• Bryan Swift

To Go or Not To Go: Sobriety and Socializing on Drinking Holidays

For people in recovery, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can be a major stumbling block on drinking holidays like Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and Saint Patrick’s Day. But try to remember that drinking holidays are not all they’re cracked up to be.

There are very few times when alcoholics and “normal” people have the same drinking habits, but go to any bar on a drinking holiday like New Year’s Eve, Saint Patrick’s Day, or Halloween, and it’s pretty hard to tell the alcoholics and civilians apart. Unlike alcoholics, most “normal” people only get really wasted a few times a year (instead of every night and probably most days, too). Society has a somewhat permissive attitude towards drinking holidays, while film, television, and commercials portray drinking holidays to provide the maximum amount of fun that’s humanly possible. But for people in recovery, these drinking holidays can be major stumbling blocks.

For many people in recovery, the most common complaint about drinking holidays is FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. Missing out on the good times. Missing out on the party. Missing out on the fun. Missing out while everyone else is having the BEST. NIGHT. EVER. FOMO is a terrible feeling. A feeling not based in reality, but a terrible feeling nonetheless. Luckily, there are ways to avoid this feeling of missing out during big celebrations and drinking holidays. Here’s a few pointers to ensure a safe, healthy, and happy holiday:

Remember what it’s really like out there

First of all, going out to bars on big drinking holidays sucks. Every bar is packed. Everyone is hammered by 9pm and it only gets worse from there. People are screaming, sweating, spilling drinks, and throwing up on each other. Girls are losing shoes and falling down. Guys are picking fights with each other and breaking stuff for no reason. People are driving drunk, getting arrested for DUIs, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, or any number of other charges. Worst of all, people are getting killed. According to a study by the NIAA (the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths in 2014 alone. So the next time you think going to the bar for a major holiday might be fun, remember: it probably won’t be.

Not everyone drinks on holidays

Sure, when it’s Saint Patrick’s Day or the Saturday before Halloween, it might feel like everyone in the world is out there hoisting a glass and having a blast, but that is the dependent mind attempting to derail your sobriety. There are plenty of people who don’t drink at all on big holidays, opting to go to family-friendly events to celebrate without alcohol. For almost every holiday you can think of, there are family-friendly sober events like parades, community parties, public concerts, and more. There might even be sober holiday-themed events organized by recovery and 12-step groups. Check Facebook, Google, or even community bulletin boards to find sober and family-friendly holiday events near you.

Organize a sober celebration with other sober friends

It’s no secret that sober people love to party. Throwing or attending a sober holiday-themed celebration is a great way to have fun and cut loose in a safe environment. There are tons of fun party themes and games to choose from, and you can even encourage guests to bring holiday themed snacks and mocktails to the event so there’s plenty to eat and drink. The best thing about sober parties is that they’re a great way to meet other sober individuals. Tell your guests to spread the word in their sober networks and invite their friends. Before you know it your party will be packed with sober people looking to have a good time.

You can go to the bar, but do it safely

Of course, there are times when family or friends are getting together for a drinking holiday, and you don’t want to drink, but you don’t want to miss out on the fun either. Many people in recovery attend events at bars and nightclubs without being tempted to relapse. With proper safety and preparation, sober people can go anywhere and do anything. If you’re going to attend a drinking party, just use common sense and follow a few useful pieces of advice: bring a sober friend, drive your own car so you can leave when you want to, check in with a recovery coach or a sponsor before you go and after you leave, and remember that it’s ok to leave if you feel tempted or uncomfortable.

Most importantly, if you feel like you’re missing out on the fun stuff in life because you’re sober, it’s time to think about why you got sober in the first place. Remember the bad times, not the good. Remember the desperation you felt after you took that last drink, and remember how good you felt the first time you didn’t feel like a slave to alcohol or drugs. It’s easy to remember the good times and the laughter because it feels good, but the reason we stop drinking is because drinking stopped feeling good.

-- Bryan Swift for Life Assurance Recovery, 2017

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