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How to Be Considerate of Sober People During the Holidays


A group toasting with drinks during the holidays. | Image by Bogdan Kurylo

The holidays are upon us, and for many, it’s a time to drink and be merry. But this time may be difficult for those who are in recovery or don’t drink. Hosts should make sure all guests, including recovering alcoholics or non-drinkers, feel comfortable when drinks are around. 

“This is a hard time. It’s actually really big for relapses,” according to Chris Kazachkova, a therapist who treats recovering alcoholics,

Most of the time, the responsibility not to drink falls on the person who isn’t drinking, but it helps when there is a support system and an atmosphere created to help sober loved ones during the holidays. 

Here are some tips to make your holiday party comfortable for everyone regardless of their choice of drink: 

Make the sober person feel included. 

The first tip is to treat the sober person as an individual. It’s easy to treat everyone with addiction in the same way, but the way one person deals with sobriety can be different from others, so it’s better, if you’re close to the non-drinker, to ask about their needs and how you can support their recovery.

One person may be okay with a virgin cocktail, while it could be a trigger for someone else. 

Allow the non-drinker to bring a plus-one. 

This person can be someone who will hold the non-drinker accountable and help them not feel so awkward for not drinking. If you’re not sure about your guests’ needs when it comes to drinking, be sure to have non-alcoholic drinks, like sodas, festive punches, or non-alcoholic eggnog.

Don’t have a communal punch bowl spiked with alcohol; this could add to any temptations the non-drinker may feel.  

Plan activities that are not based on drinking (and if there is a gift exchange, make a “no-alcohol” rule.)  

Speaking of no alcohol, hosting a non-alcoholic gathering is always an option. It’s important to inform your guests before your party, so they won’t show up and be bummed that there isn’t any alcohol. People who arrive asking, “Where are the drinks?” could alienate the sober guest.

As a host, the most important thing is to make sure that your guests enjoy themselves and feel welcomed. Going the extra mile for those working towards sobriety or choosing not to drink will definitely be appreciated.