A big issue that many of us have when getting sober is how to create new holiday memories that don’t involve drinking. Holiday parties centered around eggnog, spiked cider, and wine can be tough to navigate for the newly sober, so you’ll want to get creative with your social life this season. But have no fear! It’s not as difficult as it sounds if you commit to finding fun, new sober activities during the holidays.
Check out these 10 ideas on how to make the most of the holiday season while staying true to your recovery journey.
1. Plan an outdoor adventure.
Any time you’re exercising outside, especially in warmer areas of the country, you’ll need to stay hydrated with water or other non-alcoholic beverages. Therefore, inviting friends and family on an outdoor excursion is an easy way to ditch the alcohol. Plan a hike through the trees. Make a snowman. Take a walk on the beach. Climb to a vista point to watch the sunset. Participate in a Polar Bear Plunge (that’ll sober anyone up — quick!). Your body will thank you for the movement, and you’ll feel extra energized now that you don’t have to worry about hangovers.
2. Harvest a holiday tree.
If you celebrate Christmas, harvesting a live Christmas tree from a farm can be a fun-filled day for the whole family. Some tree farms offer hayrides, hot cocoa, even photos with their resident reindeer — a particular favorite for the children. Schedule your outing in advance and begin a family tradition to visit a tree farm on that day every year, so the adults know to take off work and the kids can look forward to the experience.
3. Run a (movie) marathon.
There’s not much that beats cozying up on the couch next to a fire with your favorite childhood holiday movies. Whether you’re a fan of animated films like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, or you prefer the classics like A Christmas Story or Home Alone, a movie marathon is a great way to relax with friends. Put on sweatpants, whip up some snacks, and prepare for a nostalgic feel-good night of belly laughs.
4. Host a board game night.
Board games cater to a variety of players based on interests, age, and attention span. Get together with friends for a Cards Against Humanities frenzy or stick to Monopoly with a tamer crowd. Either way, a night spent using your sober brain for its humor and creativity can prove to be even more fun than you may expect. Plus, if others are drinking and you’re not, you’ve got an advantage when it comes to keeping score. Even better, if you’re hosting it at your house, offer some delicious mocktails in place of alcoholic beverages.
5. Hold a baking contest.
The holiday season is synonymous with baking: Pies and crumbles, cookies and bars, breads, and pastries. If there’s one event that a load of people will show up to, it’s a bake-off. Okay, some may just come ready to eat everyone else’s hard-earned goodies, but it does make for a sweet night with friends and family. Plus, lots of juicy conversations and deep bonding happens in the kitchen; prepare to learn more about your loved ones than you knew before. And remember: What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen!
6. Coordinate a Turkey Bowl.
For many people, fall is football season, which means any excuse to play, watch, and bet on the games. This year, call a handful of friends and coordinate a backyard football game for the morning of Thanksgiving. A local Turkey Bowl is a chance to get some exercise before the big meal and catch up with friends who may be visiting from out of town. Make it an annual event and start a text thread in advance to ensure a good turnout.
7. Hit the ice skating rink.
Or a frozen pond, for that matter! If you live in a region that freezes over in the winter months, invite a new love interest to a night of ice skating. It’s a romantic date idea, full of potential to laugh, spend time under the stars, and meet people in your town (especially if you’re using passersby as a way to avoid falling on your ass). If it’s your first time, swallow your pride, lace up your skates, and decide to get silly with someone you care about.
8. Decorate gingerbread houses.
In the same vein as a bake-off, try dedicating an afternoon to building and decorating gingerbread houses. This activity is like the pumpkin carving of the Christmas holiday, and it can result in some serious architectural mastery. It may surprise you how involved you become — deciding on a mansion or a tiny home, number of rooms, siding, a red or a blue roof. Believe me, it can turn into a full-blown Home Makeover, Christmas edition. Bonus points if you include participants of different generations to kick the imagination up a notch.
9. Go on a holiday light tour.
A lot of people get into the holiday spirit by decorating their houses. Wreaths, lights, inflatable reindeer in the front yard, Santa on the roof — the list goes on. Join in on the yard decorations or simply admire them from afar and give kudos to the people who put in tons of work to light up the neighborhood. If you’re in a city, walk through different burrows and vote on your favorite festive house; if you’re in the suburbs or a more rural area, venture to nearby towns that hold holiday light contests.
10. Give the gift of activities and experiences.
Part of many sobriety journeys includes a reflection on consumerism as a whole, the realization that marketing plays a huge role in what we think we need to buy in order to fit in and feel like we’re enough. This holiday season, instead of buying pointless gifts that will either get thrown away or never used, gift your family members with experiences: Movie tickets, a camping trip, tickets to an art show or your city’s botanical gardens — whatever you and your loved ones enjoy doing together. If you’re in for a fun new adventure, try a trip to iFly indoor skydiving facility or hit the closest launch pad for the real deal. Make sure to buy the video playback, as you’ll want to reminisce on those hilarious reactions for years to come.
It can be difficult to avoid holiday parties full of booze during this season, even if you have the best intentions. But by working on creating your own (sober-focused) holiday memories, you get the option to still have fun with family and friends — without being worried that there’s alcohol around the corner. Instead, indulge in one of the activities above and you’ll be creating new holiday traditions in no time.