It seemed like I had barely digested my Thanksgiving dinner when plans for the "real" holidays were being made. As I excused myself from the table, I felt like a complete loser.
My family doesn't just enjoy a few cocktails. Drinking on holidays is like a religion to them, much like football is to other families. And New Year's Eve celebrations are their super bowls.
This was going to be my third sober New Year's, but instead of getting easier for me, it just seemed to be getting harder. While everyone else was running around making party plans, all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and wait for it all to be over.
And it's not just my family, who should be understanding and supportive of me instead of treating me like a freak, it's also all my oldest friends and even my co-workers.
My brother usually hosts the festivities, which makes the anticipation even greater, because he lives at the base of a mountain where there is a midnight fireworks display every year.
My attempt to ride that out during my first sober holiday had been an unmitigated disaster. I have had my fill of drunk people running around bonfires, thank you very much.
The next year, I stayed home alone in my apartment and was equally miserable.
It wasn't fair. While I accepted the fact that I couldn't drink, I was having a very hard time reconciling that I couldn't have any fun at all. Something had to give.
I remembered that when I first got sober, my sponsor made me aware of a bunch of folks from AA who got together every year to get through the party hours. That's always a great option, but I wanted to explore some alternatives as well. If I was going to enjoy New Year's Eve this year, I was going to have to do some creative planning.
While the rest of my family were nursing massive hangovers, this is what I came up with:
1. Plan your own party
Instead of looking for ways to avoid the party scene, create a sober one. I made a guest list and printed out invitations, but instead of writing the all-too-familiar BYOB on them, mine read BYOR - bring your own recipe. I've been enjoying some of the best non-alcoholic drinks ever since.
2. Bring a sober friend
Have a work party you feel obligated to attend? Bring your support system with you, and always have someplace else you have to be in a reasonable amount of time.
3. Give yourself the spa treatment
Some spas are recognizing this niche market and are staying open on New Year's Eve. Bring a sober friend with you.
4. Dinner and a movie
Make it a movie you are really excited to see and a restaurant you have always wanted to try.
5. Check out an indoor entertainment center
These facilities are usually very family friendly and offer a wide variety of activities for all ages.
6. Get away from it all
Pick a new destination to explore every year, an overnight trip that doesn't have to be far away or expensive.
7. Plan a cozy evening at home
Create a journal, make some New Year's resolutions, start a new project or craft, try a new recipe, begin reading a new book, or anything else you have been wanting to do.
That was ten years ago, and I am happy to report that I have tried every one of these ideas with great success. Having something to look forward to has made New Year's Eve fun again.
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