Holidays can be great. No matter your cultural background and what occasions you celebrate, chances are, there’s a holiday you or your family or friend group gets really, really excited about. 

Unfortunately, most holidays tend to be heavy drinking days because celebrations usually include alcoholic drinks. For some widely celebrated holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day, The Super Bowl, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July, alcohol tends to play a vital role in many people’s celebrations. You can still celebrate with family and friends, of course, but you have to be prepared for the reality that there is likely going to be alcohol — and many intoxicated people at — these events.

Prepare ahead of time in order to ensure you still have a good time and remain safe. Here are some tips for managing these heavy drink days.

1. BYOB – Bring your own beverages

It doesn’t matter whether your friends or family know you are sober, always attend a celebration with your own drinks in tow. Water will most likely be available wherever you go, but if H2O isn’t your vibe and you want something a little fancier, you might think about bringing something a little fancier.

Sure, there might be sodas or juice to drink, but bringing your own beverage ensures your safety in case there isn’t.  

Plus, by bringing your own drinks, you can avoid having to explain yourself if someone offers to grab a drink for you. Since you will already have something in your hand, you are able to have some control over the situation which will put you at ease and ensure you can enjoy yourself.

2. Invite a sober friend

Bringing another sober person along can make all the difference. It can make a big event with a lot of alcohol go much smoother. Knowing that someone else is in the same boat as you at the party can alone take some anxiety off your mind. 

If you do not have another sober friend, or they are not available or interested in attending, you could just ask someone who is not attending the party to check in with you at some point during the evening. Just knowing that someone else is in this with you can really make a difference for your mental well-being.

3. Talk to your sponsor or a close friend

Similar to what was mentioned above, but it’s a good idea to talk out your plans for attending a large party with your sponsor, or a close friend that’s been with you throughout your sobriety. Talking out your plans with another sober person is always a good idea. Another sober person can give you some perspective and help you figure out how to manage an intense situation. 

You can then ask them to check in with you the day of and when you’re at the party, so that way you have someone holding you accountable and aware of what’s going on. Moreover, in the event you start to feel uncomfortable or triggered, you will be able to call your sponsor or friend to talk with them since they will know ahead of time that you’re going out.

4. Practice saying no

It’s always a good idea to practice saying no. People are going to offer you drinks and may try to peer pressure you into having “just one drink,” or “just one sip.” It’s a celebration, after all. For some of us in recovery, a celebration was an excuse to drink. The more you practice saying no, the easier it becomes.  

If someone asks if you want a drink, you can simply say, “No thanks.” Most people won’t press you, but there might be those who do so.

It is also a good idea to practice saying the exact response you want to give people when they ask why you are sober, or why you don’t drink. Of course, you do not need to explain yourself. But, preparing a simple line, such as, “I’m sober now,” or “I just don’t drink anymore,” can help you remember to say something short, sweet, and just walk away.

5. Be honest with yourself about how comfortable you are

Before you go to the party, take a moment to consider how you feel. Do you feel good? Is any part of you worried about being tempted to drink, or how to act around people who are drinking? 

If you do not feel totally comfortable, remember that it is okay to not go. Just because you don’t go to the celebration does not mean you can’t have fun or celebrate in your own way. Trust your gut instinct — if you are not ready to attend an event where you know many people will be drinking, honor those feelings. It is more important to take care of your sobriety than attend a party.

6. Plan your exit 

If you do go through with attending a large celebration this year, make sure you plan your exit ahead of time. The longer the night, the more intoxicated most people become. When people drink more, they start to peer pressure others and it can become harder to leave and to say no. Set a time for yourself, both for when you want someone to check in with you and for when you want to leave. You can give yourself a rule, such as, “I will leave at 11 p.m.,” or “I will leave right after the fireworks or as soon as the game ends.”

You should also make sure you have a safe way to get home. If you are traveling to the party with friends who will be drinking, be sure you know how you will get home. 

7. Prepare for triggers, and avoid them

Attending a celebration for St. Patrick’s Day, The Fourth of July, or the Super Bowl, usually means a lot of alcohol will be out on display and always in view. Before you go, consider talking with a friend or a professional about your triggers. For example, is there a particular type of alcohol smell that could be a powerful trigger for you? 

There are going to be a lot of triggers at a huge drinking day event, so it’s really important that you take care of yourself and prepare to be face to face with those. Again, if you do not feel ready or comfortable being around some of those triggers right now, then reconsider going or only going if you can bring a good sober friend with you.

8. Trust your instincts and take care of yourself

Lastly, stay strong, take care of yourself, and applaud yourself. Going to a heavy drinking day party is very difficult when you’re in sobriety. You should be proud of how far you’ve come even to just be considering going to a big celebration! 

At the end of the day, you are the only person who knows yourself best. You know what you can and cannot handle. You know what you want to do and what you want to avoid. Trust your instincts — if you start to feel uncomfortable, leave. If someone is pressuring you, walk away. If someone tries to hand you a drink, decline it.

You can still celebrate the holidays and have fun – just remember that the most important thing is that you stay safe, take care of yourself and that you do what is best for you.