What It's Like to Be Sober on New Year's Eve


It’s New Year’s Eve, and waking up to that realization is exciting. The new year is so close, with new experiences, friends, happiness and trials to be had. I spend the first few moments checking my phone to see what all of my friends are planning as resolutions for the next year.

In doing so, I also check my text messages. Five new texts from five friends. All of them want to go out tonight. I shoot off quick, “I don’t know what my plans are yet. I’ll keep you updated!” messages to them. The messages will hold them off for long enough, but eventually, I’ll have to answer them.

I start thinking. New Year’s Eve is an incredible, fun holiday, but it’s also full of drugs and alcohol. I used to spend my New Year’s Eve at the same type of parties I’m now invited to, but I don’t remember them. I was always so drunk or high that I didn’t have to remember them, and I don’t care to have others recount the stories to me.

I’m sober now, but going out with people on substance-involved holidays (which are basically all holidays) is an anxiety-provoking experience. The questions race through my mind all at once. Will I be able to stay sober? What happens if someone gives me a drink or a drug? Will my friends watch out for me? I trust myself enough to be comfortable going out on other weekends. What makes this weekend different?

I grab brunch with my sister and our friends, and we chat about our plans for the evening. Everyone suggests I go out, saying I’ve proven I can and they have my back if I need it. I say I’ll mull it over, but at heart, I know I want to do something. I still love being out with my friends, even when they’re heavily intoxicated.

When I get home, I choose an outfit for the evening before watching a movie. As the evening begins, I take a shower and get ready to meet my friends for dinner before our big night out. I pick them all up, and we head to a small restaurant we all love.

As we are eating, I get more and more anxious. I feel nervous about going anywhere. I know I have the ability to go out and remain sober, and I know my friends are there for me. Yet, tonight feels different. It feels like there’s so much pressure to meet the typical New Year’s Eve expectations: get drunk, make mistakes and start a new year with it all behind you.

After dinner, I take my friends to our destination, but I don’t go with them. I tell them I have to go, I’m not feeling so great and I don’t want to be a damper on the high-energy group. They argue for a minute, but eventually, they agree. I tell them to call me if they need me or a ride and to stay safe.

I return to my apartment, put on my pajamas and curl up with my dog in front of the TV. I feel comfortable. I know I’m capable, but I know my limits. My limit tonight is much more prominent than other nights, and that’s OK. The important thing is I will be starting the New Year with my sobriety intact, and I know there will be plenty of other opportunities for fun and excitement. I will wake up knowing, even though I didn’t go out with my friends, I still rang in the New Year content, loved and full of anticipation.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

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