Managing Your First Holiday Being Sober: How to Say No Nicely

A marshmallow man in a cup of hot chocolate

Managing Your First Holiday Being Sober: How To Say No Nicely

The holiday season is chock full of gatherings, parties, reunions, and alcohol and drugs. Amid the merrymaking come festive alcoholic drinks and invitations to partake in marijuana and other drugs. Old friends call, and families insist on getting together to celebrate with you. 

What can you do, and what could you say to derail these temptations and possible triggers? How can you avoid the typical pitfalls of substance use when a family member or friend is slurping a drink or mellow from smoking some pot? Is the COVID-19 pandemic keeping you home alone?

Our guide on how to say no to invitations and stay the course of sobriety might get you through the holiday season. Are you in?

Holiday Gathering Suggestions

Bolster Your Confidence. Remind yourself of the hard work that went into becoming sober and staying sober. Reread your relapse prevention plan, and especially the parts about your triggers. Tell yourself that you are not dependent on substances any longer.

Stay Connected to Your Support Network. Everyday Health suggests taking a friend who supports your recovery with you to gatherings. Keep attending support meetings and ask for advice if needed.

Choose Events Wisely and Know When to Leave. You don’t have to accept every holiday invitation. Choose the ones that are more likely to be “sober-friendly.” If you simply have to be there, such as a family gathering or a close friend’s party, know at which point that it is time to leave. This could be when the host or hostess becomes inebriated or when the other guests start using drugs or marijuana. This can also be when you feel your triggers alarming.

Make and Use Your Exit Response. Your exit response doesn’t have to be elaborate or overly creative. It can be simple to remember, such as, “I’ve had a great time, but I’m sorry I have to leave now.” It’s getting kind of late, and I should head home.” Whatever you think is simple and easy to remember will work.

Walk Away. If you are stuck in a situation where a guest is pushing you to drink or use drugs or marijuana after you have declined several times, it is OK to walk away from them.  

How To Say ‘No’ During Celebrations

Below are a few ideas about how to decline invitations to gatherings and say no to those who insist you partake in alcohol or drugs.

Sorry, I Can’t Come This Year. The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfectly good reason for not wanting to engage in parties. Just say, sorry I can’t come this year. I’m staying home to prevent the spread of the virus. However, don’t self-isolate to the point where you are bored or depressed. Connect with a sober friend on Zoom, FaceTime, or another video call service.

I Have Some Other Obligations. Spend time decorating your home, making holiday treats and meals, or engage in outside winter activities, like tobogganing, skating, or skiing, if you live in a colder climate. Host a small sober gathering with some planned games, movie watching, and festive sober treats.

I’m Already Obligated on that Day. Another idea for maintaining your sobriety, according to British blog Soda Club, is to seek out local sober spots and give them a try. Sober gatherings are coming into their own these days as more people realize they don’t want to get drunk or be high anymore.

Sober Holiday Reminders

Keep an open mind. As this article from Glamour reminds, be open to the newness of not having to partake in the usual holiday activities of champagne for brunch, mixed drinks at holiday cocktail parties, or wine with dinner. Enjoy your non-alcoholic drink, knowing that you will not need a designated driver this year.

Narconon relays that it is OK to say you will not be able to attend a party where drugs or alcohol are expected. Be kind when declining. Those who know and love you and know you are now clean and sober will respect your wishes. The organization also notes that it might be better to stick with sober gatherings for the first years you are clean and sober.

While we realize that holiday gatherings are mentioned freely in this blog, we also know that the new coronavirus pandemic will probably limit the number of gatherings people attend. You may decide to decline party invitations on this basis alone.

However, if your triggers are strong, and you are finding it difficult to ignore them, reach out to your recovery coach or sponsor. A clean and sober holiday season is in your hands.

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