The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. However, it’s also a period when alcohol is often a central part of many gatherings. This can be challenging for individuals who are striving for sobriety or choose not to drink. As we enter the holiday season, it’s important to understand and respect the decisions of those who opt for sober holidays, “respect the no,” and support the journey of those who choose not to drink.


Understanding the Choice of Sobriety

Sobriety is a personal choice, often made for various reasons. Some individuals may have struggled with addiction and have worked hard to overcome it. For them, avoiding alcohol is a crucial part of maintaining their health and well-being. Others may choose not to drink due to health reasons, religious beliefs, or simply because they do not enjoy the effects of alcohol. Whatever the reason, respecting their decision without judgment or pressure is essential.


The Pressure to Drink During Holidays

Holidays can be particularly tough for those who prefer not to drink. There’s often an expectation to indulge in alcohol during these celebrations, and saying no can sometimes lead to awkward or uncomfortable situations. People who are in recovery or are committed to sober living might feel isolated or out of place when everyone else is drinking. Some have the confidence to be direct or the sense of humor to deflect, and they can do a good job of letting people know they aren’t going to be using alcohol. The best-case scenario is that no one at the dinner party cares if you drink, but for other situations, here are some ways to support them.


How to Support Sober Choices

Offer Non-Alcoholic Options: Always have a variety of non-alcoholic beverages available. This not only shows support but also helps those not drinking to feel included. Mocktails are a festive option to make the gathering feel more inclusive.

Don’t Pressure Anyone to Drink: Understand that no one should feel obligated to explain their reasons for not drinking. If someone says no to alcohol, “respect the no” without questioning.

Plan Inclusive Activities: Organize holiday activities that don’t revolve around alcohol. Games, music, and good food can be festive and enjoyable for everyone in attendance.

Educate Yourself and Others: Learn more about addiction and recovery. Educate your friends and family about supporting sober holidays and those who want to participate.

Be a Good Listener: If someone in recovery wants to talk about their experiences or challenges, be a supportive listener. You don’t have to provide a solution or fix anything. Just being an attentive listener is helpful.





Benefits of Sober Holidays

Sober holidays can be incredibly rewarding for those who choose not to drink. Some benefits include:

  • Improved Health: Avoiding alcohol can lead to better physical and mental health.
  • Meaningful Connections: Without the influence of alcohol, interactions can be more genuine and heartfelt.
  • New Traditions: Sober holidays encourage finding joy in new ways, leading to the creation of unique and meaningful traditions.
  • Safe Environment: A sober holiday ensures that everyone gets home safely and reduces the risk of accidents related to alcohol.

“I’m always happy when families tell me, ‘Christmas is going to be alcohol-free this year’ and ‘we’re going to all be in on this alcohol-free thing together this year’,” says Billy Vevle, LICSW, CEO of The Estate at River Bend.

“If you know that you’re having someone over to your house for an event where there’s going to be alcohol, and that person has been open with you about being in treatment and being new in recovery and wanting to maintain that through the holiday, I would communicate with them and ask them. I would be upfront with them and let them know they’re more than welcome to come, but at the same time, share that you will be serving alcohol.”

Vevle shares that it is also important to show grace when a person in recovery, especially those early in their sobriety, do not feel comfortable attending an event with alcohol. “Sharing that it will not hurt your feelings if they say they are uncomfortable, and that you completely understand if they decide that they don’t want to come.”


Respecting someone’s choice not to drink alcohol during the holidays is a powerful way of showing support and understanding. Sober holidays can be just as festive and enjoyable as any other celebration. By embracing and respecting these choices, we can create an inclusive and safe environment for everyone. Let’s remember that the essence of the holiday season is about togetherness, love, and joy – with or without alcohol.

By understanding and supporting those who choose sober holidays, we can ensure that everyone feels included and valued in our celebrations.


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