Partying: 16 Tips for Enjoying Holiday Parties When You’re in Recovery


Holiday time is usually party time, whether with family, friends, or colleagues. The good news is that we can still have fun at parties! We just have to be a bit extra vigilant, especially if we’re fairly new to sobriety.

Here are some tried-and-true tips for you on how to party clean and sober — and stay that way!

  • If you’re feeling vulnerable at all on the day of the party, just don’t go. You can always make a gracious excuse to the party’s host.
  •  Always have a “Plan B”; an escape route, if you will. Have a “back-up” activity planned — a meeting or coffee with your sponsor or another friend in recovery.
  •  If you’re attending the party with someone else, let them know that if you don’t feel comfortable, you may want to leave the party right away.
  • Make sure you have your own transportation from the party should you need to leave right away.
  • Take with you:
    – your sponsor’s or a sober friend’s phone number and make sure in advance that they’re available if you get the urge to pick up a drink;
    – a friend in recovery, if possible;
    – your favourite non-alcoholic drink — a bottle of cranberry cocktail, for example. Add some soda and a slice of lime and you’ve got a “party drink”;
    – a chip or medallion. Rubbing it when you’re feeling stressed can be a good reminder of how far you’ve come.
  • Arrive late and leave early. No one really notices how long you’re there for.
  • Tell your host that you can probably only stay for a short while. Then, if the urge to drink hits you, just leave.
  • Stay away from:
    – the punch and eggnog! Usually spiked with alcohol;
    – “near beer” and rum balls. Just a little of the old taste can start us craving more;
    – the bar area. Find a comfortable spot and keep an eye out for anyone you might know who is in recovery, too. You’re probably not the only one there who’s clean and sober;
    – the heavy drinkers. Now isn’t the time to help a drunk… you may end up joining them! Instead, find the sober people and hang out with them.
  • When asked if you’d like a drink, you can respond “Yes, please! I’d like a cranberry and soda (or ginger ale or Coke whatever)”.
  • If you’re pressed to have an alcoholic drink, just say “No, not tonight, thanks”.
  • Most people don’t notice or care what others are drinking, so don’t feel like you’re under a microscope. What is in your glass isn’t important to most people.
  • Keep your glass in your hand. If you set it down for any length of time, get a clean glass. The chance of confusing your drink with someone else’s is high. There’s also the risk of someone adding alcohol to your drink without your knowledge (it’s happened!). So hang on to that glass for dear life.
  • Always keep a fairly full glass going, so if you’re asked if you’d like a drink, you can say “No, I’ve got one, thanks.”
  • If there’s food available, be sure to eat. If not, make sure you eat something before you go. Now’s not the time for that edgy, hungry feeling.
  • Keep busy. Talk to others, dance, etc. Don’t give yourself time to think about the fact that you’re not drinking.
  • Leave the party immediately if you begin to feel even a glimmer of a compulsion to drink. Your life is not worth mere politeness or being a victim of peer pressure.

Above all, enjoy the beauty and the love of this season. We truly do have so much to be grateful for!

About the Authors

Renascent Staff
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.