I’m coming up on my second sober holiday season, and I can honestly say I am not looking forward to it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for all the friends and family I’m going to see, and for the presents (both the giving and the receiving thereof), and for the Christmas decorations, because I like twinkle lights and other sparkly things.

But the holidays mean celebrations, and celebrations mean alcohol (especially in cold-weather environments). I’ve already been invited to one holiday party at a brewery and another at an Irish pub. While it’s always thrilling, as a former English major, to be invited to parties, I’m not excited. Even with extremely supportive family and friends, I’m probably going to end up with fingernail marks on my palms again from white-knuckling it through. So I thought I would recommend some things that non-sober folks, or at least, people who can have a glass of wine without their entire life spiraling downward into self-destruction, can do to help the rest of us at this season’s social gatherings.

The most important thing is: Don’t ask someone why they aren’t drinking. There’s no situation in which that is appropriate to ask or necessary for you to know. If someone feels comfortable sharing why they aren’t imbibing – I, for one, share with absolutely everybody that I am an alcoholic – that’s fine, but there are many personal reasons that might cause people to abstain. Recovery, medical issues, allergies, a new diet (this especially applies to any parties in the first week of January), or pregnancy (and while we’re at it, whatever you do, don’t ask a woman if she’s pregnant).

If you are hosting a gathering, and you’re offering alcohol, it’s only polite to offer nonalcoholic options other than tap water or mixers (the exception here is eggnog: The true elixir of the season, it can be used as a mixer or enjoyed on its own in equal capacity). Fancy seltzer water and sparkling water and whatever coconut water is are available just about everywhere. There’s also sparkling cider, which I guarantee will be a big hit with not only sober folks but also small children.

On the topic of baked goods: If you use alcohol as an ingredient, please let everyone know up front, as casually as you can manage. Some nondrinkers don’t mind rum cake and its ilk; others do. I’m one of them, and yes, I know that technically the alcohol cooks off because of the heat; it just makes me feel better to avoid them.


Most nondrinkers don’t mind if other people drink. I certainly don’t. I do, however, have an extra appreciation for my friends and family members who have offered to go sober at events with me, just as a show of support. Making the offer in good faith is what counts. That someone is willing to sacrifice what can be an extremely delicious and pleasant part of a social gathering for the sole purpose of making me feel better is the essence of generosity. I’m very grateful for everyone who has done it for me.

I’ve heard it said that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection. I’m pretty sure that’s true. Nobody succeeds on their own, and that goes double for addicts. (Nobody fails on their own, either, but that’s a topic for another column.)

As of Dec. 1, I have 18 months of sobriety. That’s a whole year and a half and quite frankly, I am very proud of it. I am thankful for my own strength. Every day is hard; some are harder than others. Some days I feel like a cruise missile of sobriety, clear-eyed and sharp-minded (well, sort of clear-eyed – I’ve got 20/800 vision but that is neither here nor there). And other days, the only thing keeping me going is that I promised myself I could get another tattoo if I hit the two-year mark.

But most of all, I am thankful for the community that has surrounded me because I wouldn’t be able to do this without the help of others.

So thank you for the help getting through the holiday season, and thank you to anyone else who is struggling in the next few weeks – whether with addiction, or an empty seat at the table, or the cold weather. The holidays are for you, too, no matter how you choose to celebrate them.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial


Comments are not available on this story.