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Sober Companions During the Holidays

The holiday season can bring joy and happiness, but it can also be a challenging time to navigate for those in recovery from substance use. With various parties and events happening at this time of year, it can be particularly hard to join the holiday fun without jeopardizing sobriety. However, there are supports to help people in recovery maintain balance. One option that can be highly effective is a sober companion, who can accompany a person in recovery to social events and help reduce the risk of returning to use.

What makes a good sober companion?

A sober companion is anyone you can trust: a friend, family member, or fellow recoveree. This person should be able to read your body language, pick up on nonverbal cues, and be empathetic. They should also be someone you can be honest with if you’re experiencing an urge to return to use.

How to know if you need a sober companion

One important factor in determining if you need a sober companion is how long you’ve been in recovery. In social settings where substances are present, someone who has been in recovery for a few weeks may have a greater chance of returning to use than someone who has been in recovery a few years. “People early on in recovery may be putting themselves in harms way by attending functions with substances,” says Ashley Collins, Program Director at Centerstone. “Their brain is still healing and creating other pathways to access more positive coping skills instead of using substances. The longer you’re in recovery, the weaker that pathway becomes. At that point, they’ve developed other neuro networks that are stronger pathways to positive coping skills.”

What to do if you can’t find a sober companion

If you want to attend a social gathering where substances may be present, but can’t find a companion to join you, there are options. You may want to consider not attending at all, or only attending for a short period of time. “If you tell the host you have to leave early, you don’t have to explain why. You can offer up as much detail as you’re comfortable with,” adds Collins.

If you’re part of a recovery group or network, consider asking a fellow recoveree or friend from the program to accompany you. They may be an excellent companion because of their shared lived experience.

Helpful tips for those in recovery:

  • Host your own substance-free parties and events! This way, you’re able to attend and enjoy an event stress-free.
  • Be mindful of triggers. If you know that certain people, places, or things may trigger you to return to use, be mindful of those and keep an eye out in social settings.
  • Make a plan ahead of time. If you know you’re going to leave the event early, make sure to park in a spot where you won’t get blocked in. Additionally, consider talking to the host ahead of time to get a feel for what the party/event is going to be like. Will there be substances present? Will there be alternative options for those who are substance-free?
  • Have a safe word. Consider something like “let’s go get ice cream” or “I have a headache,” something discreet that lets your sober companion know you’re ready to go.

If you or someone you know is in recovery from substance use, additional support is available through Centerstone. Visit our addiction recovery page, or call us at 877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) to learn more.

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