Six Reasons to Celebrate a Sober July 4th

Six Reasons to Celebrate a Sober July 4th

During this July 4th holiday, as with other holidays throughout the year, you may see and read lots of articles about the “number of ways” to celebrate without alcohol. Many of the articles are written for those in recovery who are trying to maintain sobriety, while those for supportive family and friends tell us that “while there is nothing wrong” with celebrating holidays and special occasions by drinking alcohol, there is “no reason we can’t” celebrate without drinking. What these articles seem not to say is that there may be very good reasons for NOT drinking alcohol this 4th of July, for those in recovery, those who want to support someone who is in recovery, or those who simply don’t want to drink. If you are looking for reasons, here are a few to consider:

1. To celebrate freedom from hangovers, blackouts, and other physical effects of drinking.

There is nothing fun about the morning after, especially if you can’t remember the night before. Being able to remember a happy celebration—and enjoy it all over again—is a wonderful part of being human. The experience can be even more rewarding when a person in recovery can take pride in the way they chose to participate in an event. It can be self-affirming and self-reinforcing. For those supporting someone in recovery, there is no pleasure like that of helping those we care about to observe a festive occasion as safely as possible for all participants, with no dangers of driving under the influence, no hangovers, and no resultant relapses.

2. To appreciate new patterns of relating to the people who surround us and provide opportunities for even more relationships with additional people.

We do relate to people differently when we are “under the influence” and people relate differently to us. Alcohol is known to act on the part of the brain that impacts judgment. In addition, Taylor and Leonard suggest that “alcohol intoxication restricts cognitive capacity such that, when intoxicated, people are less able to attend to, or process, multiple situational cues” and respond only to those most prominent, sometimes leading to risky sexual behaviors (1983). Finally, results of one study suggest that “faces of individuals who have consumed a low dose of alcohol (equivalent to 250 ml of wine at 14% alcohol by volume for a 70 kg individual) are rated as more attractive than faces of sober individuals (Van Den Abbeele et al. 2015). Not drinking alcohol allows people to relate to one another more authentically.

3. To expand and enrich our repertoire of ways to celebrate.

Sometimes it is too easy to celebrate in the same ways we have in the past, for both those in recovery and for those friends and family who celebrate with them. Some great ideas for planning ahead to celebrate sober have been provided by Living Sober. If planning ahead is not your forte, consider engaging a friend or relative as a planning partner to make the process easier and more fun.

4. To experience and enjoy an event without the influence of alcohol and “level the playing field” for all participants.

At least one study has found that alcohol abstainers who were previously heavy drinkers experience psychological distress in social situations with light to moderate drinkers among certain age groups. One reason suggested was that they have fewer social skills (Lucas, et al., 2010). Regardless of the reasons for discomfort, creating a social situation with a power differential is not conducive to fun for all. Celebrating without alcohol may be a way to make social situations more comfortable and enjoyable for those with less developed social skills or who simply are uncomfortable around drinking for any reason. In the interest of supporting those in recovery, a useful tool, When Someone Says “I don’t drink…” has been shared in social media by Amanda E. White, LPC, E-RYT:

When someone says “I don’t drink…” @therapyforwomen


Don’t Say… Instead Say…
Why? Cool!
Are you pregnant? Nice, we have soda, seltzer etc. in the fridge
Come on, just have one! I really respect that
I could never do that! That’s great!
That sucks! Is there anything I can get you?
For how long? I support you
Not even a glass of champagne at your wedding? Let me know if you need anything
So, then what do you do for fun?
I don’t normally drink this much
You must think I’m such a mess

5. To avoid exposing those under legal drinking age to alcohol itself and to the effects of seeing friends and family in an altered state.

Being around family and friends with favorable attitudes about and involvement in drinking behaviors has been identified as a key risk factor for developing substance use disorder (Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992). When minors and very young children are going to be present, having an alcohol-free party helps reduce this risk for our youngest and most vulnerable.

6. To avoid the health risks of alcohol.

Most people are concerned with the effects of heavy drinking, binge drinking, or of the impact of underage drinking on a still-developing brain. Often people aim for a “safe” amount of alcohol that will have no adverse effects, and that amount has not been identified through research. Some small studies with limited sample sizes have suggested that low or moderate amounts of alcohol can be protective. However, a recent study with 694 data sources of both individual and population-level alcohol consumption suggests that for almost 10% of deaths globally for populations between 15 and 49 years of age alcohol is the leading risk factor. To quote the study authors “Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.” (Griswold, et al., 2016)

There are great reasons for celebrating the 4th of July—or any festive occasion or observance—alcohol-free. Some additional “whys and ways” for holding sober holidays can be found:

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!


Griswold, M. G., Fullman, N., Hawley, C., Arian, N., Zimsen, S. R. M., . . . SCOHOST (Stockholm Centre for Health and Social Change). (2018). Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: A systematic analysis for the global burden of disease study 2016. The Lancet, 392(10152), 1015.

Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Miller, J. Y. (1992). Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 64-105.

Lucas, N., Windsor, T. D., Caldwell, T. M., & Rodgers, B. (2010). Psychological distress in non-drinkers: Associations with previous heavy drinking and current social relationships. Alcohol & Alcoholism, 45(1), 95-102. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agp080

Taylor, S. P., & Leonard, K. E. (1983). Alcohol and human aggression. In R. G. Geen & E. I. Donnerstein (Eds.), Aggression: Theoretical and Empirical Reviews (pp. 77–102). New York: Academic Press.

Van Den Abbeele, J., Penton-Voak, I. S., Attwood, A. S., Stephen, I. D., & Munafò, M. R. (2015). Increased facial attractiveness following moderate, but not high, alcohol consumption. Alcohol and Alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 50(3), 296-301. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agv010

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