It’s the most wonderful time of the year! By that I mean, the awkward and annoying time of the year where we sober folks try our darndest to deck those halls and be festive at a plethora of holiday functions. But after we’ve donned our gay apparel, circled the hors d’oeuvres table and even gamely partaken in whatever cheesy reindeer game your hosts have provided, the question remains: how do we leave festive functions before they become a drunken holiday hell? Lucky for you, I’ve survived many a Christmas party sober and have come up with some savvy party exit strategies the even Old Saint Nick can’t find fault with.
1. Dude, Where’s the Food?
I have a strict rule of thumb when going to holiday parties: there’s gotta be food! Listen, I didn’t get sober so I could hang out at a party without guacamole like it’s the Great Depression Christmas Special. Last year, the hubby’s company had a party at a hipster craft cocktail bar (please kill me now) and after a series of text messages it was determined that no dinner, no appetizers and not even a plate of ghetto grocery store gingerbread men was going to be served. Needless to say, this function was a hard pass for me. This turned out to be a wise move as after the hipster hell he and his coworkers went to a seedy dive bar. My tough policy on food served me well, and it’s now a non-negotiable. Not only is food amazing and delicious, it gives you something to do when coworkers or neighbors are pouring shots in their eggnog. Basically, when the food is gone, you should be too!
2. Work It Out With the Wingman
“Bring another sober person” is solid advice we often hear before attending parties in recovery. Yet it doesn’t go far enough. Who you pick—sober or not—is pretty important too. For example, you don’t want to bring along a stick-in-the-mud wingman who looks like they’d rather be scraping wallpaper off their bathroom walls the entire time you’re trying to survive a holiday function. Nor do you want to be trapped at a party with a social butterfly who wants to flirt for four hours while all you wanna do is stick a cookie in your pocket and go home and watch the Grinch. Therefore, I like being “rigorously honest” with my wingman beforehand and tell them, “I just want to hang out for an hour or so.” That way you’re crystal clear when you walk through the door on your plans, leaving some room to be flexible if the party actually turns out to be fun.
3. Phone a Friend
“I’m going to a leather bar to hear a friend’s band play. Just thought I’d let you know that” was the basic gist of a text I sent my sober bestie back in 2010. I was just over a year sober and was going to spend a day at a beer bust but none of my sober peeps could come with me. He responded and continued to text me hilarious stuff throughout the day and I left with my soul and sobriety intact. Moral of the story? If you can’t bring a wingman, use that bulky piece of technology in your pocket to reach out and check in. Also, this trusted virtual wingman can always provide a well-timed text or phone call to help serve as your exit out the door. Sure, feigning a “My friend called and I gotta bounce” type of emergency might not exactly be truthful, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get out of a bad party—and there’s no doubt your sober friend will be glad to help.
4. Double Book It
Stacking the party deck is easy to do this time of year. With a limited number of weekends in December, there’s a ton of offerings to be had on a given Saturday night. This is excellent news for sober peeps worried about getting stuck in the suburbs while people you barely know are drunkenly trying on Santa hats.
A variety of parties on the docket means a variety of people (not to mention a variety of holiday snacks!) which means no party runs the risk of getting stale. Plus, you have an honest and real reason for ducking out early.
5. Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Uber
Lyft, Uber and the like are truly a holiday miracle. By now, “I’ve got an Uber coming” is an acceptable exit for any situation, holiday or not. Your hosts, despite their guilt-ridden Facebook invites, totally understand that you can’t stay forever—and honestly, they don’t want you to. There’s only so many crab puffs to go around, and you’ve probably already had your share. Go ahead use this modern magic and get the heck out of there. Within minutes you can discreetly book your ride, say your goodbyes and make it home into time to enjoy a diet Coke and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Seasonal anxiety and bah humbuggery aside, holiday parties should be fun. When I first got sober, I didn’t really know what this elusive thing called “fun” was that all the kids were talking about. I did know that doing cocaine at a dive bar in Echo Park the night before Christmas wasn’t exactly fun—nor was waking up on Christmas morning with a raging hangover. Thus, I’ve had to re-invent “fun” and come up with my own version of the holidays.
In early recovery, I said “no” to all holiday invites and sort of hid out with my family until the whole thing passed. Not being around drinking or drugs that first season was just what I needed. I didn’t care if I hurt a host’s feelings or missed out on something everybody would be posting about until February. I had to take care of myself. Nearly eight years later, it’s changed. I’d even say that I love the holidays. I’m down for all the lights, the tinsel and the cookies. I accept invites—but only to the things I really want to go to. I leave when I’m good and ready. I’ve even thrown a holiday shindig or two of my own, like I’m doing again this year. Really, hosting your own party is the ultimate way for a control freak ex-addict like myself to celebrate the holidays. I get to come up with the activities (did someone say make your own winter terrarium ornaments?), I control the snack table (more brie, please!) and best of all I don’t have to worry about making an uncomfortable exit.