How To Stay Sober On New Year’s Eve

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on November 1, 2023

New Year’s Eve can be a tough holiday to celebrate for those in early sobriety. However, there are many fun options for welcoming the new year without alcohol. Being aware of common triggers can also help people prevent a relapse and maintain their focus on recovery.

How To Have A Sober New Year's Eve

There are millions of adults in the United States who either don’t drink regularly or choose not to drink.

This choice can be made for several reasons, not the least of which is a past alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder.

If you or a loved one is in recovery from alcohol addiction this holiday season, there are plenty of ways to celebrate an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve.

Here, you’ll find information on:

  • tips for sobriety on New Year’s
  • common New Year’s Eve triggers
  • ideas for a sober New Year’s
  • what to do if you relapse
  • resources for maintaining recovery

Tips For A Sober New Year’s Eve

Is this your first New Year’s Eve without alcohol? Fear not. Here are some tips on how to have a fun, sober New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Host Your Own Party

Going to a New Year’s Eve party where alcohol will be present can be triggering for people who are newly sober or unsteady in their addiction recovery this holiday season.

One alternative is organizing your own party. This way, you can set the rules (no alcohol) and create a celebratory environment that feels comfortable for you and your guests.

Volunteer To Be A Designated Driver

Driving around others who aren’t sober may not be the best decision for some people in early addiction recovery, but it can give you a solid excuse to abstain from all substances.

While you don’t need an excuse to stay dry on New Year’s Eve, volunteering to be the designated driver can help you remain accountable to your commitment to avoid drinking on New Year’s Eve.

Before doing this, ask yourself:

  • Will it be triggering for me to be around people who are intoxicated?
  • Do I want to be out as late as my friends?
  • Can I earnestly commit to staying sober all night?
  • What is my plan in the event that this arrangement does trigger urges to drink?

If you do volunteer as DD, consider asking another friend to volunteer with you. Or, check in with another sober friend throughout the night who is acting as DD for another group of friends.

Bring A Sober Friend

If you are intent on attending a New Year’s Eve party, consider finding a sober friend to attend with you. This way, you can both keep each other accountable for avoiding the alcohol table.

It’s easier to abstain from alcohol and have a good time when you’re not the only one at a party who’s staying dry.

Bring Your Own Beverages

Another idea for attending a New Year’s Eve party sober is bringing your own beverages, such as seltzer, mocktails, non-alcoholic beer, or other non-alcoholic sparkling drinks.

This way, you’ll have less of an excuse to hit up the drink table at the party. And when the toast comes around for midnight, you’ll be all set to participate.

Prepare Responses

Preparation is key. Especially if this is your first New Year’s sober, prepare to refuse a drink, and prepare a response if someone asks why.

You can provide as detailed an answer as you want. If you’re comfortable, you could be completely honest and say you’re recovering from an addiction to alcohol.

Alternatively, you could say:

  • I don’t drink.
  • I don’t like the taste of alcohol.
  • I’m driving tonight.
  • I have other responsibilities (such as work, school, or children) to take care of.
  • I’m taking medication that interacts with alcohol.

Check In With Yourself

Parties can be stressful. If you do go out, find time to check in with yourself regularly throughout the night. Keep in mind your comfort level, how you’re feeling, and whether you’re actually having a good time.

If not, consider leaving early. People tend to be more likely to slip when they’re feeling anxious, sad, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable.

Prioritize Your Recovery

Above all, make choices this New Year’s Eve that prioritize your recovery. Whether that’s staying home, hosting your own alcohol-free party, or leaving a party early before the usual toast.

No party is worth risking your sobriety.

Attend A 12-Step Meeting

Many 12-step support groups will host meetings during holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve. Attending one of these meetings can get you out of the house and keep you on track to stay sober.

Even if you don’t go, it may be helpful to prepare a list of a few meetings you can attend in the event that you feel you need to.

Don’t Stay At The Party For Long

You don’t necessarily have to stay for the whole New Year’s Eve party, and making a short and sweet appearance may be the best way to avoid drinking.

It’s important to consider that the longer you stay at a party, the more intoxicated people will get. Lingering at a party late into the night may make you want to justify taking a drink.

Don’t Spend New Year’s Eve Alone

Feelings of loneliness and isolation are dangerous during recovery. Spending the holidays alone may be particularly triggering.

Find a friend that can come and spend some time with you. If they’re also in recovery, you can hold each other accountable throughout the evening and find a sober gathering to attend together.

Ideas For A Fun, Sober New Year’s In Addiction Recovery

It’s completely possible to have fun on New Year’s Eve without alcohol. In fact, it gives you an excuse to be more creative about how to celebrate and think outside of the box.

The following are some ideas for an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve.

Have A Mocktail Party

There are plenty of fun mocktails to serve for an alcohol-free New Year’s. If you’re inviting others to join, ask them to bring their own ideas and non-alcoholic mixers.

Make It Themed

If you’re hosting an alcohol-free party for New Year’s, consider upping the appeal by making it a themed party.

Themed party ideas include:

  • Disco Night
  • ‘80s Night
  • Formal Wear
  • TV-show themed
  • Punk Rock Show
  • Celebrity Night

Travel For New Year’s Eve

If you have the means, it might be worthwhile to get away for New Year’s festivities. Find a friend or other significant person in your life to leave town (or at least your home) with.

You could rent a cabin out in the woods or go beachside. Or, choose an area to go camping, where you can ring in the new year under the stars, away from all of the noise and partying.

Have A Cozy New Year’s Eve

If the idea of attending or hosting a party is overwhelming, simply skip it. Get comfortable, make hot chocolate or tea, or sip on alcohol-free eggnog.

Watch a movie, read a good book, play games, or go to bed early. New Year’s Eve is only as significant as you make it, and celebrating is not worth putting your progress in recovery at risk.

What Are Common New Year’s Triggers?

New Year’s Eve can be a challenging holiday for people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction for a number of reasons.

New Year’s Parties

A significant trigger on New Year’s is partying. It’s common for people to go out or host parties on New Year’s to celebrate the jump from December 31st to January 1st.

It’s also common to drink a glass of champagne, or perhaps something stronger, at midnight. If you’re newly sober, it may feel uncomfortable to turn a drink down or abstain while others are drinking heavily.

Parties can also be overwhelming for people with social anxiety or another type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety, and stress in general, are common risk factors for relapse.

Holiday Stress

The winter holiday season can be stressful. There’s buying gifts, seeing family, hosting guests, and navigating a sober Thanksgiving and sober Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa on top of New Year’s.

Holidays can also be stressful if you’ve seen a change to your normal routine. For instance, a change in your treatment schedule, work schedule, or the kids being out of school.

All forms of stress, be they emotional, financial, or physical, can be triggering, regardless of whether you’ve been in recovery for weeks, months, or years.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s can be particularly difficult for people who have a co-occurring disorder, also known as a dual diagnosis.

These may include co-occurring depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, gambling addiction, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Holiday stress can exacerbate or trigger symptoms of mental health disorders, which can increase the risk of relapse over the holidays.

Trauma

The holidays can, for some, be a reminder of unpleasant past events or occurrences. Grief, loss, and depression during the holidays are common.

On New Year’s, trauma triggers can make it more appealing to pick up a drink or take a hit.

Finding a way to weather through, such as talking to a friend, planning a fun activity, or just heading to bed early, can help prevent relapse and keep you on course.

The Pressure Of Making New Year’s Resolutions

Making resolutions for New Year’s is one way that you can set goals for the new year. For some, this can add pressure to make changes you may not necessarily be ready for.

Many common resolutions, such as losing weight or exercising more often, are steeped in shame, and may not be necessary or realistic for you. Consider what’s most important to you in what you want to achieve this next year.

Ask yourself:

  • How do I want to feel in the new year?
  • What can I do to strengthen my commitment to recovery?
  • How will this goal serve my recovery?
  • What will bring me joy in the new year?
  • What is my motivation for setting this resolution?
  • Am I making this resolution for myself, or for someone else?

Set goals that are gradual and realistic. This way, you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

What To Do If You Relapse On New Year’s Eve

A lot of attention is paid to preventing relapse. This is important. But the truth is that it’s not uncommon for relapse to occur at some point in a person’s recovery.

Substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder, have an estimated relapse rate of up to 60%. What’s most important after a drug or alcohol relapse, or series of slips, is what you do next.

Stay Calm

If you have relapsed, don’t panic. Create physical distance between yourself and the environment in which you drank alcohol or used drugs.

If you’re at a party, find a safe way home. Enlist the help of a friend, take deep breaths, and get some rest once you’ve found safety.

Talk To Someone

One of the most important things you can do in the aftermath of a slip-up or full relapse is to be honest with yourself and others.

Tell someone such as a sponsor, counselor, or trusted friend, and ask for support.

Seek Additional Support

A relapse can be a sign that what you’re currently doing in your treatment or recovery isn’t working for you, and you may need additional support.

Additional support may include the following:

  • talking to your treatment team about your current treatment plan
  • increasing the frequency of your counseling sessions
  • finding an outpatient treatment program
  • finding an aftercare program
  • attending daily or weekly support groups
  • scheduling appointments with a doctor or psychiatrist

Remember that you’re not alone and you’re certainly not the first person to relapse over the holidays. Let this be an opportunity for learning and growth.

Resources For People In Addiction Recovery On New Year’s Eve

Getting through New Year’s Eve sober as a person in addiction recovery is possible.

If you or a loved one is looking for addiction recovery resources for New Year’s, here is a collection of resources compiled by our team.

Resources For Spending New Year’s Eve Sober

Below is a list of self-help guides, tips, and other resources for enjoying a sober New Year’s Eve.

Resources For Managing New Year’s Eve Triggers

The following is a list of self-help guides, tips, and other resources for managing New Year’s Eve triggers when you are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

Crisis Resources For People In Addiction Recovery

Here are resources for people in addiction recovery who are experiencing a crisis on New Year’s Eve.

  • Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741 (or message on Facebook)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 (toll-free)
  • Teen Line: Call 1-800-852-8336 or text “TEEN” to 839863
  • Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text: 8388255

Resources For People Who Relapse On New Year’s Eve

If you or a loved one relapses on New Year’s Eve, here are some resources to help you get back on track in your recovery.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find treatment options near you.
  • Psychology Today: Find a therapist or treatment center today.
  • Addiction Resource: Call 844-640-0175 for free and confidential help learning about and finding addiction treatment options.

Support Groups For Addiction Recovery

Below are some addiction recovery support groups for people who are looking for additional support before, on, or after New Year’s Eve.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on November 1, 2023
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