Recovery And The Holiday Season:
Alcohol Consumption

By Ariana Lobo

The holidays are a time of celebration and community. Yet for those individuals in recovery, particularly those recovering from alcoholism, the holidays can represent a time of great struggle, stress or even anxiety. Consistently encountering environments that are prone to have alcohol, can lead such individuals into harmful situations with lasting outcomes.

Below is a guide-map of some culturally American habits in relation to alcohol around the holidays, what this time can be like for those in recovery, and some helpful tips for how to create balance this holiday season for you and your family when it comes to drinking. 


Alcohol Consumption & The Holidays

In a report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it was found that in December of 2016, 781 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. Whereas in December of 2017, that number rose to a whopping 885 alcohol-related deaths. The CDC has also reported that there are around 25,000 alcohol-related injuries from car crashes alone between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. These high rates of alcohol consumption are deeply rooted in the tradition that comes with this time of year. Friends and families are celebrating, gathering and taking time away from their everyday lives – alcohol then becomes a welcome addition to the festivities. 

What It Means For Those In Recovery 

There are individuals who can celebrate the holiday season with alcohol and be completely fine, and there are those who cannot. For those individuals that have struggled with the abuse of alcohol in the past but are now sober, honoring these differences is key. “That first year back feels like walking on eggshells because they don’t feel comfortable drinking around you. You begin to feel guilty and almost on the spot,” shared Edwin Novak, Maintenance & Facility Coordinator with Retreat Behavioral Health and former addict who now shares his story on sobriety, in a statement. “But now, my family treats it more normal and I sometimes even joke about it. But at the end of the day, you learn that you can have sober fun. I call it “little kid” fun. Where your experience is just genuine all the time.” 


Helpful Tips: Creating Balance 

Below are a few tips for both loved ones, and those in sobriety, to utilize for navigating the holiday season.
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Providing non-alcoholic beverages for any and all of your guests is a proactive step towards not on only allowing everyone to feel included, but allowing your guests to be themselves outside of an alcoholic beverage. In fact, many brands do offer extra holiday specials or flavors for a non-alcoholic beverage option. 


  • Water & Healthy Diet Choices 

For an individual in sobriety, remaining healthy and wholesome throughout this season can be very helpful in curbing harmful cravings. Remaining hydrated and eating foods that are high in protein, fiber, and overall nutritional value will boost your mood, as well as your bodily strength. Feeling better about yourself and maintaining a mentally, emotionally, and physically strong state can keep you positive and focused. 


  • Supporting A Loved Ones Boundaries

For an individual in sobriety, what triggers them may be different than what triggers someone else. Therefore, it is imperative that they set clear and honest boundaries for themselves and their respective loved ones. It also just as imperative for loved ones to be respectful and kind when honoring those boundaries. For instance, avoid asking that particular friend or family member to “run out for some wine,” pressure them for “just one drink,” or even allow large amounts of alcohol to be sitting out. 


  • Alternative Options

If the environment you are around, as someone in sobriety, causes you extreme upset or discomfort remember that there are other outside resources. Alcoholics Anonymous, for instance, oftentimes offers holiday parties with food and social activities. These gatherings serve as an alternate option for those that wish not to participate in their own personal festivities. AA also suggests that members continuously attend meetings throughout the holiday season, find a friend or “buddy” to take to parties, and have your AA phone number list on you at all times. 


  • Safe & Helpful Practices 

There are also a few helpful but simple practices that loved ones can implement to set a more positive, supportive environment when welcoming home a family member in sobriety. For instance, if you are hosting a party, stop serving alcohol at least one hour prior to everyone leaving. This can provide guests with time to slow down, ease the overall energy level of the festivities, and control any excessive drinking. Setting up games and activities, can also help shift the thinking to more innocent ways of fun and celebration, apart from alcohol. Games and activities are also a way to include more age groups and can allow all friends and family to participate in the fun.

Living a life of sobriety does not have to be burdensome or depressing, but rather, a time of great joy, healing, and acceptance. Setting boundaries for oneself is absolutely essential, but especially during the holiday season. Similarly so, it is just as important that
the friends and family of an individual in sobriety honor, respect and support their needs. Coming together, growing alongside one another, and embracing our imperfections is what this and every holiday season is about.