How to Prepare for a Safe and Sober New Year

New Year’s Eve can be a risky holiday for anyone. Most people drink – some, too much – and those trying to stay sober face significant pressure to consume alcohol. Sobriety must be protected during times like these, especially when everyone around you may not be. Preparation and planning are essential for minimizing the chance of having a relapse. Avoid parties if you can’t make a plan to stay sober. If necessary, it’s all right to skip the holiday entirely.

Americans consume an average of 360 million glasses of sparkling wine on New Year’s Eve. Add that to the countless cocktails leading up to midnight, and you have the drunkest holiday of the year.

It’s also one of the most dangerous holidays, primarily because of drunk driving and car accidents. Another danger faces people who are in recovery. If you’re sober, especially newly sober, New Year’s is a tough holiday. Take steps to prepare for maintaining your sobriety, even in the face of parties and much social pressure.

Be Open About Your Sobriety

It’s not easy to talk about sobriety and recovery. So much shame and stigma surround the disease of addiction that your instinct is probably to stay quiet about it. But talking about not drinking is essential, and not just because doing so helps decrease stigma.

Preparing for New Year’s festivities is about preparing yourself and also others. Expect to encounter people who will push drinks on you, who won’t automatically be respectful of your choice not to drink. They’re not necessarily trying to hurt you. Most of these people just don’t get it.

Prepare your social circle for the fact that you won’t be drinking by talking about it now. Get the word out, and at least the party guests who know you will be more respectful on the big night. In fact, you may even find you have some allies and partners in sobriety.

Make a Plan for Going to a Party

If you are braving a traditional New Year’s party where you know people will be drinking, don’t go into it without a plan. Consider what might trigger you and what you need to make it easier to stay sober. For instance, it helps to have a sober buddy. Go along with someone else who plans to abstain and check in on each other throughout the night.

Have an exit strategy in place. Don’t rely on someone else to get you home. Drive yourself and leave when it feels right. You can have excuses ready to go, or just be honest and tell the host you need to exit to stay safe.

Plan how you’ll react to anyone who doesn’t respect your sobriety. You may even want to role play with a friend or your partner in advance. It will be easier to face the pressure to drink if you practice first. Also, plan what you will drink at the party. Bring your own beverages. If it helps you to avoid difficult conversations, bring something that will look like a drink, for instance, club soda with lime wedges or sparkling juice.

Plan an Alternative Celebration

It’s perfectly ok to decide you can’t do the big, drunk New Year’s Eve party this year. But it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to celebrate too. Now is a great time to reframe how you have fun. It can be hard to separate alcohol from the celebration and partying, but start to change your mindset. Think of other things you can do for the holiday that will be both fun and sober. Here are some ideas:

  • Host your own party. This gives you control over what to serve, and you can choose to make it sober. Have a mocktail party, where everyone brings ingredients for a fancy, non-alcohol drink.
  • Plan activities for the party. Standing around with nothing to do but chat can be fun, but it’s also when people tend to want to drink. Host a party with activities, like games, a dance contest, or a movie marathon. Make it a dinner that you all create together. In other words, you need something to do that will be fun and distract you from the urge to drink.
  • See the lights. Many people still have their Christmas lights up at New Year’s. Scout neighborhoods in advance to find a route with plenty of lights and then organize a group walk for New Year’s Eve.
  • Find a sober event. Search your local area for sober events for the holiday. You might be surprised at how many there are, hosted by AA, church groups, and local community centers or cities.
  • Find other events. You should also be able to find other events in the area not necessarily designed for sobriety but without an emphasis on traditional partying and drinking. Some cities do their own ball drop, for instance, while others have parades or fireworks displays.

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Get Away

A person’s environment is a huge part of addiction. Many factors in your environment contributed to addiction and put you at risk of relapse, from the people you spend time with to the places you used to drink. An important part of preventing relapse is changing your environment and your life in general.

If you usually stay in your local area for New Year’s Eve and go to a party, change the scene. If finances and your work allow you to, consider taking a vacation for the holiday. Go somewhere you can be active and make healthy choices. Avoid places like all-inclusive or party resorts where guests drink a lot. Remove the temptations of your environment, and it will be easier to avoid the urge to drink.

Cancel New Year’s Eve

No rule or law says you have to celebrate the New Year. If you feel it’s too risky to celebrate at this stage in your sobriety, skip the holiday altogether. Pretend that nothing special is going on, stay at home, and do what you would do on any ordinary evening.

You can also postpone the celebration until New Year’s Day. Most people celebrate the night before, but why not in the morning? While other people struggle through a hangover, you can be up early to do something fun and healthy.

Check-In for a Tune-up

Another way to skip the holiday and make a healthier choice is to check-in to a residential facility. If your sobriety feels threatened by the holiday, and you’re not sure any of these strategies will help you avoid relapse, be proactive.

Go back to an alcoholism treatment center you like and get a tune-up. Remember that recovery is an ongoing process. One round of professional help is not necessarily a fix or a cure. It helps anyone in recovery to go back for therapy or professional care every once in a while. Doing so during a time full of triggers and risks is a smart idea.

Being sober and staying sober is the best way to celebrate for your new year. If it means braving a party, getting out of town, or going to a professional facility, do what works for your health and wellness. Whatever form that takes is up to you.