New Year’s Eve is a big party holiday for a huge chunk of the population. So it’s no wonder that many people in early recovery worry about New Year’s. They worry about how they’re going to make it through without picking up, and they worry that they won’t have any fun if they spend the night sober.
You CAN get through New Year’s sober, and you can have fun doing it! One key to achieving these goals is having a plan. Two of the ways this can play out is by planning your own celebration and by planning around your triggers. Here are some suggestions:
Plan your own celebration
Organizing your own celebration instead of going to someone else’s gives you much more control over your environment and your triggers. This is true whether you’re a party monster or love a quiet New Year’s Eve. Just let your guests know that you’re holding a sober celebration, so they know what to expect. Here are some ideas for holding your own New Year’s.
Traditional party, minus the buzz: Tasty nibbles, good company, great music, a place to view the fireworks or watch the ball drop … most of the elements of a traditional New Year’s Eve party don’t rely on intoxicants.
Get dolled up: Put on your dazzling finest and have dinner. It could be at a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, a fancy homemade dinner at home, or you could indulge in the joy of eating at a pancake house or fast food place while dressed to the nines. This kind of low-key, schmancy celebration is fun alone, with a romantic partner, or with friends and family who are just as dressed up.
Movie marathon: What kind of movies do you want to take you into the new year? Rom-coms? Buddy cops? Fantasy epics? Childhood faves? Pick a theme, or let a few people each choose one movie. Either way, watching movies is a fun way to keep you entertained until the clock strikes 12.
DIY self-pampering: Treat yourself to a night of comforting self-care at home! Face masks, hair masks, hand masks, and foot masks are available at a huge range of price points, so you can lavish yourself with care no matter what your budget. Have friends over for manicures. Candles and favorite snacks add the perfect finishing touches.
Game night: There have never been more creative and exciting options for board games, roleplaying games, and card games available. You’re sure to find one that fits you and the people you’re celebrating with! Or go for an old favorite—like Monopoly, Clue, or Sorry (at my house, it was Boggle)—or a classic card game like poker.
Build a blanket fort: Ring in the new year from the cozy depths of a blanket fort. You can bring your favorite book in with you, cuddle a pet, or just curl up in your blanket fort and watch a show or movie. This is easiest on your own or with just a couple of others, but a group enjoy a blanket fort if they are dedicated. If a blanket fort seems difficult, a blanket nest can also feel cozy and indulgent.
Get active: Moving your body can be a great way to not only celebrate the New Year but also to relieve cravings. Go dancing, bowling, or roller skating. Organize a pool or darts tournament. Have a snowball fight! Bonus: your coordination won’t be affected by alcohol or drugs.
Plan around your triggers
What’s a trigger? It can be anything that prompts memories, thoughts, or feelings that have to do with addiction. A trigger might be a person, place, emotion, activity, scent, time of day, etc. It may bring on a craving, prompt the habitual actions of drinking or using, or stir up the kind of emotions that spur you to pick up. In order to plan around your triggers, you need to know what they are, so spend some time discovering your own.
Triggers vary a great deal from person to person, but the general rule of thumb is to avoid them when you can and to have coping strategies ready for when you can’t.
Avoid your triggers: Make safe spaces for yourself this New Year’s. This means not inviting your using friends to your party and not going to hang out with them at someone else’s New Year’s celebration. If there is a location that you associate with acquiring or using your substance of choice, don’t go there for the holiday. Don’t plan to do an activity that has previously always been accompanied by alcohol or drug use.
Have coping strategies for triggers when they crop up: Plan ahead for what to do if and when a trigger pops up on New Year’s. Two of our recent blog posts are relevant to this topic and full of coping tools that can help:
Try the buddy system: Do you have a friend who is also in recovery? You can back one another up and also have fun hanging out together on New Year’s. Double win! My friends and I call this “having an accountabili-buddy.” Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s both a huge help and a good excuse to spend time with a friend you enjoy being around.
Schedule yourself with safe activities: If you’re not sure what might trigger you and you feel at risk on New Year’s Eve, fill up your night with things that you know are “safe” for you. Your local mutual support group might be having marathon meetings or a sober celebration. You can make plans with friends, commit to deep cleaning part of your home, buy tickets to a movie … whatever will keep you occupied.
Whether you choose to host your own New Year’s celebration or not, a plan can help you make it through without compromising your recovery! Happy New Year!