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how to celebrate family holidays, sober.
December 19, 2017

How to Celebrate and Share Sober Holidays With Family

how to celebrate family holidays, sober.Holidays. Maybe you think that now that you’re sober you can’t enjoy yourself anymore. Family gatherings? If you’ve crossed them off your list, now’s an appropriate time to rethink that strategy. Perhaps a new way of looking at sober holidays is to begin to celebrate them as sober anniversaries. With this approach, you can be with family and maintain your sobriety at the same time. Not only that, you’ll give family members an opportunity to be proactive with you by supporting your recovery.


Anniversaries are meant to be celebrated. This includes many kinds of anniversaries, from wedding to engagement to time on the job to a celebratory moment in sobriety. This may not be the easiest transition you make, although it is much less stressful than you might think. Certainly, it will involve more pleasant moments than many of the times you’ve gone through on your journey to being clean and sober.

In fact, think about what you’ve accomplished so far. You’ve made tremendous changes in your life, all in the endeavor to achieve and maintain your sobriety. This is a wonderful accomplishment and an enduring testament to all the challenging work and effort you’ve put into this meaningful life choice you’ve made. Why not switch your thinking about sober holidays to viewing them as an opportunity to celebrate sober anniversaries?


If your memories of past holidays are less than happy, it may cause you some difficulty trying to envision sober times with family as fun. Relapses, bitter arguments, being estranged from loved ones, waking up in a fog in places you can’t remember going to— nightmare stuff, to be sure. Remembering falling-down-drunk episodes in years past is enough to wrench the stomach of even long-time-sober individuals. Yet, it’s important to recognize that you’ve advanced far beyond those times. You’re a different person now, so there’s no need to feel shame and guilt over what happened before. Furthermore, it is possible to extend the growth process you’ve already begun by regarding the holidays as sober anniversaries and consider ways you can incorporate fun activities this holiday with your family— while you’re sober.

It is a mindset and a plan of action that sets this apart from other ways to celebrate the holidays with family sober. Consider what makes you happy. What are some things that you like to do? Are these activities you can share with your family? Getting outside yourself and your personal concerns for a moment, take some time to come up with ways that you can add value, bring comfort and a little spot of happiness to individual family members— or the group.


It may seem to fly in the face of acknowledgement of your personal addiction, yet a 2000 study published in Social Science & Medicine describes how recovered individuals can benefit from constructing a new narrative of their recovery as a non-addict. Three elements of such a narrative include “reinterpretation of their drug-using lifestyle,” “reconstruction of their sense of self,” and providing “convincing explanations for their recovery.”

How might this work for you? Seeing yourself as newly-born, free of addiction, liberates you to become the person you choose. This new narrative takes nothing away from your path to sobriety. If anything, it celebrates the opportunity to chart your own destiny. By giving thanks for all those who helped nurture and support your sobriety efforts and well-deserved accolades for your commitment to abstinence, you reinforce your sense of self. Start seeing yourself as this new ambassador for your future, pursuing dreams, satisfying your curiosity, making full use of your talents and abilities while, at the same time, living a life of purpose and meaning and joy.

On this sober anniversary with family, your new narrative can serve you well. Instead of facing the gathering with apprehension, go with vigor and enthusiasm. This is your new life, another sober holiday milestone you can enjoy.


Getting to the crux of the matter, how do you share moments with your family during the holidays as a sober individual who is also a loving person intent on making the most of this time with your family? Here are some suggestions:

  • Take a walk, literally. Walking outside, whatever the weather, can be a liberating way to share this sober anniversary of yours with other family members. Mothers can bond with daughters, fathers with sons, parents with children and so on. Brisk temperatures or an unexpected warm front do not change the fact that walking is good for your body, mind and spirit. There’s lots of research attesting to the value of walking for everyone, whether in recovery or supporting someone who is.
  • Bring your sponsor. Another novel way to incorporate this holiday as a sober anniversary is to bring your sponsor from a 12-Step group like Alcoholics Anonymous to the family gathering. (This assumes that you’ve cleared the invite with your family beforehand. The last thing you want is to spring an unknown guest upon them.)
  • Wear a sober anniversary item. A simple and effective reminder of how far you’ve come and a novel way to acknowledge this fact is to wear something that’s clearly celebratory of your sober anniversary. It can be a pin, bracelet, item of clothing with a discreet logo or slogan, a baseball cap, watch, whatever. And it needn’t be obtrusive. After all, this is for your benefit during the time you spend with your family members, a way for you to keep focused on the importance of this sober anniversary.
  • Give of yourself. Nothing makes you feel better than bringing a smile to the faces of loved ones and family members. This is true anytime of the year and especially during the holidays. The fact that you are sober and rightfully proud of your sobriety makes your actions to give of yourself that much more special to you and others. What you give doesn’t have to involve expensive gifts. Indeed, simple gestures, such as offering to help prepare the holiday meal, tending to chores that might otherwise be overlooked, cleaning up afterwards, bringing flowers, or giving a backrub to your spouse or some other deserving family member, are always much appreciated. You can surely think of many more ways to give of yourself to your family on this holiday sober anniversary.
  • Write new goals for the New Year. As part of family celebration and your sober anniversary this holiday season, you can create goals you want to achieve from this point forward. For your own part, be sure to write them down, for a written account is something you can refer to in the months ahead to keep track of your progress, modify as you see fit and add to when opportunities arise. Since recovery is a “voluntarily maintained lifestyle,” what better way to greet your next year in sobriety? As part of your goal-setting, tap into your spirituality for inspiration. Participation in 12-Step groups paves the way for this interface, so it should be a logical progression to make use of this experience in writing goals to further your sober journey.