Dealing with New Year’s Eve TriggersMicah Robbins
If “celebrate my first year of sobriety” is one of your New Year’s resolutions, you may be looking uneasily toward the actual turn of the year. Will your family understand if you skip the annual gathering where drinks flow freely? Do you dare attend any gathering where someone’s likely to pop open a champagne bottle as the clock strikes midnight? What alternative do you have—sitting home alone, dispirited, depressed and fighting the urge to comfort yourself with a drink?
Don’t panic: you do have options besides celebrating in the wrong ways and not celebrating at all.
JUST SAY “NO” (THANK YOU)
If you’ve had several months of successful sobriety already (including navigating other parties unscathed), you may well be up to celebrating New Year’s Eve with “social drinkers,” dismissing any offer of a drink for you with a polite “No thanks” or a request for a nonalcoholic alternative. However, even normally responsible acquaintances may “let themselves go” at major celebrations (and that can be contagious), so stick to gatherings where you know everyone well and are sure they’ll remain clearheaded and well-behaved. And if things nonetheless start to show signs of getting out of hand, make a quick exit on any excuse.
Other hints for surviving New Year’s Eve parties where drinks are circulating:
- Equip yourself with a glass of sparkling water or other nonalcoholic option. If you go about without any visible refreshment, you’ll be fending off “Can I get you something?” requests all evening.
- Find something besides refreshments to occupy you. If there’s no special entertainment at the party, seek out an interesting acquaintance and ask them about their plans for next year.
- Offer to help the host replenish the food table (not the bar!), hang up coats or arrange chairs.
- Plan on staying just an hour or two. Lingering = boredom = temptation.
- The riskiest point may come with the official New Year’s toast, if a bottle of champagne is opened for that specific purpose. Have your own glass of nonalcoholic beverage ready to raise, or (if you’re positive you can stand having champagne so close to your nose) take a glass from the communal bottle, raise it with everyone else, then unobtrusively put it down untasted. (Full teetotalers often touch the glass to their lips in this situation, but anyone with a drinking problem is better off not risking it.)
Your ability to cope with party triggers will be further improved if you go to the party with someone who supports your sobriety. Or confide in a trustworthy friend who will also be at the party, asking them to stick close to you. Or ask the host in advance if they can make sure you aren’t offered alcoholic beverages.
Ideally, have your close friends and family members—the same people you’ll be celebrating the New Year with—in your sobriety support network already. Then the whole party can be on your side from the beginning, without hurt feelings or having their own enjoyment dampened.
FIND ANOTHER WAY TO CELEBRATE
All that said, you may be among those who can’t yet risk attending any gathering where alcohol is served. Play it safe and count yourself in that group if:
- your support partners advise it
- you’ve been out of detox less than three months
- family or friends who host the regular gathering can’t be trusted to support your recovery
Or … you may simply not get any party invitations at all.
Don’t despair: you still have options for a sober and fun New Year’s Eve.
- Find a way to enjoy it alone: make yourself a nonalcoholic hot drink, wrap yourself in a warm blanket and put on your favorite video or music. Or order your favorite carry-out meal and eat it by candlelight,
- Alternatively, make productive use of your evening: add how-to steps to your New Year’s resolutions list, update your 12 Steps self-inventory, write snail-mail letters to people you want to reconnect with.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter or nursing home (your support group or religious congregation can supply referrals).
- Invite a few good friends or support partners over for snacks and coffee and sharing dreams for the New Year. When the midnight bells toll, toast your sobriety journey and its past and future success!