How to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Recovery and Stay Sober

Stock photo of adults dancing as confetti falls

New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, and if you’re in recovery, we know you want to ring in the new year with cheer and joy – and do it while staying sober.

We have news: you can do it!

Millions of people around the world are in recovery, and every year they make it through New Year’s Eve with their recovery and sobriety as strong as ever. If you’re new to recovery, you may wonder what NYE is like without alcohol or drugs.

We can tell you: it’s fun.

You don’t have to go to a huge, wild party that revolves around intoxicants to ring in the new year. You can do it any way you choose, with anyone you choose, in a manner that supports and promotes both your recovery and sobriety.

We’ll share our top five tips for managing New Year’s Eve with your sobriety intact below, but first, just to give you an idea of the types of activities or events that have nothing to do with alcohol or drugs, consider these:

You get the idea. With the right group, you can turn anything you like into an excellent, sober-friendly, NYE activity. But if this is your first New Year’s Eve in recovery, we can offer you more than that. The list that follows can guide your NYE celebration plans – and help you keep it sober – no matter where you are or what you like to do.

Five Tips to Celebrate New Year’s Eve and Stay Sober

1. Plan Ahead

If you’re reading this article, you’re already there. Making plans, thinking about how you can celebrate New Year’s Ever with your sobriety intact. After articles like this one, we suggest talking to your counselor or therapist. They know you, they know your sobriety, and they’re likely to know what will work for you and what won’t. If you come up with a plan you think is solid, run it by them for feedback. They may notice things you miss, or they may praise you for including things they didn’t think of. Either way, they can help.

If you can’t check in with a counselor or therapist, we suggest consulting recovery peers from community support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). If you have a sponsor, even better: run your plans by them and see what they think.

2. Family Friendly is Good

Some people in recovery aren’t connected to their families, for good reason: their family dynamic may threaten their sobriety. If that’s you, don’t worry – you can still take this family friendly tip to heart. If you have friends who have kids, then the New Year’s Eve parties they throw are probably less rambunctious, less centered around alcohol, and less centered around excess, party-animal type activities than people who don’t have kids.

That’s not set in stone, so you need to check in first, but in general, a family-oriented party will be a safer bet than your average NYE shindig. You’ll probably get to watch Ryan Seacrest host the big party on TV, listen to Mariah Carey belt out her classics, see some front-yard fireworks, and watch the ball drop in Times Square. Added bonus? They’ll have plenty of sparkling apple juice on hand, as opposed to – or in addition to – the traditional NYE champagne.

3. Avoid the Old Haunts.

This is important for people early in recovery. If you went to certain parties or places regularly before you entered recovery, we suggest not going back to those places this year. Old friends will be there – true. You know the parties are fun – true. You used to love them – true. However, it’s also true that those friends and those parties will be filled with triggers that threaten your sobriety. As tempting as it might be to test your new skills, we suggest avoiding those old parties at all costs, especially if you’re new in recovery. This is your chance to create new traditions with new people who are on the same page as you: in recovery and committed to making it through the evening without relapsing to alcohol or drug use. When you create new, recovery friendly traditions, you also prove to yourself that you can have fun and celebrate without alcohol and drugs. When you succeed – because you stay smart and have a plan – you create a template for future recovery-friendly celebrations, and renew your belief that taking the path you’re on is the right one, and will keep you healthy, happy – and sober – for years to come.

4. Sober/Recovery Peers

You’re the expert on your recovery, so your take on this whole enterprise is very important. And since you’re reading this article, we applaud your instinct to look for tips and advice. After your instinct, and after the advice of your therapist or counselor, your community of sober/recovery peers is an invaluable resource. The main reason? If they have years of recovery under their belt, that means that, in terms of a sober New Year’s Eve, they’ve been there and done that – and survived with their sobriety intact. That’s why they’re an excellent resource: experiential knowledge trumps theoretical knowledge all day.

Also, the thing about people in 12-step meetings is they’re not afraid of being blunt and telling you what they really think. Especially the old-timers: they don’t hold back. If you float a plan at a meeting, they’ll tell you straight up at the coffee table afterward “Terrible plan, you’re setting yourself up to fail,” or “Sounds good – that might just work.” It’s also likely someone in the community can tell you what it’s like to relapse on NYE, because it happens. That’s why people rely on organizations like AA and NA: community members have literally seen it all, and, in most cases, are willing to share their unvarnished take on any recovery-related topic, including how to have a sober New Year’s Eve.

5. It’s About the People, Not the Party

There’s an old saying: beginnings are important. Many people believe that the way you start something influences how that something plays out in the long run. That’s why getting treatment is a great way to begin your recovery journey. You spend time focusing on yourself and learning the skills that help you achieve your recovery and/or sobriety goals. You build up good momentum by making a good start. We can apply that to your year, too. If you decide to spend your New Year’s Eve in a recovery-friendly manner, surrounded by people who support your recovery and believe in you, then you lay the groundwork for a year of success. You can take that amazing feeling of success you have about making it through NYE fully sober, hold on to it, and use it as a beacon to get you through the year.

Sober New Year’s Eve: Resources and Activity Suggestions

Organizations like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and SMART Recovery all host or sponsor sober New Year’s Eve events.

Check these links to find an organized sober NYE event near you:

We know you can have a healthy, happy, fun – and sober – New Year’s Eve. You have the resources at your fingertips. Now it’s up to you!

Happy New Year!

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.