follow your recovery plan. No matter the function, have an exit strategy and stick to it.

B.Y.O.N.B (Bring Your Own Non-Alcoholic Beverage)

Another great way to avoid alcohol during the holiday season is to simply bring your own non-alcoholic beverage. Bring along your favorite flavored seltzer water or sparkling grape juice, or if there is a bar ask the bartender if they make any non-alcoholic cocktails. There are many books and websites devoted to cocktail recipes that don’t contain alcohol whatsoever. No matter if you bring your own beverages or if there are non-alcoholic options available, you must always get your own drinks.

Know Your Triggers

When you decide to attend a holiday party, you must know the specific triggers for relapse. You always want to keep in mind the acronym HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired). When you are experiencing emotions and physical states that center on these, you are more vulnerable to slip. To avoid HALT, you must take care of yourself physically and mentally.


It may seem like common sense, but not eating regularly will lower blood sugar and you can feel anxious and irritable. Going into a party with those mindsets can spell trouble for you and your recovery. Be sure you eat every three hours and have something of good nutritional value.

Use the Buddy System

An excellent way to turn down alcohol at a holiday party is to bring a friend along for support and encouragement. You can bring a supportive family member, friend or someone from your 12-Step group who has considerable clean time. In addition to bring someone along, you also will want to have phone numbers of people in your support system at the ready. Additionally, it also is highly suggested that you attend an extra meeting or two before and after the event.

Have Your Responses Rehearsed

No matter how long you have been clean and sober, there will be times when family, friends and other acquaintances will offer you alcohol. When these situations arise, it is best to have some canned responses ready to turn down their offers. It is important to remember to keep these responses short and respectful–sometimes a simple and polite “no thank you” is sufficient.

The Key to Recovery is Confidence

During the holiday season and throughout the year, the key to staying sober is having confidence and self-esteem. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse or other substances, the best way to address your addiction and move past it with confidence is through drug treatment. At Guardian Recovery Network, we employ a wide variety of effective drug treatment programs that can be tailored to your unique and specific needs. Make the call today to Guardian Recovery Network at (888) 693-1894 and start your recovery journey on the right track.


Reviewed for accuracy by:

Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.