Christmas is the time of year where friends gather for parties, catch-ups and meals, reflecting over the past year and looking towards the next, but for the newly sober friend, that can all feel a little more difficult than usual. It is a time of year that is often fuelled by drink and drugs, with a party atmosphere and a tendency to go ‘all out’. So, if you want to support a sober friend at Christmas, here are some ways to do that.
Invite them along
The first rule and we call this one a rule, is to invite your sober friend. Just because they are in recovery doesn’t mean that they don’t want to party, and they will be grateful for the thought, for sure. But, whether they attend or not, inviting your sober friend to the party shows that sobriety is totally normal, for whatever reason they have chosen, and that they can still come along and have fun without the need for drink or drugs. So invite them, and don’t let them feel left out and alone this Christmas.
Be mindful in your choices
Now, we don’t want you to be treading on eggshells, but if you can be a little more mindful around your choices, that may be a good step in letting your sober friend in on the action. For example, can you swap a bottomless brunch for something a little more inclusive? How about a daytime activity as opposed to it being in a pub, bar or nightclub every time.
Does it have to revolve around drink?
Following on from that, does the event of the year have to revolve around alcohol? Now, if you want to have a drink, by all means, go for it, and it is important not to be secretive or sketchy about the fact that you’re drinking. Your sober friend knows you still drink, so it doesn’t need to be hidden away. Regarding the activities, how about a Christmas walk, ice skating or a movie, something that doesn’t centre solely around booze and potentially drugs? There are plenty of options out there, we promise you.
Ditch the idea of a designated driver
Yes, get a designated driver, but do not assume that the sober friend will be the one to ferry you around. If they offer, go for it and take them up on it, but don’t make assumptions and book a taxi if you plan on a night or day of drinking. It’s a big assumption e that the sober friend will be the one to drive around the city and the streets all night, so don’t fall into that trap; we have seen it too many times before!
Let them know you’re there
Talk to them and let them know you are there for them and that you want to support them. Encourage them to talk if they want to and be a pair of ears for them to open up to. Addiction and recovery can feel like a lonely road, but having the right people around you to support and help you can make all the difference in recovery. And don’t feel you need to fix their issues, you can’t! It’s enough to listen and say that you can hear how hard (or great) things are for them.
Understand if they bail
If they cancel, understand. Christmas can be an overwhelming time and socialising can be draining on any of us. If your sober friend had the best intentions of coming out for a shindig, but they changed their mind at the last minute, there are a multitude of reasons why. Be understanding, flexible, and rearrange with them for another time. They will thank you for it, we are sure.
Worry is never a good thing and of course it’s fine to let your hair down and enjoy yourself.. Your sober friend is more likely to have a good time if you are, and no one wants to be on edge all evening or all day! So enjoy the festivities and make sure everyone is included, sober or not. Just ensure that your good time does not depend on your friend having a drink with you – the best way is if everyone can be themselves without pressure.
Christmas is a tricky time for many of us, for different reasons, but by being there for your friends, you can make a massive difference to them and their experience of the festive season. Help Me Stop offers treatment and counselling for those suffering from alcohol addiction and drug addiction. We have two Dayhab centres in London, Acton and Fitzrovia, and an online programme to help those suffering get back on track. Recovery is not linear, and no two journeys are the same, but the support of loved ones always goes a long way to help. To find out more about supporting friends with addiction, you can read about what we do at Help Me Stop here.