Your Questions About Drinking Less This Holiday, Answered

By Sabrina Spotorno, LSW, CASAC, and therapist on the Monument platform
holiday items

The holiday season can create extra pressure to drink for a variety of reasons. However, with that discomfort comes opportunity. Opportunity to seek support from those you love, and create healthier, more meaningful holiday traditions. After answering questions like ‘My Family Gets Drunk During The Holidays, Now What?’ and ‘How Much Holiday Drinking Is Too Much’?, we asked Monument Community members to submit their most pressing questions about navigating this winter without or with less alcohol. Here’s what Sabrina Spotorno, a therapist on the Monument platform, had to share in response.

Q: What if you haven’t told your family you’re trying to get sober? 

A: It’s common to feel some hesitation to open up to your family, especially if you fear they might be discouraging. Cultural norms recognize the value of sobriety and moderation, yet sometimes shame the practice of it. When we speak openly, we shape our culture. You have the power to show just how normal it is to want to examine and change our relationships with alcohol as we center our lives in health and authenticity. You deserve to feel recognized for making a positive life choice. And if you’re not at that point (yet,) not saying anything is okay too. If you do want to share, here are some tactical tips for having the conversation. 

Remember: you’re allowed to set your boundaries around drinking regardless of what anybody else thinks or feels. 

Q: I’m craving a seasonal drink that’s become a holiday tradition. Any suggestions to resist this temptation?

A: Keep in mind that just like a past relationship, we tend to romanticize the fantasy more than the reality. Reflect on the core emotion that drove that craving. Then let yourself explore ways to cultivate that same feeling with loved ones, new experiences, or comforting rituals. You have the power to make your own new traditions. And a great place to start is by finding a speciality alcohol free (AF) drink for every festivity. Check out our recipe book Delish AF for inspiration! 

woman in snow

Q: Reflecting on past holidays (when I was drinking heavily) brings about feelings of deep shame. How do you manage feeling like a failure?

A: One tool for confronting self-shaming is to ask yourself: what would your wisest self (your self of today) tell your self of holidays past? Maybe you would tell them how their mistakes guided you towards a clearer picture of what you want in your life and what needs to be processed in order to keep going. This can at first seem like a self critique, but gradually leads to reparenting that younger self, remembering they are worthy of compassion, and are capable of growth. As Brené Brown would say, “owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” Be brave, you deserve to see the light that came out of those challenging times.

Q: How can I spend New Year’s Eve with a small group of friends where everyone is getting drunk?

A: Since you’re in a smaller group this year, being upfront about your moderation or abstinence goals might feel unavoidable. This may also be the exact time to experiment with being more explicit about your goals with a smaller crowd, where there’s greater opportunity for more intimate conversations. If you’re with really close company, you might even consider asking them for support in your journey to change your drinking. (Here are a few tips!)

Ask yourself this: what do I want to do this New Year’s Eve? How do I pace myself if I am going to moderate? Or what  alcohol-free drink am I going to bring to feel just as festive ? Coming prepared with a fun game or a great playlist is a productive place to start. 

And if you’re stressed about how others will perceive you, remember you can always chat with us in the community or in our alcohol support groups. We value your authenticity!

Holiday Group: Getting Through Today Without Drinking

The holidays can be filled with joy, loneliness, pressure to drink, and more. Your feelings are valid. Join us for an encouraging conversation about how to get through today without alcohol.
Check out the Schedule

Q: I’m thinking  I want to cut back but am nervous about starting out during the holidays and quarantine. How can I reach my moderation goals during a time of  increased temptations?

A: This may sound counterintuitive, but the more temptations you have around you, the more potential you have for information gathering as well! Moderation is all about visualizing the boundaries you want to set for yourself and actualizing them to your fullest capability. So now is actually an ideal time to take note of when you want to drink (virtual happy hours, holiday dinners, etc.), and put that boundary setting into practice.  

Also remember to cultivate your sources of comfort. Replacing alcohol as a temporary relief leads us to discover new, nurturing ways to relax and find authentic joys. And as stressful as it can get, the holidays can also offer simple pleasures, like baking seasonal treats or watching cheesy holiday movies.

holiday treats

Q: How do I tell my family I don’t drink anymore before our holiday celebration?

A: More often than not, the more direct you can be about your boundaries, the better. It might be difficult at first, but setting clear expectations from the beginning avoids any escalation later on. This may look like: “I just want to give you a heads up that I won’t t be drinking at the celebration. Please know that if you or anyone else asks if I want a drink I understand that you don’t mean harm, but I will first say no, and then if you’re insistent, I’ll have to walk away.” Communicating your decision firmly helps both you and your family honor your goals.

Q: I feel tired all the time and am lacking motivation for the holidays. I drink everyday and feel like I’m in a vicious cycle, how can I make a change when I’m exhausted?

A: Thank you for keeping it real here! I would encourage you to listen to your body’s signal of needing a break. Is there extra time and care you can give yourself to get some genuine, judgement-free, rest? Remember you don’t have to do it alone. I highly recommend joining one of our free, therapist-moderated alcohol support groups as a place to listen and be heard. Everyone brings support, encouragement, and resources. (You don’t even need to turn your video on, you can even listen while you’re in bed.) If nothing else, it will provide an energy boost to know you are cared for and can do this! And if you’re interested in more one-on-one support, you can also explore personalized alcohol therapy. A therapy program tailored to your needs can address co-occuring conditions like anxiety and depression, and empower you to change your relationship with alcohol along the way.

Thank you for all of your thoughtful questions. With communication, boundaries and compassion, you can maintain your sobriety or moderation goal through the holidays and into the New Year. And what better gift could you give yourself?

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Sabrina SpotornoSabrina Spotorno, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with an affinity for working with children, adolescents, individuals, and families. She is a therapist on the Monument platform, and is trained in several modalities, including Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Narrative Therapy. She’s passionate about empowering her clients to recognize their strengths amidst their life transitions to optimize their sense of efficacy and alignment of their actions with their beliefs and dreams.