Celebrations & Holidays

Celebrations are a special kind of social event with the expectation that you will have fun or experience joy. They are often very difficult for recovering addicts, especially in early recovery.

Early Recovery

Sometimes celebrations are hard because the expectations of joy and community are not realistic in early recovery. This adds frustration and fear to an event or gathering that already may contain unfamiliar or stressful circumstances. This is especially true for alcoholics and eating addicts. Typically, celebrations include the expectation that people will drink alcohol or eat festive (that is, sweet, salty, fatty) foods in large quantities. This tradition is firmly ingrained in most cultures.

If you are in early recovery, you may want to discuss the following strategies with a sponsor or other Twelve-Step program member before the celebration begins:

  • Electing not to go or participate, at least at this time in your recovery.
  • Inviting a friend in recovery to go with you, if this is appropriate.
  • Making a phone call or text a message while you are there, to touch base with some sanity.
  • Having an “escape hatch,” like your own transportation, so you can leave if you get too uncomfortable.
  • Taking your Higher Power or Program with you.
  • Asking for ideas in a meeting before you go.

For eating addicts, there are special problems. Besides the above, you might want to consider these possibilities:

  • Calling ahead to ask about the event. This might include asking what foods will be served. Good friends or family may be willing to accommodate your special needs, if any.
  • Eating before or after the celebration, or even leaving, eating at a relatively safe place, and returning.

Later Recovery

With recovery you can learn not to dread celebrations, to enjoy the family, the people, and the original cause for celebration without drinking, using, bingeing, purging, starving, or overeating.

The Aftermath

Be careful afterward. Many people are on guard through the celebration, but have trouble later. They may fall prey to the depression or self-pity that sometimes follows, when remembering how much fun others had drinking or eating. Or, they may relax and “reward themselves.” Have appropriate recovery tools available. An excellent strategy is to go to a meeting or touch base with your Program following the celebration or event.

Specific Events

Look at birthdays, weddings, Thanksgiving, Christmas, religious holidays, etc. At Thanksgiving or similar holidays, even regular people binge, on food if not on alcohol also. Your Twelve-Step group might want to consider an Alcathon, O-Athon, or similar event, where a place, meetings, and/or a phone is available during the day on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or other times.


Celebrations, see also: Abstinence, Aftercare, Crisis, Delusion, Diet mentality, Eating addiction, Eating plans, Family, Feelings, Gratitude, Habit & structure, Higher Power, Moderation, Prayer & meditation, Priorities, Progression, Relapse prevention, Relaxation, Sabotage of recovery, Sponsorship, Stinking thinking.

Updated 12 Sep 2015

Creative Commons License
Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.