Skipping the booze at Thanksgiving and the parties and family gatherings that follow isn’t always easy—but always worth it if that’s your priority. Whatever your reason—from pregnancy to alcohol dependence to simple preference—for wanting to stay sober, some smart tips can help you be successful. We asked our newest contributor, Melissa Urban, Founder and CEO of Whole30 (and a mom of one!), for the advice she gives to anyone weathering the holidays sans alcohol. Plus, she shares her favorite festive mocktail, below.
What are some tips you give to people who are staying sober through the holidays, maybe for the first time?
First, gain social support before the holiday events. Let people know you’re not drinking right now, and that you’re planning on enjoying all of the festivities with a glass of sparkling water, kombucha, or hot tea. That will help minimize peer pressure at the event, as those closest to you will already know your plans.
If you are simply taking a conscientious break from alcohol this holiday season, I love the addition of “right now” to your not drinking statement. Saying, “I’m not drinking” can bring up defensiveness in your conversation partner, or the perception of judgment. This is not your problem—there is no judgment implied in simply making a choice based on what’s right for you. However, I’ve found saying, “I’m not drinking right now” takes away most of that perceived judgment or defensiveness, and leads to a better conversation. It implies that you’re undertaking a self-experiment or taking a break for a deliberate reason, which can prompt positive lines of questioning and create connection rather than divisiveness.
Love that advice. Anything else you would add if people ask questions?
It depends on your circumstances. If you’re in recovery, you don’t owe anyone that personal detail. However, if you’re comfortable saying, “I don’t drink because I’m in recovery,” it certainly helps destigmatize addiction, and enforces the need to respect your boundary. If you’re just choosing not to drink, as I have, you can share a personal detail or two about why you’ve made the decision, and the impact it’s had (or you’re hoping it will have). Stick with “I” statements here, and don’t refer to “the science” or what the media says about alcohol—that’s just a recipe for an argument.
When asked, I’ve said, “I took 30 days off from alcohol in September, just to see how it might impact me. I discovered that even small amounts of alcohol mess with my sleep in a big way, and it kills my energy and motivation, even the next day. For me, it’s just not worth it.” You might say, “I’m not drinking this holiday season just to see how it changes my experience—think of it like a self-experiment.” Or, “I like to take a month off here and there just as a reset.” You can also cite popular sober efforts like Dry January or Sober October—“I decided to get a head start on Dry January this year.”
You also don’t have to give anyone an explanation. You can simply say, “I’m just not feeling it,” or “I just don’t want to.” Your boundary is yours to hold, and others should respect it even without a detailed backstory.
What are some of your favorite mocktails?
There are tons of fun, fruity, spicy, or herbalicious zero-proof cocktail recipes out there—and I highly recommend showing up to events with something festive. There’s nothing worse than watching everyone else drinking bubbly and wine while holding a glass of ice water, because he host didn’t think to provide a tasty zero-proof option.
Mix up a batch of my famous Whole30 Fall Sangria, try a mocktail brand like Curious Elixirs for the look and feel of a fancy cocktail without the alcohol (it’s delicious mixed with a flavored sparkling water), or bring your own kombucha or sparkling tea to serve in your host’s wine glass. Pro tip: Make or bring extra, because you never know who else will appreciate a festive, non-alcoholic option too.
Melissa Urban’s Cranberry-Pear Rooibos Iced Tea
Rooibos (ROY-bos) tea—also called redbush tea—is an herbal infusion made from the leaves of a shrub that’s native to South Africa. Beyond its beautiful color and interesting flavor—described in turns as smoky, spicy, honey, and caramel—it is packed with health-promoting antioxidants.
Prep: 10 Minutes
Stand: 15 Minutes
Chill: 4 Hours
Total: 4 Hours 25 Minutes
1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries
1 large ripe pear, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1⁄4 cup loose rooibos tea leaves or 10 rooibos tea bags
- In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 cup of the cranberries and the pear slices. Boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat; cover and steep for 10 minutes.
- Bring the water to a boil again; remove from the heat. Add the tea; cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain to remove the tea leaves and fruit. Transfer the tea to a large heatproof pitcher. Cover and chill until cold, at least 4 hours.
- To serve, pour the tea into ice-filled glasses. Garnish each with 1 tablespoon frozen cranberries.
For more advice from Melissa (including her choice to “not drink right now”, listen to her podcast!