How To Survive Your Company’s Holiday Party Sober

Individuals in recovery receive many invitations during the holidays that are sources of excitement and happy anticipation. One particular type of invitation, however, has the potential to ignite a great deal of anxiety: the one to your annual holiday work party.

The thought of standing around for a couple of hours making small talk with the same group of people you see day in and day out is one thing. When you compound that challenge with the fact that the majority of your co-workers will likely have alcoholic drinks in hand while you most certainly will not, worrisome thoughts are certain to soar.

Thankfully, there are things you can do before, during and after the event that will ensure your sobriety stays safe. Here are some, including a few ideas from Alcoholics Anonymous and The National Institutes of Health.

Before the Party

  • The week before the event, try to go to bed between 30 to 45 minutes earlier than usual each night so that you are more rested.
  • Switch your brain off the worry and engage it instead in enjoyable exercise. Run, swim, walk, play tennis, or do yoga for at least an hour on the actual day of the party. If the party is immediately after work, plan ahead to make sure you exercised adequately the day before.
  • For a weekend party, try to grab a short nap before you shower and dress. This will re-boot your brain and prepare it for the night ahead.
  • Eat a healthy, high protein snack and drink a large glass of plain water before you leave so that you don’t arrive too hungry or thirsty.
  • Make sure you have the names and numbers of at least 10 friends who understand the challenges of being in recovery who you can call or text immediately if you start feeling an urge to drink alcohol.
  • Tuck plenty of candy, gum or mints in your pocket or purse to have instead of overeating sweets or drinking sugary beverages.

During the Party

  • Make a conscious effort to step out of your own head and into the beauty of the present moment. See and touch the decorations. Smell the fragrances of the candles and food. Listen to the music and laughter. Focus on tasting each bite. Enjoy each sip of your non-alcoholic drink.
  • If you begin to feel anxious, excuse yourself and move outside – or even to the bathroom is there’s no other option— to check messages on your phone. Look at a few positive affirmations on your favorite website or read a page from a publication stored on your device.
  • Spend the next few minutes by yourself slowly breathing in and out. Concentrate on feeling the air moving through your nose and mouth, filling your lungs and chest and then exiting completely.
  • If you still feel overwhelmed, make a call to one or two of the 10 friends on your list. Talk as long as you need to until you feel more centered and in control of your emotions.
  • Whenever you are ready, head back into the party and move to a completely different spot in the room for a fresh perspective and a chance to talk to some new people for variety and distraction.
  • Don’t stay late. If people around you are beginning to get intoxicated and loud, go ahead and excuse yourself a little early. Say a gracious thanks to your host and head directly home with the pride and confidence that comes from sticking to your sobriety plan.

After the Party

  • Make yourself a nice cup of decaffeinated holiday tea. Put on your favorite pajamas and slippers. Play some soft music.
  • Wrap up in a blanket and call another one of the 10 friends or family members on your support list to chat about the event.
  • Before you go to bed, write three things on a piece of paper or in your gratitude journal that describe the night’s accomplishments.
  • Read these three things aloud to yourself. Believe each one of them.
  • Fall asleep thinking about something extra nice and to do the following day as a self-reward. Perhaps a new motivational book to download, a mini massage or a visit to your local green market to sample unique vegetables or fruits for a snack? Pick something small but significant that supports your victory of leading a healthy, sober life. 

Resources:

“Raise a toast to healthy holidays: Celebrate the season without risky drinking,” National Institutes of Health, December 2007

“Tips for a happy, sober holiday season,” AA Southwest Ohio General Service Area 56, December 2014

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