How to Support Your Sober Loved Ones During the Holidays

There are a few things that are synonymous with the holidays – mainly friends, family, food, and drink. ‘Drink’ typically implies alcohol – glasses of wine being served at Christmas dinner, martinis at cocktail hour at your holiday work party, and, of course, champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve. It’s easy to forget that not everyone wants to drink alcohol, and with sober curiosity increasing (a 2022 survey showed that 22 percent of consumers are cutting back on consuming alcohol and drinking less) there’s a high chance that you have a friend who is sober during the holidays.

Being a source of support for your sober friend could go a long way, especially during this time of year when it seems everyone has an alcoholic drink in hand.

“The holidays are very stressful and a time when we often feel the weight of other people’s expectations,” Brad Sorte, President and CEO of Caron Treatment Centers, tells SheKnows. “This can cause anxiety about being with other people and in difficult situations. Whether it is going to a family function full of tense relationships or going out with friends to an event centered around drinking, these situations can be difficult to manage without alcohol or substances if you’re not used to it.”

If you have a friend who’s recovering from addiction or is sober curious, there are a number of ways to support them during the holidays. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t ask why someone isn’t drinking

If you notice your friend isn’t drinking or has simply told you they aren’t drinking alcohol, Sorte advises against asking them why. “There are many reasons why someone may choose not to drink at a party,” he says. “If someone chooses a non-alcoholic option at a party, don’t ask them why they aren’t drinking. This increases the focus on the alcohol and can create pressure when what you want to do is be supportive of someone’s choice.”

Include them in your plans

According to Joni Ogle, LCSW, CSAT of The Heights Treatment, one of the best things you can do for your sober friend is to include them in your plans and invite them to any holiday gatherings you’re attending. “This way, they won’t feel left out and will have something to look forward to,” she says. “If you’re attending a party or gathering where there will be alcohol served, let your friend know in advance so they can decide if they’re comfortable attending. If they feel like they can’t handle being around alcohol, it’s okay to support their decision to stay home. You can stay with them or check in on them periodically to make sure they’re doing okay.”

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