If you are trying to quit drinking, certain days of the year when you used to drink heavily can be a trigger for old feelings and thoughts to arise.
And when it comes to the heavy drinking holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, this can be especially difficult since everyone around you seems to be drinking, too. But the way to conquer this holiday without drinking is to have a plan of what you’re going to do instead. Basically, you want some alternatives to drinking on St. Patrick’s Day or other ways to celebrate Irish culture.
During the continued pandemic and times of social distancing, it might be easier than ever to avoid the green beer and college kids stumbling out of bars but it’s still important to have a plan should you feel triggered or a desire to drink again. And in future years, as the world hopefully reopens safely, you will need to do something else besides just avoid other people on this heavy drinking holiday. As a reminder, it’s always okay to skip these holidays entirely, especially in early sobriety. But if you’re looking to celebrate, here are a few ways to have a sober St. Patrick’s Day if you have or are trying to quit alcohol.
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1. Throw your own sober celebration.
Just because a lot of people you know may be celebrating this holiday with booze, and perhaps even you used to, doesn’t mean that this year can’t be different. One of the best things about giving up alcohol is that it gives you the license to be creative and celebrate holidays in a new and interesting way. For St. Patrick’s Day, why now throw your own booze-free party that focuses on celebrating the beauty of Irish culture instead? Whether on Zoom or in person, why not invite your sober and sober curious friends to join you for an evening of listening to Irish music (see #5), watching an Irish movie, cooking your favorite Irish meal (see #2), or read some famed Irish poetry together.
2. Cook your favorite meal.
Last year, a lot of folks on The Temper suggested making your own Irish food as a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without an alcoholic beverage. You can cook homemade corned beef and cabbage for a traditional Irish meal or simply make something green colored, like a green juice, shamrock shake, or even homemade ginger ale or ginger beer. There are other Irish foods you can cook up, too. Or you can simplify the whole thing and just make your absolute favorite meal. You know, the one that you typically save for special occasions or other holidays. Take the time and indulge… without a drink.
3. Read Irish literature.
One of the best ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without a drink is to read some Irish literature. There is no shortage of great books to check out from the Emerald Isle. There are classics like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Edna O’Brien, Jonathan Swift, Elizabeth Bowen, Bram Stoker, and Samuel Beckett. If you’re not sure where to start, you can try this list of books that helped define 21st Century Irish literature or this list of books every Irish American should read. You don’t have to go so heavy, though. If you like YA novels, why not just do a YA novel that’s set in Ireland? And, of course, Sally Rooney’s Normal People or Conversations With Friends are on the must-read list too. There are a lot of options here for you to simply spend March 17th curled up, under a blanket, with a good book.
4. Journal about gratitude.
One thing that can really help when you are feeling triggered around drinking is to take some time to breathe deeply and sit down to journal. Practicing gratitude may seem a little bit cliche these days but research has shown over and over again that giving thanks can make you happier. Taking this time to journal about gratitude or make a gratitude list can help you deal with the difficult feelings that have come up today. For instance, you can write things like “I am grateful to not be spending money on alcohol today, I am grateful to not have to wake up with a hangover tomorrow, I am grateful to spend time with my family today.” Or, for a twist on gratitude journaling, you can simply answer the question: “What will your future self thank you for doing today?”
5. Listen to Irish music.
For many people, there is something really soothing about traditional Celtic music. For a nice evening at home sans St. Patrick’s Day craziness, why not indulge in Irish music? Of course, there is the famed band U2… but you can also listen to other favorites from Ireland, such as The Undertones, The Pogues, The Cranberries, Thin Lizzy, and Sinead O’Connor. If Irish music isn’t your thing, just settle down for your favorite playlist to unplug & chill or start with a mindful morning. Or if none of that sounds like your cup of tea, then why not make a cup of tea and do a meditation? They’re great… even if you aren’t the type of person who can usually sit still.
6. Call up a sober friend.
Support is crucial to many people’s recovery, especially strong friendships. It’s why we recommend that you support a friend after they have told you that they have quit alcohol. But this isn’t just based on our experience; a study found that friendship is the most impactful type of social support in maintaining sobriety. So when you’re feeling icky about March 17th and struggling to not drink, call up a sober friend. Call up any friend, in fact! Just make sure that it is a friend who is wholeheartedly in your corner about your desire to quit alcohol. Then, just chat away. It doesn’t have to be about what triggered you (though it can be). It can just be a casual catch-up conversation so long as it accomplishes the task of keeping your mind off of the green beer and hootenanny.
7. Make your own mocktail.
If you’re missing a little something and think that your sobriety is strong enough to handle it, then why not make yourself a non-alcoholic drink for St. Patrick’s Day? There are sparkly mocktails you can make or non-alcoholic cocktails that are better than the original or store-bought mocktails or even try some non-alcoholic drinks with food pairings. There are lots of options here. Just make sure that having a mock alcoholic beverage isn’t going to trigger you further and that you can just enjoy the drink for the deliciousness that it is all on its own.
8. Attend an online meeting.
If you are feeling particularly triggered or overwhelmed by those who are celebrating a very not sober St. Patrick’s Day, why not attend an online recovery meeting? Even if meetings are not a regular part of your sobriety, it’s okay to get additional support when you need it. Connecting with other non-drinking folks in online meetings or in groups can be a good way to avoid everyone else who is doing the thing that you don’t want to be doing. If this is not your thing, you can also reconnect with your sobriety by listening to a recovery podcast or reading a recovery memoir.
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Although there are plenty of options to have a sober St. Patrick’s Day, we want to acknowledge that some people do slip and drink again. And that’s okay. If you do slip up, it’s important to work on forgiving yourself. It’s true that self-forgiveness is not easy for many but it is something that we all must strive for in this long journey of recovery. For now, as we approach this heavy drinking holiday, we need to do the best we can. And wake up the next morning, and continue to do the best we can to stop drinking if that is our goal.
With the ideas above, hopefully you can have a good day and still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without all of the usual hoopla that typically leads to massive hangovers the next day. If you want to feel grateful, think about the years past when you did wake up with a hangover on March 18th and how nice it will be not to do that this year. Instead, celebrate this Irish holiday without the typical drinking… and wake up with no regrets. It’ll be a beautiful day.