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Tips for Having Fun (and Staying Sober) on New Year’s Eve

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New Year’s Eve is a drunk holiday. Period. All of the beer gulping, wine quaffing, cocktail guzzling and champagne toasting can be dangerous for we alcoholics to be around. A recipe for disaster. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We are abstinent and we must stay that way despite temptations. And if we are strong and have a plan, we can succeed. 

I don’t know about you, but I think the holidays are the toughest time for us recovering alcoholics to stay sober. My old sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous used to say: “New Year’s Eve is not for us.” And he’s — mostly — right.

This year’s NYE celebrations will be different because of COVID, but the temptation to drink will still be there. Having said that, there are some tricks of the trade that will help you get through this booze-infused holiday. Based on my nearly nine years of sobriety, I’ve come up with a few tips for having a successful, healthful and substance-free New Year’s Eve.

1. Mix Yourself a Mocktail

You don’t have to bore yourself drinking Diet Coke or plain ol’ water. Have some fun with it. Make something sophisticated to drink for yourself like a “mocktail,” or non-alcoholic cocktail. There’s a flurry of mocktail recipe books to be found on the internet. And here’s an article about mixing more mocktails for the holidays.

Lately I’ve been a fan of virgin Moscow Mules. Find some ginger beer (not ginger ale) at Whole Foods or a gourmet grocery store. Ginger beer (it’s non-alcoholic, despite the “beer” in the name) has a bit of a kick to it, more ginger than ordinary ginger ale. Squeeze the fresh juice of two limes, add a bit of simple syrup and mix it all with ice. Easy mocktail.

For a simpler choice, San Pellegrino is a lifesaver. If served properly — with a lime wedge over crushed ice — the drink has the look of a gin and tonic, so you can also fend off anyone nosy enough to insist you have a drink. Plus, it’s not sweet, so you can keep drinking it all night and not get a stomach ache. You can also mix it with fresh fruit juice.

If someone tries to hand you a champagne flute at midnight, just say you don’t care for champagne. Toast with your mocktail or sparkling water garnished with lime.

2. Say Goodbye to 2020 in Style

This year has been a terrible one because of the coronavirus, financial troubles, high unemployment and more. There’s even a song that encapsulates our strife this year and has become our anthem of 2020. Even if you’re staying home, it might be fun to dress up and join a Zoom call. Check with your local AA chapter about sober meetings and virtual parties. Or maybe host one for some close friends. Also, recovery Facebook groups are likely planning more festivities.

But let’s not kid ourselves, people will still throw in-person parties this NYE just like they traveled for Christmas when told by CDC experts not to. I’ll leave it up to you whether you go or not, but to be safe, it probably makes sense to stay home. You can’t drink wearing a mask anyway.

If you are going to a non-sober Zoom party, don’t feel left out if all of your friends are getting sloshed online. As above, drink a mocktail.

Before COVID, even when I would go to regular parties at any time of year, I would get the urge. These days I feel very confident in my sobriety. I’ll let you in on a secret: as the time elapses and partygoers start to get tipsy, bow out early. I don’t like being around tipsy or drunk people when I am sober. It’s no fun. 

4. Watch the Ball Drop

There’s still going to be a ball drop in New York City this year despite the fact that Times Square will be empty. I enjoy the shenanigans on CNN by Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen and they’re still ringing in the new year on your tube.

5. Have an Exit Strategy.

If a craving hits, leave early. Let the host know you may need to bounce early since you have another engagement in the morning. Or that you’re working tomorrow. You can also easily feign sickness. Remember, your sobriety is at stake, and you don’t want to slip up and relapse.

To be honest, staying sober for me has not been a very difficult challenge. I went to rehab nine years ago, as I chronicle in my memoir “The Bipolar Addict,” and I never looked back. I went to AA regularly for the first few years of my sobriety, but I don’t feel the need to go as frequently nowadays. The need to go to AA is different for everyone. Some must go once or more times a day, once a month or some don’t need to go at all.

However, for some reason, I’m able to go to bars without a problem. Maybe it’s because when I go to bars, I go to dance, so I don’t miss having a drink. And you can always throw a dance party of one. Shake your tail feather in your living room to my latest Spotify mix “Coronavirus Kryptonite vol. 2”

 Take these steps and bid adieu to 2020 sans alcohol. 

You won’t have a hangover. Bonus!

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Originally published: December 30, 2020
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