Surviving Holiday parties sober

Full disclosure: I’ve been sober for 6 years and Holiday parties are still difficult for me.

We went to a Holiday party last night and, one would think that after 6 years of doing this sobriety-thing, I’d have it down to a science. But, I still struggle. Today, I’m holed up at home, rehashing the awkward social exchanges and wondering how people are feeling this morning. I had a great time…don’t get me wrong. We have a wonderful group of neighbors and I got to visit with many of them last night. I also was tested by a few of my least-favorite neighbors being in attendance last night. These are all things that, in my past life, would’ve sent me directly for the nearest bottle of wine. Holiday parties are a unique struggle for me. I love the idea of them, but there’s no other time during the year that I miss drinking more.

Part of it is due to me being an introvert and part of it is everyone around me drinking with wild abandon–just like I used to. But, over the years, I’ve come up with a few tried and true tricks that help me to navigate a Holiday party sober. Today, I’m sharing these tips with you.

1: Arrive late

The arriving late-thing goes against my nature. I’m nothing if not an extremely punctual person. I’m usually always early, in fact. It’s a compulsion and makes those close to me crazy. But, when I’m attending a party where there will be drinking, it’s a great strategy to arrive late. Don’t get there before any of the other guests have arrived because there’s no better opportunity to “get this party started!” than by starting to drink while you’re awaiting the arrival of your friends. If you arrive slightly late though, hopefully the party is already in full-swing, everyone else has already poured their first glass (or three) and you won’t feel as much pressure or feel as awkward not drinking. Trust me: by this point, no one cares what you are or aren’t drinking.


2. Take something to hold in your hands

This sounds bizarre, but I always feel better in social situations if I have something to do with my hands that doesn’t involve holding a glass of wine. I’ve grown to really enjoy a cute clutch-style purse in these situations. Having something to occupy my hands keeps me from picking up a glass of something. This clutch come in tons of colors and the price point can’t be beat:

Faux leather clutch

3: Announce ahead of time that you won’t be drinking

Offer to be the designated driver for other friends or mention it in passing, but let it be known that you won’t be drinking at this party soon after you’ve accepted the invite. This might keep the repeated drink offers at bay. 

4: Find your people

…and I don’t necessarily mean just your friends at the party. Find the other non-drinkers, if you can. They’re the pregnant women and sometimes the least-expected of types (such as the man with dreadlocks and a stovepipe hat, at the party I attended last night). If you’re lucky, there will be at least one other non-drinker in attendance. This is a great person to introduce yourself to and stick close to for the evening. Besides, you might find it refreshing to have a conversation with a fellow party-attender who isn’t sloppy and slurry. 

5: Leave early

When things get rowdy, make your exit. Again–and not to be harsh–but no one will care. Sure, there will be that person who tries with all their might to get you to stay, but they likely have their own selfish motives for wanting you to stay anyway. So, leave before things get weird–trust me. You’ll be so happy that you did when you’re safely at home, knowing that you’ve survived another social setting sober. 

With each social setting that you navigate sober, you’ll get renewed strength and conviction. And, as your social circle becomes more accustomed to seeing you sober, they’ll pressure you less and less about it. And if they continue to pressure you, maybe it’s time to find a new social circle. 

Do you have any tips for navigating Holiday parties sober?




5 thoughts on “Surviving Holiday parties sober

  1. Erika says:

    Love these ideas!
    Sometimes I arrive with my own non-alcoholic “roadie” in a cup (not see thru glass). Usually a delicious Teavana high alkaline tea (bonus!) or some sort of lemony grapefruity drink with bits of fruit and herbs. Gives me something colorful to hold, something healthy to sip, and lowers the questioning levels.

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