The sound of cheers as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve is often accompanied by the clinking of glasses as friends and families share a drink to celebrate the new year.
But it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone shares the same candid attitude around alcohol. For some, alcohol has been a source of pain and mental health battles.
For those who have dealt with substance abuse of any kind, seeing people drink alcohol, use party drugs, or smoke can trigger cravings and cause addiction relapse.
If you have loved ones recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, you may want to consider some of the traditions of the new year that may be triggering or emotionally difficult for them.
7 Sober Alternatives For New Year’s Eve
You can support your loved one over the holidays by creating sober alternatives for New Year’s Eve that honor the holiday and your loved one’s recovery.
Sober celebrations for New Year’s Eve can be just as enjoyable and celebratory as those which involve drinking or drug use. Here’s how you can make this year special for your loved one.
1. Have An Extravagant Night In
You can enjoy a great night in with your loved one in recovery and other friends without alcohol by throwing an extravagant party.
This is the time to pull out all the stops: wear fancy outfits, use your best china, enjoy sparkling non-alcoholic drinks, and do everything over-the-top.
Filling the night with lavish activities and foods can help to take your loved one’s mind off substance use and enjoy the company of their friends and family.
2. Have A Sober Night Out
Excluding alcohol doesn’t mean that you have to stay inside the house on New Year’s Eve.
There are many ways that you and your friends or family members can go out for the night while staying sober.
Here are a few sober options if you and your loved one want to spend New Year’s Eve out:
- see a comedy show, concert, movie, or play
- go out to a restaurant
- watch fireworks and bring a picnic
- go to a venue that doesn’t serve alcohol
- plan a weekend trip to a new city
- do something active, such as bowling, golfing, ice skating, or rollerblading
If you do decide to spend New Year’s Eve out in public, be sure to communicate with your loved one in recovery beforehand.
Go over topics such as:
- what places they’re comfortable going to
- who they’re comfortable spending the evening with
- what to do if someone brings alcohol, drugs, or another substance
- an exit plan when and if a trigger arises, or the situation is no longer safe for their sobriety
3. Host A Dinner Party
Going out to dinner may not be right for you and your loved one in addiction recovery, especially if they’d prefer to save money this year.
You can host a dinner party for close loved ones on New Year’s Eve to accommodate any price range, including anything from a five-course meal to a casual potluck.
This can allow you, your friends, or family members, and your loved one recovering from addiction to spend time in good company enjoying good food without the pressure of substance use or going out.
4. Find A Sober New Year’s Eve Event
You can find sober New Year’s Eve events put on by peer recovery organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery.
Search for a New Year’s Eve event in your area by looking up the recovery group your loved one is a part of or interested in and see who’s hosting a celebration.
If your loved one has already been attending a recovery group, they might also know someone from the group who’s hosting a sober event for their friends and peer recovery members.
Show your support by going to one of these sober events with your friend on New Year’s Eve.
5. Have A Themed Party
You can set the celebratory mood by assigning a theme to your night. Have friends come dressed in the theme, bring dishes around the theme, and do a low-cost themed gift exchange.
Popular themes for New Year’s Eve parties include:
- Great Gatsby or roaring twenties parties
- decades parties, where guests come dressed as their favorite decade
- color theme, such as all white or all black
- masquerade party
- movie marathon
- midnight brunch
- pajama party
6. Have A Screen-Free Night
This year, try an old-fashioned party free from screens. Have everyone drop their phones in a bowl upon entry, turn off the TV, and focus on connecting.
Researchers have found that social connection can have a significant positive impact on preventing substance use and relapse.
The more connected to society, friends, and family a person overcoming addiction feels, the stronger their recovery will be.
Bring out board games, play party games, have a photo booth with a polaroid camera, and any other screen-free activities your group might enjoy.
7. Have A Mocktail Party
Your loved one may be missing some of the fun that comes with drinking champagne and cocktails on New Year’s Eve.
You can support their sobriety and bring the same type of feel to a party by making mocktails. Have everyone bring their favorite mocktail with a label card listing the ingredients.
You can step it up a notch by taking a vote at the end of the night to determine who brought the best mocktail and have a small prize for the winner.
Aspects Of New Year’s Eve That Can Be Triggering To Someone In Addiction Recovery
Besides the clear presence of drugs and alcohol at house parties, clubs, and bars, there are several aspects of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day that can be triggering for someone in recovery.
If you’ll be spending the holiday with someone you love who’s pursuing sobriety, it’s best to have an honest conversation about their triggers, and how you can support them.
Here are a few common triggers associated with the New Year that you can be aware of before starting the conversation.
Being In The Party Scene
Being around intoxicated people, loud music, dancing, and partying can be trying for someone recovering from alcohol or drug addiction.
This is likely the type of place your loved one would have used substances before, and watching other people engage in substance use or being surrounded by party-goers can induce cravings.
New Year’s Eve is typically a time when large groups of friends and families get together.
Even if your gathering is smaller, being around multiple people can be overwhelming for someone in addiction recovery as they’re still learning to navigate social situations sober.
For some, substances have been a coping mechanism for social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and getting through social gatherings.
Without this crutch, a social New Year’s Eve might feel intimidating to someone in the early stages of recovery from drug or alcohol abuse.
New Year’s Resolutions
Chances are, this is not your loved one’s first attempt at getting sober. And chances are, they’ve been burned by New Year’s resolutions in the past if they committed to sobriety and relapsed.
This can make the common subject of New Year’s resolutions especially delicate for someone recovering from a substance use disorder.
Additionally, other resolutions of eating healthier and spending more time doing hobbies can feel trivial in comparison to the mental health and substance use issues your loved one faces daily.
The fall and winter holiday seasons — Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s — usually come with stiff financial implications.
If your loved one is spending New Year’s Eve with people who expect to pay for expensive dinners at nice restaurants, go to clubs with high cover charges, and other expenses, this can add a great deal of undue stress.
They may want to save their money for counseling sessions, recovery programs, medications to improve their mental health, health insurance, and other important aspects of recovery.
Spending money on gifts, drinks, and food around the holidays may be unrealistic and stressful for a loved one in recovery.
Mental Health Issues
Seeing other people’s success and happiness can be hard on someone who’s dealt with mental health problems, including addiction, depression, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders.
Drug and alcohol abuse can cause depression, problems with anxiety, difficulties managing stress, and much more.
With social pressures, financial stress, extended family time, and other burdens on mental health, New Year’s can be a particularly pressing time for someone recovering from substance abuse.
Setting Realistic New Year’s Resolutions
As we mentioned earlier, the topic of New Year’s resolutions almost always comes up in conversation at social gatherings, on social media, and in day-to-day conversations.
If your loved one wants to have a New Year’s resolution but wants to avoid the pain of disappointment if a relapse occurs, try working through some realistic resolutions with them.
Saying “I want to get sober” is a very broad goal. The goal of sobriety can be achieved by incorporating smaller attainable steps, all of which promote a sober lifestyle and healing.
Here are a few tips for making a realistic sober resolution:
- Take recovery a day at a time. Instead of saying “In 2022, I will never use drugs again” try making a plan to take sobriety one day at a time, hitting smaller goals daily.
- Replace old habits with new ones. It might be tough to say no to alcohol when your loved one has nothing else to replace it, so think of some healthy alternatives.
- Incorporate self-care. A sober resolution can best be attained by taking care of yourself. Encourage your loved one to incorporate self-care (i.e. journal five minutes every day).
- Allow room for failure. Plan for the possibility of a lapse or relapse, because recovery is a process. Don’t let your loved one throw in the towel after a lapse. Find ways to adapt.
- Make it tangible. Find tangible ways to achieve sobriety, such as going to a rehab program, calling a recovery mentor daily, and attending peer support groups daily.
If your loved one needs some inspiration for realistic goals, here are a few examples:
- I will spend 10 minutes on self-care every day.
- I will schedule phone calls with friends and family weekly.
- I will commit to learning one new sober activity.
- I will enroll in a drug and alcohol treatment program.
- I will talk to like-minded peers in recovery every day.
- I will reach out for help when I need it.
- I will go to therapy weekly.
Resources For Loved Ones Of People In Recovery On New Year’s Eve
Recovery over New Year is possible, it just takes the support of loved ones to find the motivation to stay sober.
Here’s how you can support your friend or family member’s recovery this New Year’s Eve.
Sober New Year’s Eve Activities
Here are 4 alternative activities you can take part in during you Sober New Year’s Eve:
- Bustle: 7 Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Without Drinking
- Country Living: 23 Best New Year’s Party Themes to Ring in 2021
- The Healthy: 8 Creative Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Without Alcohol
- My Mommy Style: 4 Fabulous Non-Alcoholic Beverage Ideas For New Year’s Eve
Resources On How To Make Sober Resolutions
One way to support your loved one’s recovery is to make realistic resolutions for health and sobriety.
Here are a few resources to help you understand realistic resolutions, be informed about relapsing, and how to make a resolution:
- Partnership to End Addiction: What’s the Difference Between a Slip or Lapse and a Relapse?
- Sober Link: New Year’s Resolution Ideas for People in Recovery
- Smartsheet: The Essential Guide to Writing SMART Goals
Recovery Support Groups
If your loved one is not already connected with a peer support group, you can encourage them to attend one of the groups below.
If it’s an open meeting (meaning anyone is welcome to attend), you can offer to go to one of these meetings with them.
Here are a few common recovery groups with in-person and online meetings:
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Cocaine Anonymous
- Marijuana Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- SMART Recovery
- Women for Sobriety
Once you’ve chosen a group, you can also search “[Recovery group] sober New Year’s Eve celebrations near me” and find an event in your area.Article Sources
- BMC Psychiatry — High effectiveness of self-help programs after drug addiction therapy
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Study shows impact of social interactions on addictive behavior
- Partnership to End Addiction — What’s the Difference Between a Slip or Lapse and a Relapse?