Health & Fitness

Sober Living: 5 Ways to Handle Alcohol Cravings During the Holiday Season

New York Smash Magazine  

By Saint Jude Retreats Exclusively for New York Smash

Feeling worried about staying alcohol-free during the holidays is perfectly understandable. Some festive traditions seem to revolve around drinking, especially if you feel like you’re the only one abstaining. Just remember that sobriety is actually in season, too! You’ll enjoy the festivities even more with a clear head and healthy body, and it’s more affordable to skip the booze, too. But if holiday stress — or one too many cocktail party invitations — starts to tempt you toward the bar, just remember these five simple tips for handling alcohol cravings and making yourself proud.

1. Stay busy

Boredom is a big trigger for some former drinkers, and if you have a few days off work or a break from your school schedule, you’ll have even more free time on your hands than usual. Set yourself up for success by staying busy. Catch up with friends who are in town for the holidays, dive into some holiday craft projects, or string some extra lights outside. The festive rewards of decorating last longer than the buzz of drinking, anyway!

Stay busy with these fun ideas:

  • Make a gingerbread house.
  • Take a “holiday” walk or jog, either solo or with a friend.
  • Organize a group in your neighborhood and spread joy by singing holiday songs or Christmas carols in your community.
  • Give yourself a holiday-inspired manicure or pedicure, or pick out a festive holiday outfit.
  • Use home items to make budget-friendly DIY holiday ornaments or decorations.

2. Create new traditions

Holiday Movies

Have a holiday movie marathon. No booze necessary. Image Credit: Aleksandr Khakimullin |

The winter holidays are family-friendly for a reason: all age groups get to revel in childlike wonder and nostalgia. You didn’t need alcohol to enjoy the holidays as a kid, so why should you depend on it now? If all your friends and family members have slid into alcohol-fueled holiday traditions as they aged, you can be the one who reminds them to embrace their inner child again. Plan group activities like board game nights, movie marathons or photo scavenger hunts. If the weather’s welcoming, you can even get outside to ice skate or throw snowballs. Your loved ones might be surprised by how fun it is to embrace a healthier, more peaceful way to celebrate.

Alcohol-Free Holiday Traditions:


3. Give back to others

Nothing compares to the joy of helping others. If you go out of your way to make someone’s day better, it can give you a warmer glow than alcohol ever did. Look beyond yourself this holiday season, and pitch in to spread holiday cheer and generosity in your own community. Maybe you can organize an unofficial food or toy drive among your friends, to make sure needy families can treat their kids to holiday traditions this year, too. You don’t have to sacrifice much time or money to make an impact.

Simple, Easy Ways To Do Something Nice For Others:

  • Thank-you letter to a veteran.
  • Walking your elderly neighbor’s dog.
  • Run an errand for the single mom next door.
  • Remember: Simple gestures mean more than any pricey gift!


4. Look forward, not backward

Positive Thinking

Stay positive and don’t focus on the past. Celebrate your achievements!
Image Credit: olechowski |

Don’t fixate on your decision not to drink this year; that will distract you from the real reasons to celebrate. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, focus on what you’ve gained: your health, willpower and independence. Celebrate your progress instead of worrying about reverting to old habits. Make your positive changes count by being there for loved ones, getting outside to enjoy the fresh air, and planning big things for the year ahead.

Remind Yourself:

  • Focus on what you’ve gained by being sober: Your health, willpower, and independence.
  • Celebrate your progress. 

5. Be prepared for temptation.

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

Avoid temptation at holiday parties by having a plan. Here’s one idea: Have a non-alcoholic drink in hand (yes, there are non-alcoholic cocktails that taste and look amazing!).
Image Credit: pressmaster |

Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid alcohol completely, but that’s okay if you don’t let cravings catch you off guard. If you’ll be attending parties or hanging out with people who celebrate with alcoholic drinks, make sure you have a back-up plan ahead of time. If you’re prepared for the urge before it comes, you’ll be more confident and capable of resisting it. Nurse a warm mug of hot chocolate instead of drifting toward the cocktail table, and keep a candy cane in your pocket in case a craving strikes when you’re out and about.


  • Have a non-alcoholic beverage in hand at all times, such as a non-alcoholic cocktail (you can find some delicious virgin “mocktail” recipes here), a hot drink, or if you don’t have many options, opt for water or seltzer with a slice of lime, orange or lemon.
  • Bring mints, candy, gum or anything sweet or minty to squash cravings.
  • In this article, read over “#4: Look Forward, Not Backward” again.

The article above is a guest post by Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Through the program, we offer the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement.