Find a way to celebrate this holiday season that includes and validates those who may be in recovery.
The holiday season is a time of great anxiety for those who have experienced loss or trauma. Rates of alcohol use disorder (AUD) have skyrocketed in the aftermath of the pandemic; as we come together this holiday season it’s important to be mindful of those who may be challenged by AUD. Festivities are almost always coupled with alcoholic drinks and we need to remember those who may be struggling to maintain sobriety. Nancy Stearns Bercaw writes in the “Washington Post” of her own struggles after seven years of sobriety and shares some suggestions to help friends and colleagues navigate this trying season.
1. AUD is a chronic disease that requires ongoing behavioral and lifestyle modifications.
Those in recovery may avoid celebrations entirely. Creating alcohol-free gatherings without judgment should be considered.
2. Don’t ask a sober person for permission to drink. This puts them in a position to comfort the asker.
3. Offer to be a “sober buddy” at events, or plan events that don’t center around drinking—get creative and break the mold—host a paint night or organize outdoor caroling.
4. As a host, offer non-alcoholic options to create an atmosphere of inclusion.
Again, get creative and have appealing non-alcoholic options in well-labelled sparkly pitchers or bottles. Many festive non-alcoholic beverages can be mixed with a flourish and websites with recipes abound.
5. If someone is newly sober, offer alternatives to the traditional holiday party, like a smaller gathering without alcohol or an activity together.
Deferring getting together or offering a rain check until after the holidays may also reduce the pressure to socialize that a newly sober person might be experiencing.
One of the lessons of the pandemic has been that isolation and lack of social support lead to ill health and may exacerbate AUD. Find a way to celebrate this holiday season in a way that includes and validates those who may be in recovery and working to heal.
Learn more about alcohol use post-pandemic:
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine. CLOSLER originally published this important piece in December 2022, and we are re-featuring it again today.