Navigating Addiction During the Holidays

posted by Kasey Fear on Thursday, December 14, 2023

The holiday season is in full swing, which means lots of social gatherings and celebrations. During those events, often times alcoholic beverages are served, which can be a worrisome temptation for someone who has addiction issues. As an addiction specialist, I have some ideas that can help you navigate holiday celebrations. These are also important for support people to know and keep in mind when assisting their loved ones during the holiday season.

The first thing to remember, you are not obligated to attend those events. It is ok to say no. However, if you feel it is an event you cannot miss, here are some strategies to help you socialize safely: 

  1. The Buddy System.  Take someone with you who you can help keep you accountable.  Create a sign or word that would tell your support person that you need to leave because things are difficult. 
  2. Have a plan to end the gathering.  Make a plan and timeline for departure. It gives you an out and hopefully will encourage you to leave by a certain time. 
  3. Bring your own drinks.  Only drink with your own soda/tea/punch. People are less likely to offer you a drink if you already have a drink. 
  4. Be the Driver.  Insist that you will drive and it can hold you accountable to providing your friends a safe ride home.  
  5. Beef up your support.  Attend more AA meetings, stay in contact with your support system and your people. 

Likewise, if you are hosting, there are things you can keep in mind to help all their guests enjoy the event safely. First of all, don't not invite people. Maybe you have best intentions to avoid the awkwardness for someone who has addiction issues; however, sometimes hurt feelings can trump that awkwardness. 

Also, don't pressure anyone to drink.  If someone declines beverages, accept the answer and honor their request. I think it is very important to be cognizant of the possibility that that someone may be coming who is in recovery.  Offer other options besides alcohol. Also, have all beverages labeled; if you have made a cocktail or alcoholic punch, please have it marked that it is alcoholic.  Mocktails are a great alternative for parties even if you aren't aware of anyone in recovery. 

Another suggestion is to have an alcohol-free event until a certain time. Be honest with your guests and let them know what to expect. You won’t always know – nor do you need to know – if a guest has a need to avoid alcohol, so it’s always wise and safe to offer alternatives to your guests.

Our Local Support groups can be a great support during the holiday seasons, often having planned events to help combat concerns that may arise.  We are fortunate in our area to have a strong recovery community and meetings can be found almost every day of the week between Dickinson and Clay County.   

Spencer Addiction Services can assist in locating any of those meetings, or you can go to the Alcoholics' Anonymous website and click “Find a meeting near you”. is also another great place for information and resources.  If you need more formal support, please give me a call at 712-264-8473 and we can assist you as well. 

Currently at Spencer Addiction Services we are scheduling assessments, referrals to treatment and offering case management services.  We know the holidays, especially with various social gatherings and because the season can evoke a range of emotions, can be especially tough for someone facing addiction. Please remember to access supportive services. We’re here to help.  

  1. addiction
  2. behavioral health
  3. recovery

About The Author

Kasey Fear

Kasey Fear is a drug and alcohol counselor for Spencer Addiction Services, a department of Spencer Hospital.