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Holiday Survival Guide: Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

By: Rebecca Zingarelli, MA, LPCC

Photo by Nadin Sh

Whether you’ve been sober for 20 years or you just received your 24 hour chip, staying sober during the holidays can be quite a challenge. Alcoholic beverages are often a standard part of holiday parties and those who are trying to remain sober need an extra set of skills above and beyond what is normally required. Here are some tips to improve your strategies for staying sober this holiday season…

  1. Be prepared and make a plan: Just because there are drinks offered doesn’t mean you need to avoid the gathering. Learning to live in sobriety doesn’t mean learning to live without alcohol, it means learning to live with it. Alcohol is everywhere and unavoidable at times. When remaining sober, it’s important to have strategies to cope with what to do when you encounter alcohol. Try to find out if drinks will be available and practice “no thank you” responses to give when someone offers you one. The more you practice, the more automatic the refusal will be and you won’t be stuck second-guessing your decision.

  2. Connection is Key: Sobriety can feel like a lonely journey. Connecting with others helps us foster and strengthen relationships. Fostering connections with other sober people and people in your life that are supportive of your sobriety goals is essential. Ask for help when you need it and don’t deny help when it is offered.

  3. Setting Boundaries: Sometimes we find ourselves with people who don’t have our best interests in mind or who don’t support our sobriety goals. When it comes to these situations, it’s important to set boundaries for yourself and don’t be afraid to leave the situation if necessary. If you do leave, have a backup plan that is enjoyable for you so it doesn’t seem like you are being punished for your sobriety.

  4. Play the tape to the end: If all else fails and you are itching to take a drink, play the tape to the end. Fast forward in your mind to the consequences of taking that drink. The night never finishes the way it starts. If you can fast forward through the frivolity to the end of the night (and the next morning) and what the potential devastation looks like, it might save you from taking the first sip.

Being prepared and having an extra set of tools in your sobriety tool box can help turn a holiday season of temptations into a time of self-awareness and empowerment that can help with your continued sobriety success. Just be sure to know your limitations and only participate in events that you have the capacity for as they relate to your sobriety goals.

Rebecca Zingarelli is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor who lives and works in the Oakley area of Cincinnati and has been sober for 21 years. Rebecca works with clients of all ages who struggle with anxiety, depression, LGBTQ+ concerns, transitions, and stress. Rebecca is accepting new clients and can be reached at or 513-589-6868 ext. 5.

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