6 Expert-Approved Tips For Your First Sober Valentine's Day

Cheerful young woman in hat smiling and talking with anonymous man during romantic date in cafe

If you haven't been drinking, and are about to have your first sober Valentine's Day, it's only natural to think about how the day might impact you. From finding other ways to celebrate with a date, to coping on your own, the holiday can be a lot to handle. But rest assured there are plenty of ways to get through it all, without alcohol.

One of the best places to start is by acknowledging how and why it might be difficult. "Holidays bring up stronger emotions for most of us than non-holiday times," Josh Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. "Being sober for the first time puts you in a vulnerable state."

If you drank on Valentine's Day in the past, there might be lingering associations with alcohol. "Combine that with either pressure to use from your social circle or feelings of loss and regret or other negative feelings that can arise during the holidays, and the desire to cope by drinking can be quite strong," Klapow says.

That said, you can still remain sober throughout the day, and even have a good time. "Prepare for it, don’t pretend it won’t have an impact, and schedule your Valentine's Day so that you are not left with simply having to fight urges," Klapow says. Below, experts share more tips if you won't be drinking on Valentine's Day.


Plan Ahead For Cravings


If you strongly associate Valentine's Day with drinking, it may help to plan ahead for any cravings that could crop up as a result. "Holidays can be powerful triggers for cravings, but they're less likely to blindside you if you know what to expect," Dr. Jessica Goodnight, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle.

Reminding yourself of the possibility can be enough so that you can get in the right headspace. But taking positive action can also be a big help.

Think about your triggers, and then come up with coping activities, Goodnight says, like exercising or spending time with friends. If you drank in the past due to stress, these things will serve as a healthier replacement.


Talk To Your Date Beforehand

If you're on a first date or still getting to know other, it could be helpful to kick off by telling your date that you're sober, Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, PsyD a licensed clinical psychologist at Therapy Group of NYC, tells Bustle.

"It's up to you how much or how little you want to share about why you're sober, and you should never feel obligated to disclose more than you're comfortable," she says, "but sharing this about yourself can bring you and your date closer." From there, it'll be easier to cater your evening to other non-alcoholic activities.


Make Other Fun Plans


While Valentine's Day may seem like it needs to revolve around eating a fancy dinner — which could put you in close proximity to alcohol — there are other things you can do with your date, like ice skating, playing board games, walking through a park, or going to a special cafe for dessert, Witmer says.

Coming up with creative, fun plans when you aren't drinking will not only keep your mind busy, it'll prove that you can enjoy the holiday sans alcohol.


Remove Yourself From Stressful Situations

Being in stressful situations surrounding a holiday is a reason why many people drink during this time of year, Witmer says. So make a promise to yourself that you'll step away from stressful situations, without feeling bad about it.

"When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, remove yourself from the situation and take a break to yourself," Witmer says. "More than likely, no one will question your brief absence."

If you're with a partner and need a moment, take a walk around the block. If you're stressing about a date, recognize how you're feeling and call a friend. Focus on what you need to do in order to stay sober.


Let Friends Know


Whether you have Valentine's Day plans or not, letting friends and family know that you're sober can be helpful, Witmer says. And you don't have to share any more than that.

"There are many reasons people don't drink and it helps to make others aware so you don't feel like you have to turn down drinks repeatedly or deal with unnecessary pressure," she says, which hopefully won't be the case anyway.


Make An Appointment With A Therapist


If you aren't sure how to come up with a plan, or are worried about your first sober Valentine's Day for any reason, don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist, Goodnight says. This might even be part of your coping plan, she says, since talking to a professional can help you deal with cravings.

Calling a sponsor or friend may also be a good idea, since sharing what's on your mind, and having someone to hold you accountable, can be a great way to ride out tough moments. From there, you might have an easier time processing your thoughts, coping with cravings, and having a fun Valentine's Day.


Josh Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist

Dr. Jessica Goodnight, licensed clinical psychologist

Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist at Therapy Group of NYC