Perspective: My Sober New Year’s Eve

Perspective: My Sober New Year’s Eve

by Carlos Herrera

I’m happy I know how to turn down my drinking buddies on the biggest partying night of the year. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

This New Year’s Eve, when the clock hits midnight, millions of people will kiss their significant others, drink champagne and raise a toast to a lovely year filled with new gym memberships and stress-free lives.

New Year’s Eve is a drinking holiday like no other. It’s St. Patrick’s Day in short, silver, glittery dresses on hotel balconies. It’s Halloween without the masks and your brother’s wedding without the family. No religion, no country, and no worries. It’s why airline tickets to Vegas spike the day before. New Year’s Eve is a throwback to Studio 54 and justified alcoholism at its finest. The day after? College football bowl games and rehab scouting. The day before? The last day of school and I always fucked around on that day. So why not cap off the holiday season by throwing out the eggnog, blowing out the Menorah, and calling those drug dealers you haven’t thought about since Halloween?

Sometime between 9/11 and Jersey Shore, I developed some nasty habits that would go on to change the way I approached holidays, or any day really, but let’s stick to the topic at hand. New Year’s Eve used to go like this: call friends and find out about the parties. From there, I made my decisions. The second step would be gathering party favours and I don’t mean red cups and hummus. I would call drug dealers X, Y, and Z and then wait for X, Y, and Z to call me back. When only Y called me back, I’d go to Y’s apartment, enter the gate code, hand him money and walk away with cocaine, marijuana, and pills reserved solely for people who get panic attacks, have severe muscle pain, or are going through heroin withdrawal. After that, I’d make a trip to several liquor stores until I found one that would sell alcohol to someone under the age of 21. Step three: going to the parties, where I would walk around with friends, have unimportant conversations, strike out with girls, see the light at the end of the tunnel and decide to come back to earth pre-overdose.

Step four was always the difference between the boys and the men in the drinking and drugging department. The trick to the fourth step of New Year’s Eve was that if you completed it, then you didn’t really complete it. It always took place on Jan 1st and involved trying to figure out what the hell had happened around 12:30 am the previous night. If I didn’t remember, I’d decide that I must have had a good time because when I tried to have a good time I never did but often, if I just let go and enjoyed myself, then it was more fun. While I was probably completely wrong, thinking this way meant that I had completed step four. And I did well at that; it’s safe to say that in the early 2000s, I never had any idea what had happened on New Year’s Eve because I was a memory-loss, blackout drunk and drug-sniffing dog of a boy — just a violent, erratic asshole with a flare for the dramatic.

Sometime between smart phones getting smarter and today, I have had the opportunity to celebrate the New Year sober. When I rang in 2012, I was at a comedy club in West Hollywood where, around three hours into the new year, the showroom looked like it had been bombed by a drone in Baghdad. I saw the eyes of harmless Jewish comedians turn hilariously dilated and blood red. I also had a blast. Step one was taken care of and my party favours that year were actually some beers for a friend of mine who had a birthday that day: I simply walked to a convenience store, bought them and gave them to my friend as a gift — one of the few times in my life when the party favours step took only about 10 minutes. Step three was easy — I just showed up at the club and hugged my close friends at midnight. I obviously completely failed step four of trying to remember what happened the next day since I’m writing this and have a clear, vivid memory of that particular night.

That doesn’t mean that every New Years Eve since I’ve been sober has been easy. There was one where I actually thought I was going to drink. I had just gone through a breakup and only had a couple of years sober so throwing those away were the least of my concerns at the moment; I really only had the dustiest light bulb appear over my head when I came to the conclusion that drinking would make me feel better. The reason I thought that is that it would have — for a couple of hours. I would have had a temporary solution to a lifelong problem of anxiety, a thirst for that x-factor liquid they put in the good mouthwash and the fear of everyone’s thoughts. What I ended up doing didn’t feel all that great at the time, honestly: I put one foot in front of the other and walked from my apartment on the west side of the Sunset Strip down through the heart of West Hollywood and into a midnight AA meeting. Afterwards, I called my ex-girlfriend and we got diner food amongst the drunk thirty-somethings of what looked like upper class LA but is actually poverty line LA (the deception of the city is that the poor people look rich and the rich people are actually poor). There I was, out of a midnight AA meeting and eating at a diner with my ex-girlfriend who had a love for pretentious California wine and any product you’d see on the show Girls, really. But the point is that I didn’t drink on New Year’s Eve that year and I haven’t wanted to since. And I learned what it was like to make it through a holiday where I felt like an outcast.

One aspect of New Year’s Eve last year that I failed to mention was that about a week earlier, I’d I gotten an e-mail invitation to a party bus. Usually these are for suburban kids on prom night but it was clear that this was going to be done in an ironic way and that the people on the bus were going to be peers, not to mention people I really liked. But sobriety came first so I declined — and then heard the next day from a friend that it was fucking awesome, which made me feel like I missed out. The girl I liked was even there and it felt like everything could have changed that night.

I got the same invitation this year and of course want to go. Pretty girls, a nice ride and friends? Count me in. Can someone bring lemonade? No? Alright. And that’s when I hit a wall that really isn’t that hard recently: it’s basically when I hear about something I want to do but know it might infringe on my sobriety so I decline and then feel left out. The softening of the wall has to do with the fact that I have enough sober experience now to know that it’s not a big deal if I don’t do it. Some things are not my — or our — business. I’ve discovered that I have very liberal limits when it comes to being in a room with a locked door: essentially, if the drugs on the table (or piano) would get you felony charges if the cops came in, then it’s usually time for me to go home and watch Seinfeld. And that’s okay. I used to have to call everyone in my phone when this happened and now I just deal with it.

One Halloween, the hottest girls I knew invited me to a party where they were all going to be taking ecstasy, drinking orange juice, and walking through Hollywood dressed in — well, sexy Halloween costumes. I didn’t say no but I didn’t say yes. I wanted to do drugs and drink juice with them so badly but I didn’t and I woke up the next day anyway and it was completely fine. Everything can feel incredibly crucial at the time but I’ve found that if you go to sleep and wake up, you realize that it wasn’t actually a big deal. No matter what it feels like in my brain, these aren’t award show nights where I’m being nominated or national championships for professional sports teams that I’m on; these are hotel and house parties with unmarried 20 and 30-somethings. New Year’s Eve may be the kind of holiday where you can dress like Jon Hamm in Mad Men and get away with smoking a cigarette in the elevator but I do that at airports anyway so it surely won’t hurt me to just be a good person and go to sleep. After all, I have a whole year to decide if I want to drink with my friends at the next New Year’s Eve party. Anyone can throw on a nice outfit and drink champagne — all it costs is money. But not everyone can do what most sober people are doing, which is just that: staying sober. Sobriety is an easier feat when there’s nothing to do. Throw a holiday in the mix but just keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll come out the person a lot of people hope to become with their New Year’s resolutions: good and healthy.


Reprinted from with kind permission of the editor. Carlos Herrera is a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian and writer. A former entertainment assistant from the the age of 19, he has performed at The Hollywood Improv and The Comedy Store, amongst others.

Members of Renascent’s alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email

Perspective: What It’s Like to Be Sober on New Year’s Eve

Perspective: What It’s Like to Be Sober on New Year’s Eve

by Ash Thoms

It’s New Year’s Eve, and waking up to that realization is exciting. The new year is so close, with new experiences, friends, happiness and trials to be had. I spend the first few moments checking my phone to see what all of my friends are planning as resolutions for the next year.

In doing so, I also check my text messages. Five new texts from five friends. All of them want to go out tonight. I shoot off quick, “I don’t know what my plans are yet. I’ll keep you updated!” messages to them. The messages will hold them off for long enough, but eventually, I’ll have to answer them.

I start thinking. New Year’s Eve is an incredible, fun holiday, but it’s also full of drugs and alcohol. I used to spend my New Year’s Eve at the same type of parties I’m now invited to, but I don’t remember them. I was always so drunk or high that I didn’t have to remember them, and I don’t care to have others recount the stories to me.

I’m sober now, but going out with people on substance-involved holidays (which are basically all holidays) is an anxiety-provoking experience. The questions race through my mind all at once. Will I be able to stay sober? What happens if someone gives me a drink or a drug? Will my friends watch out for me? I trust myself enough to be comfortable going out on other weekends. What makes this weekend different?

I grab brunch with my sister and our friends, and we chat about our plans for the evening. Everyone suggests I go out, saying I’ve proven I can and they have my back if I need it. I say I’ll mull it over, but at heart, I know I want to do something. I still love being out with my friends, even when they’re heavily intoxicated.

When I get home, I choose an outfit for the evening before watching a movie. As the evening begins, I take a shower and get ready to meet my friends for dinner before our big night out. I pick them all up, and we head to a small restaurant we all love.

As we are eating, I get more and more anxious. I feel nervous about going anywhere. I know I have the ability to go out and remain sober, and I know my friends are there for me. Yet, tonight feels different. It feels like there’s so much pressure to meet the typical New Year’s Eve expectations: get drunk, make mistakes and start a new year with it all behind you.

After dinner, I take my friends to our destination, but I don’t go with them. I tell them I have to go, I’m not feeling so great and I don’t want to be a damper on the high-energy group. They argue for a minute, but eventually, they agree. I tell them to call me if they need me or a ride and to stay safe.

I return to my apartment, put on my pajamas and curl up with my dog in front of the TV. I feel comfortable. I know I’m capable, but I know my limits. My limit tonight is much more prominent than other nights, and that’s OK. The important thing is I will be starting the New Year with my sobriety intact, and I know there will be plenty of other opportunities for fun and excitement. I will wake up knowing, even though I didn’t go out with my friends, I still rang in the New Year content, loved and full of anticipation.


Reprinted from with kind permission of the author. Read more of Ash Thoms’ work at

Members of Renascent’s alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email

New Year’s Eve Tips for Those in Recovery

New Year’s Eve Tips for Those in Recovery

by Tara Hill

New Year’s Eve is a night where most people look forward to partying. Part of celebrating December 31st, involves drinking alcohol. For many people, consuming alcoholic beverages on occasion doesn’t pose a problem. For others, alcohol addiction is a very real disease. New Year’s Eve can be challenging and scary for recovery alcoholics and those trying to abstain from alcohol. These tips can help.

The most obvious tip for reducing the possibility of backsliding and taking a drink on New Year’s Eve is to stay away from alcohol. On a night that is so steeped in drinking, even if it is only a midnight champagne toast, that can pose a challenge. If you belong to an organization such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), it is important that you attend a meeting on New Year’s Eve. Many chapters of AA have evening or even midnight meetings on difficult days such as New Year’s, to help people stay focused and abstain from alcohol. Don’t be afraid to rely on your sponsor for extra support during the holidays.

It may be helpful to make a list of all the reasons you stopped drinking and refer to it during the holidays to help stay focused on remaining sober. A visual reminder of how damaging the misuse of alcohol has been in your life may help give you some strength on New Year’s Eve.

You can offer to be a designated driver, although if you believe being in the presence of alcohol will prevent you from abstaining from alcohol on New Year’s Eve, it may not be a good idea. If you do offer to be a designated driver that night, stay home or partake in another New Year’s Eve activity and wait until people need their ride home, rather than joining them at places they will be drinking.

You can plan a get-together with people from your AA meetings, or if you are not involved in Alcoholics Anonymous, invite people to an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve party. Believe it or not, many people don’t enjoy drinking alcohol regardless of whether they have had problems abusing it or not. If you belong to a church, chances are many people will not be drinking alcohol on New Year’s Eve. Plan a party at your home where you can be assured that no one will be drinking or bringing alcohol to the party.

Remember, alcohol is not needed to have fun. You can stay strong and abstain from drinking on New Year’s Eve by having a solid game plan, reminding yourself of why you stopped drinking, relying on AA meetings and your sponsor, and surrounding yourself with people who won’t be drinking on New Year’s Eve. Stay strong and stay safe, and may you ring in the New Year completely sober.

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Tara is a Central Florida-based freelance writer and author who writes about a variety of topics ranging from motherhood to social media marketing. Tara’s own father was a recovering alcoholic who completed a 12-step program and remained sober for the last 20 years of his life before his passing in 2008. Follow Tara at

Members of Renascent’s alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email

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Journalist and author Jane Velez-Mitchell speaks candidly about how she has celebrated New Year’s Eve in the 17 years she has been sober.



The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.

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For those in addiction recovery, there may be a desire to lock yourself in the basement during the holiday season until it’s over. However, connecting with others and attending communal events are needed for optimal recovery.

The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.