Five Ways to Celebrate Holidays Sane and Sober

Knives with ornaments hanging from them

Who says we can’t be truly charitable with our party personalities during the holidays? One thing I always keep in mind by the time Thanksgiving rolls around is that I have a lot to bring to the season. I don’t need to sway clumsily over the stove, slurring my words as I forget to add garlic to the pan. I commit to keep an open mind about how my sobriety can be exponentially more fun as the years go by. Remember: sober fits well into any Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa celebration. The more prepared for fun, the better.

With that, I give you five ways to celebrate the holidays sane and sober:

  1. Create a schedule that works around your recovery. I tend to get overwhelmed by the amount of friend/work/family parties that crowd my calendar in December. It helps me to carve out specific time slots for meetings, meditations, exercise, reading or self-care sessions before I set out to socialize. The more firm you are with your resolution to put your recovery first, the easier it is to stick to your party timeline. Remember that you will feel more confident in social settings when you’ve planned to take care of your needs first. If that means dipping out of a gathering 30 minutes early to call a friend or to binge on a Netflix show, then so be it. You do you.
  2. Eliminate too much time alone. If I could sit on the couch reading Stephen King for the whole of December, I would, without an iota of hesitation. These days, I don’t. I know from a couple of years of evidence-based observations that after two and a half days without enough human interaction, I start to feel depressed and lonely. Multiply that by two during the holidays. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, it matters that you meet your social needs.

    Full disclosure, I am reading this in real time.
  3. Shop with friends. I love to shop online, but not as much in actual stores. I know that I have the tendency to buy on impulse, so I find that shopping with friends gives me a necessary distraction from my compulsive brain. While it is tempting to lean on Prime or ThredUP to fulfill all of our present-buying needs, it serves a much greater good to spend time with others who remind you of your worth. I highly recommend browsing, especially in stores like Bath and Body Works. It is shockingly fun to smell dozens of candles with abandon. Bonus: your friends might give you good ideas for presents! (And they might even get you one.)
  4. Bring the party to YOU. One of the biggest surprises I’ve found during the holidays is how fun it is to host parties. There is no need to get too fancy; a small dinner party with cute place settings and/or fun games presents the opportunity to forge friendships and become closer to your family. It’s important to remember that the holidays can be a difficult time for anyone, not just those of us in recovery or suffering from addiction. Keeping each other company and sharing safe spaces gives way to new traditions and happy memories.  I have always wanted to throw a Festivus for The Rest of Us: The Airing of Grievances, but I’ll save that stuff for when my maturity sets in or when I’m decades older. I will hold my breath for neither.
  5. Decorate and cook together. What better way to get into the spirit of the season than to reinvent your living quarters? Who doesn’t love a well-lit tree and a soup simmering on the stove? I get a small thrill watching my apartment transform into a bright and inviting place where I love to be. Though I am allergic to pine needles, I find that a nice fake tree from Target does the trick just fine. It’s nice to lean on low-maintenance decorative suggestions, as well as simplified recipes from Bon Appetit or Epicurious. Get creative with it, too. Last year I made a “book tree” after browsing on Pinterest. It took me three hours, but the experience made me feel so proud. Not to mention it was a crowd-pleaser.

However you decide to spend your time during the holidays, remember that you set the terms. Spending time with loved ones can be a wonderful boost or an obnoxious drain, and it is okay in either case to take your recovery temperature as needed. What matters is that you look out for your own needs.

What are some ways you celebrate the holidays sober? Share what you’ve got in the comments section below.


Lucy Hartman

Lucy Hartman

I'm funnier when I'm sober.


  1. “It is shockingly fun to smell candles w/abandon” and “I will hold my breath for neither” tickled me especially.
    And I was surprised to feel personally addressed by both the warnings and the suggestions. We need to hear what we already know. It helps.

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