In early recovery staying sober during the holidays can seem like a daunting task. New Year’s, for many, is a day or partying and drinking. It may seem like fun is impossible on New Year’s. This simply isn’t true. There are many ways to still have fun on New Year’s and stay clean and sober.
There is no need to feel like a burden on friends and loved one if you are sober. It is likely they aren’t even considering that you aren’t drinking. It is not as a big deal as we make it out to be. Go out with friends and family and have fun, alcohol is not needed to still have a good time. As long as you are focused on recovery and being a good friend or family member, you can still be the life of the party, regardless of being sober.
In early recovery New Year’s for me seemed pointless. In my head it was a day to get as plastered as possible and not remember anything. After hanging around other sober people, I quickly found out I could still go out and have fun, watch the ball drop, and still remember everything the next morning!
I now typically go to a concert or a party on New Year’s. I typically stay away from bars, just because there isn’t much fun going on there. At concerts there is music to enjoy, and at parties people to talk to. The most important thing is going somewhere where you can have fun being sober. A bar may not be very fun or interesting while sober.
Some ideas to keep you away from the hard stuff
Here are some more specific ways to have fun on New Year’s.
- Sparkling Cider
Don’t feel like you have to miss the midnight toast! Sparkling Cider is a great replacement for Champagne. Also, no one can tell the difference! If you are still not 100% comfortable telling people you are in recovery then make yourself a mocktail. Sparkling Cider will let you fit right in while giving a toast to the New Year.
- Tell People You Don’t Drink
There is no need to tell everyone under the sun you are in recovery from alcoholism or addiction. If you want to, then great! But this can be uncomfortable for some to share. For people in recovery it can seem like such a taboo to not-drink, but remember, there are lots of people who don’t drink! Saying “I don’t drink” is a perfectly normal thing to say on New Year’s. It will be nothing new for people to hear, and often does not follow with any questions. I know when I was in early recovery I thought people would be shocked or confused when I said I didn’t drink. I was quick to find out that no one really cares whether I drink or not.
- Themed Parties
One year I went to a 1980’s themed party. These are great because the main focus is not on drinking. Sure, some people are drinking, but there are plenty of conversations to be had and sometimes a prize for best costumes. This can be great sober fun, and another place where no one will care whether you drink or not. Parties are a great place to meet new people and get outside of one’s comfort zone. For me, being sober at parties was a big growing point. I certainly had to walk through fear, since I had been numbing myself for so long. Getting comfortable in sobriety and walking through social anxiety can be a great area for personal growth and also support recovery.
Instead of going to a bar on New Year’s, try going somewhere with entertainment. This will keep you occupied and offers fun and enjoyment without the need for intoxicating substances. Going to a bar can be boring while sober, since the objective of a bar is to drink. At a concert there is live entertainment and there is no real pressure to drink.
Clubs could also be fun on New Year’s. Dancing can be just as fun sober as it is while intoxicated. I felt very funny when I first went dancing sober, but it turned out to be a great and hilarious experience. No one else around me cared about how I was dancing, and certainly no one asked, “are you even drinking?” I still don’t think I am a good dancer, but the point of a club is to have fun and dance, drinking is just usually a side note. There is no “need” to drink at a club.
Who doesn’t link watching fireworks? Watching fireworks as the New Year rings in can be great sober fun. Either with a date or with friends, no booze is needed to enjoy a good fireworks display. If there is no fireworks near you then maybe buy some yourself. Of course follow local laws, but just because you are sober doesn’t mean you can’t have the best party in town.
If you are a member of Alcoholics Anonymous or any other 12 step fellowship, there are often all night parties with meetings all night on New Year’s, typically called “Alco-thon.” These are typically large events with food, refreshments, and desserts. It is a great way to meet people and have sober fun on New Year’s. Often these start early in the day on New Year’s Eve and go until mid-day New Year’s Day. Sometimes these can be just as crazy as any other all nighter, even with no alcohol! In all, there are plenty of ways to have fun on New Year’s, and don’t let sobriety get in the way of having fun!