19 Tips for Moderate Drinking During the Holidays

The holidays are a season for laughter, merrymaking, time with family, and gatherings with friends—all of which are often accompanied by alcohol.


That’s why for many in recovery the holidays are a tough time. Not only does this time of year bring up a lot of emotional “stuff,” which alone can be triggering, booze is a frequent guest at holiday parties and social gatherings.

Even if you’re not in recovery or being mindful of your drinking, maybe you’re wanting to be sure that you drink safely this season. A little too much over Thanksgiving was perhaps your most recent reminder that it might be time for some small changes to your drinking habits. If you need support this season, consider implementing some of these tips for moderate drinking to make your holiday as merry and bright as it can be.



1) Plan before you drink. Having a plan to drink moderately can reduce impulsive drinking and lessen the chance that you’ll drink in ways that harm yourself or negatively impact those you care about. Consider why you’ll be drinking, when you’ll start drinking, when you’ll stop, what you’ll drink, how many drinks you’ll have, and what you’ll do in between drinks.


2) Check in with yourself while you’re drinking. How much have you been drinking? If you had a plan for your drinking, are you sticking to it? Has your reason for drinking changed? How is your drinking impacting others? How do you feel about your drinking? If you’re feeling ashamed, guilty, or anxious, it may be a sign that the familiar event-thought-feeling-urge to drink sequence that contributed to old patterns of drinking are coming up for you, and that it may be time to consider stopping.


3) Avoid drinking alone.


4) Have a non-alcoholic beverage in between each alcoholic drink.


5) Bring an accountability partner with you when you go out to drink. Check in with that person briefly in the middle of the event.


6) Drink only in social situations.


7) When you drink, sip slowly and mindfully. In other words, don’t drink too quickly.


8) Be the designated driver for others in your party. This will make sure that you limit your drinking, having maybe only one drink early in the evening, so that you can support your friends by driving afterward.


9) Avoid drinking when you’re angry, upset, or anxious.


10) Put a watch or bracelet on the wrist of the hand that you hold your drink with as a reminder of your plan to limit your drinking.


11) Plan an early event for the next day after drinking. A little extra incentive to avoid a hangover or a headache never hurts.


12) Prepare what you’ll say to others to explain your limited drinking ahead of time, especially if the changes you’ll be making to your drinking habits are going to be noticeable to others. “I’m good, thanks.” “That’s enough for me for tonight.” Practice saying it aloud if you need to.


13) Eat a good bit of food before you start drinking.


14) Stick to one type of alcohol. Mixing types of alcohol (i.e., wine and beer, hard liquor and malt liquor) will make you feel sicker, especially if you have drinks with lower alcohol content first before moving onto Long Island Iced Teas.


15) Set reminders on your phone to limit yourself to X drinks by Y time (with Y being the time of the alarm).


16) Identify your triggers. Triggers are anything that makes you more vulnerable to drinking in harmful ways and often include feelings, thoughts, events, environments, and circumstances.


17) If you feel the desire to keep drinking, play with the urge. Dialogue with the urge, speaking with both sides of your ambivalence about drinking more. Is it the best choice right now, given all of your options?


18) Surf the urge or craving. Notice the urge and choose to sit with it instead of acting on it immediately. Waiting a few seconds to a few minutes before deciding what to do can make more options than simply having another drink available to you. Surfing the urge and bearing out the craving means that you are not acting impulsively.


19) Create a list of 5 to 10 alternative reactions to the triggers that you’ll encounter during a particular outing that would normally activate your desire to drink. Having alternatives ready to go can make it a lot easier to stick to a plan, care for yourself, and achieve your goals.


Need more tips for moderate drinking or help changing your drinking habits? For more information, please check out the resources used in this post:


Turner, C. (2017). Can I Keep Drinking? How You Can Decide When Enough Is Enough. New York, Nashville, & Melbourne: Morgan James.


Kellogg, S., & A. Tartarsky. (2012). “Harm Reduction Psychotherapy.” Pp. 36-60 in Harm Reduction: Pragmatic Strategies for Managing High-Risk Behaviors. Ed. by G. Marlatt, M. Larimer, & K. Witkiewitz. New York: Guilford.

Jeremy Mast

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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