Alcohol is a mainstay of every holiday gathering and for a lot of people, it just feels weird not to serve it. If you’re hosting a holiday dinner or gathering this year and you’ve wondered how to be a good host to your sober guest, you’re not alone.
We put together this list of dos and don’ts that will help you be the best host or hostess for your guests this year.
Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of Your Friend’s Sobriety
Unless you’re Martha Stewart, if you’ve ever hosted a party, you’ve felt the stress associated with it. When you’re hosting a sober friend or family member for the first time (or the first few times), this can really add to the stress.
Should I not drink around them?
Should I not serve alcohol at all?
Are there people I shouldn’t invite?
What can I do to make sure this person isn’t triggered?
These concerns are coming from a good place and it’s awesome that you want to so actively support your friend’s commitment to sobriety. While you should definitely aim to be supportive, don’t risk an awkward moment by putting them in the hot seat. If they want to talk about their recovery and share it with everyone, they can do that. Be cool and leave it up to them.
“Your alcoholic guests are responsible for their own recovery. You should certainly not offer them martinis, but beyond avoiding situations that would put them “on the spot” or embarrass them, your job is simply to make them welcome as you would any other guest.” – What…Me Sober?
Do Make Them Feel Comfortable
What you can do for your sober guests, is make them feel comfortable. Namely by treating them just as you would any other guest.
“The most important piece of advice I can possibly give to a host who is concerned about hosting a party that will be attended by someone who no longer drinks is to treat that person exactly as you would any other guest at the party.” – Greg Kayko, The Kitchn
Don’t Offer Your Sober Guest Alcohol
This may seem like a no-brainer but you would be surprised by how necessary this reminder is. Some people will take it pretty hard if they know someone won’t be drinking. Why would you not want to drink? It baffles them. Don’t be this person. If your guest has let you know that they won’t be drinking, respect that.
Do Serve Non-Alcoholic Beverages
Some recovering alcoholics will tell you that they don’t mind just drinking water all night. Most will tell you that they need to at least have something in their hand to sip on that will distract them from the fact that they are not drinking. Everyone is different but as a host, try to have a few options on hand. A good tip: get something that looks like what everyone else is drinking. Sparkling apple cider looks a lot like champagne, for example. That way they can avoid having to answer the dreaded question, “Why aren’t you drinking?”
Sidebar: the non-alcoholic beverage industry has really expanded over the past few years and there are a ton of non-alcoholic drink options to keep everyone happy and comfortable.
Don’t Make the Whole Night All About Drinking
Surprise – there are ways to have fun without alcohol and a good hostess knows how to keep everyone comfortable and entertained. Play music or hire a DJ. Have old movies playing in the background. Keep a stack of board games out in the open so that people may feel free to start up a game. Organize a secret Santa (go white hat to make it even more interesting).
Do Ask Your Sober Guest What They Need or Want
Depending on your relationship with this person, just call them and ask what they would want to drink for the party. Ask them how you can help them feel more comfortable. Or when they ask what they should bring, tell them to bring something they would like to drink.
Don’t Make It About You
If your guest needs to leave early – don’t beg them to stay or ask them incessantly why they are leaving. They may feel uncomfortable being around alcohol or maybe they made a deal with themselves that they would leave before everyone starts getting drunk and annoying. The bottom line is that it probably has nothing at all to do with you or your amazing hosting abilities.
Remember the key takeaways here: treat your sober friends like everyone else, don’t be overbearing, talk to them about it, and don’t make it about you.
If you are worried about a friend or family member’s drinking, help is available. Call us at (818) 666-3083 to speak with one our addiction specialists about your options.