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Hosting a Holiday Party While Including Someone in Recovery

Posted 12-21-2018

Holiday gatherings are all about celebrating the season with loved ones and friends. They involve good food, cheerful music, lots of laughter and, many times, alcoholic drinks. Who doesn’t love a good Hot Toddy during the holidays? But what if one of your loved one has struggled with an alcohol abuse disorder? Planning for that fun holiday party can leave you feeling conflicted as to how you can best support someone you love in their sobriety and still cater good holiday cheer with friends and family. It’s a tough balance, but maybe a few tweaks here and there can help you skate smoothly through your next party with ease, all while helping someone that needs your support to stay on their path to recovery.

Create a Cocktail Hour

This year, instead of toasting the night away, specify a cocktail hour before the meal where you can serve your favorite holiday concoctions. By providing the alcohol yourself, you have the ability to make a cut off time when drinks will stop being served. Invite your recovering loved one to join your gathering after cocktail hour so the peer pressure and temptation can be eliminated. Be sure to specify the times on the invitation and have the conversation with your loved ones and friends ahead of time.

Create a Signature (Secret) Non-Alcoholic Drink

Sometimes, the pressure of wanting to blend in is enough for someone in recovery to slip. They may think if they have just one drink so no one will ask questions, they can handle the situation better. This is a slippery slope and a recipe for disaster. Take away these fears and create a fun bubbly concoction or a glass of seltzer topped with a decorative garnish that signifies that it is a safe drink. Part of recovery is learning how to cope with these situations. This may be a useful tool they can rely on in the future. This way they “appear” to be partaking in the fun (less pressure from friends) and they get their own special seasonal beverage that lets them feel included.

Avoid Putting Them on the Spot

There will come a point in someone’s recovery when they will have to learn how to cope with alcohol being present in social situations. Make sure you have a variety of beverage choices that are safe for them to drink. You may not be able to avoid having alcohol at your party, so it is important to be conscious of putting your friend in an awkward situation that could initiate a slip. Toasts can often put pressure on people to participate. Using the same tactic as above, be sure to equip your guest with a champagne class filled with water or sparkling cider before a toast. When pouring margaritas from your pitcher as you pass through the room, don’t comment, “none for you” even if it’s meant in good taste. This taunt may be seen as a challenge. Simply smile and pass them by as you visit the next guest with glass raised.

Bring a Friend for Support

The more the merrier, right?

Encourage them to bring a friend that is possibly in the same boat or even their sponsor. This is especially helpful if they are just beginning the road to recovery. Having a supportive and understanding friend can help ease their fears and reassure them.

Talk Openly about Expectations

Be sure to have a conversation before the party to assure your friend or loved one that you fully support their efforts towards sobriety and let them know there may be alcohol at the party. Telling them ahead of time helps prep them for situations they may encounter and make an honest decision with themselves about whether or not they are ready to handle a social gathering that involves alcohol.

Sometimes just knowing that you thought of them and are behind them all the way can help boost their confidence on their path to recovery during the holidays. Give them an out if they feel uncomfortable at any time and maybe set up a coffee date in place of the party. YOU may need a strong cup of Joe the next morning anyways!