6 Ways To Support Your Sober Friends During The Holidays

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
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The holidays are a time when friends and family come together and celebrate, often over drinks at a party. Alcohol and the holidays go hand-in-hand, like an olive in your martini glass. We sometimes forget, though, that not everyone at the party has a cocktail in their hand. But it is something that we should try to remember.

I am 12 years sober and I can tell you that the holidays can be tough for people who are trying to maintain their sobriety. Now, first and foremost, it is my responsibility to remain sober. You have nothing to do with my actions and what I — or any other person, for that matter — choose to do. It is not your job to keep someone else sober, but you can definitely be a mindful friend. Not only is that helpful, it is an incredibly kind thing to do. They’ve worked hard for their sobriety, and a true friend should support it 100%.

But how, you may ask? Here are a couple of thoughts.

Be A Good Listener

If your sober friends want to stay that way, listen when they want to talk about it. Sometimes it is nice just to have a friend who you know that you can trust. Sobriety is a challenge every day and some days are harder than others. Make sure that you make yourself available if your sober friends need you.

Have Non-Alcoholic Options On Hand

Think about sober friends when planning a party. No one is asking you to create a signature mocktail — very cool gesture if you do, but it isn’t necessary. If you have a soda, maybe some juice, even just a bottle of water is nice. Knowing that you can walk into a friend’s party and there will be something for you to drink that isn’t booze is comforting.

Make Others Aware That You Have A Sober Friend

Many people who are sober are pretty open about it. This applies to those people. If your friend does not want people to know, skip this tip. But, if your friend wants people to be aware of their sobriety, you can certainly let other friends know ahead of time. That can save the awkward questions like, “Can I get you a beer?” Or, “Why aren’t you drinking?” There is no shame in being sober, but you also don’t need to be put on the spot either.

Try Out Some Non-Drinking Activities

Not everything has to revolve around alcohol during the holidays; try something new. It can be as simple as taking a walk or a ride through the neighborhood to look at holiday lights. You can get just as much holiday joy out of going to listen to a choir sing Christmas carols as you can belting out Christmas karaoke at a bar. There are plenty of non-drinking options out there — see what you can find in your area.

Don’t Be Pushy

No means no. It is that simple. Allow your sober friends to decide whether or not they want to participate in your holiday event. If it is going to be too triggering to them, it is perfectly acceptable for them to decline your invitation. Remember, remaining sober is their number one priority. Please do not guilt or shame someone into coming to a party or event that they don’t want to. And don’t ask questions. If they say, “No, thanks. I can’t.” A simple “OK. Maybe next time,” will do.

Be Cool About It

Don’t be weird or awkward around your sober friends. Asking someone over and over if they are OK or if drinking around them is bothering them or triggering them can be really annoying. Just do what you normally do. If a sober person is bothered or triggered, they will make the choice whether to stay or to leave. They don’t need you to be up in their face about it.

No matter where you go this time of year, there is alcohol. It is probably the most omnipresent holiday accessory. Try as we may, we simply can’t avoid it. This can be tough for our sober friends. Thinking outside of the box and looking out for them and their holiday fun is a great way to support them.

We should always do our best to make this time of year enjoyable for everyone, even if they don’t have the extra whiskey in their eggnog.

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