How to survive the holidays in sobriety - Ivy Tolchinsky
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Ivy Tolchinsky, recovery coach, surviving the holidays in sobriety

How to survive the holidays in sobriety

Company parties and family gatherings can be a challenge to survive the holidays in sobriety, especially for those of you in early recovery. Triggers abound! The alcohol is free-flowing, family dysfunction is on display and the pressure to overspend can be overwhelming. Even so, there’s still no good reason to relapse. Often it’s just a matter of setting some healthy boundaries before any event.

 How to survive the holidays in sobriety when…

Alcohol is in your face

  • Plan to leave early if there is too much drinking. A good cue would be when your Aunt Lily begins slurring her words and starts reminiscing about the good ole days.
  • Bring along a friend. Preferably one in recovery. This is the best moral support if others become insistent on you joining in the “festivities.”
  • Have a number you can call (friend, sponsor) if you are feeling anxious. This is another lifeline if you must attend alone.
  • Volunteer to help out. This will keep you busy and feeling useful.

Family feud is live in the living room

  • Bite your tongue when the conversation is hitting the red line. Repeat the Serenity Prayer or any other one that calms you down.
  • Don’t bring up any negative family relationships. Stay away from what you really think about your sister’s husband or any other potentially explosive issues.
  • Share some family pictures that bring back good memories; not the family vacation when everyone came down with a stomach virus.
  • Watch a movie or play a friendly game. The conversation is less direct that way.

When your wallet seems to open on its own

  • Make yourself a budget and a list before your shopping trip will help you survive the holidays in sobriety.
  • Remember H.A.L.T. Do not go shopping if you are too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. You’ll make better choices especially when buying food.
  • Re-gifting an unopened present or unused gift card will not get you struck by lightening. Think of it as recycling and reducing your carbon foot print.
  • Create your own gifts. You aren’t cheap but thoughtful and creative. If you’re a talented baker now’s the time to hand out those delicious cookies everyone raves about.

The most important thing to remember is the holidays will be over before you know it. When you think others are having more fun than you, remember you’re only seeing the outside. You’ve suffered worse in your active addiction. Reach out to your support system. Be grateful for what you have and you’ll survive the holidays  in sobriety.


If you need some help in setting healthy limits during the holidays contact Ivy. Schedule your 30-minute complimentary session.




  • Jennifer Alderson
    Posted at 17:52h, 10 December Reply

    A very well written article, Ivy!

    The holidays are definitely a tough time for everyone. I particularly like the sentiment about regifting, it made me giggle as I have always tended to feel guilty about doing so.

    Your insights always put things into perspective. Thank you!

  • Lorna Groethe
    Posted at 00:47h, 12 December Reply

    A wonderful article, addressing every possible trigger I can think of. ivy. P.lus gift ideas to take the stress off and lighten the load. The HALT reminder is key.,.. as well as the serenity prayer.. Playing games and leaving when the Auntie starts slurring her words. are peaceful options.
    A good one to save to refer back to before heading out to any festivity.

    • ivytolchinsky
      Posted at 01:27h, 12 December Reply

      Thank you Lorna! Happy non-stressful holidays to you!

  • Wendy
    Posted at 13:57h, 12 December Reply

    Will definitely have these suggestions with me during the holidays. Great info!

    • ivytolchinsky
      Posted at 01:52h, 20 December Reply

      Thanks Wendy! Glad to be of help. Enjoy your holidays!

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