Thanksgiving is a time to count your blessings and celebrate with friends and family. But for people struggling with alcohol addiction, Thanksgiving is one of the most stressful days of the year. Usually, the whole family gathers together, and odds are, there will be a lot of drama and chaos involved. So, keep these tips in mind to stay sober this Thanksgiving.
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1. Plan Ahead
While you can’t control everything that will happen that day, you can plan certain things ahead. For example, tell a friend what’s happening and have them as your standby emergency exit if you need to leave. Bring your own car or have an exit strategy to leave if you feel triggered or upset.
2. Choose Your Party Wisely
If you want to stay alcohol-free during the holidays, you have to be selective of the parties you attend. For example, if your family is known for drinking in excess during Thanksgiving, perhaps you want to avoid them this year. Don’t feel obligated to attend their parties. Be polite and honest about your situation and let them know you don’t feel comfortable being around alcohol at the moment.
3. Bring Your Own Drinks
Nowadays, you can find delicious alcohol-free drinks that look like the real deal. If you’re attending a holiday party that doesn’t have alcohol-free drinks, you might want to bring your own. The same can be said of any food or dessert you know might have alcohol. For example, if your family loves great eggnog with rum, you can bring your virgin eggnog and celebrate just like everyone else.
4. Take a Sober Friend with You
If everyone in your family is a drinker, it’s common for you to feel alienated and isolated. Ask another sober friend to come with you to feel supported. It’s always better to have someone that understands precisely what you’re going through.
5. Have a Way Out
When you’re making a plan for this day, make sure you have a way out. Ask a friend to pick you up, make sure to have your ride-share app ready to go, or figure out where are the closest bus stations. If things get messy and you feel like you’re ready to take a drink, just get out. Even if you come back, taking a walk or a break from the pressure can be helpful.
6. Go to a Meeting
A lot of people in addiction recovery choose to attend 12-step group meetings on thanksgiving day. It’s a way to stay away from all the pressure and drama that you’d expect from your friends and family. Even if you’re going to your family’s dinner, try to squeeze some time to go to a meeting before the dinner to have clarity and calmness.
7. Be Rude
While this tip to stay sober this Thanksgiving is out of the norm, it works. If you feel attacked by your family members about your sobriety, about just taking a sip of a drink, or whatever, allow yourself to be rude for a second. Unapologetically call them out on their lack of sensitivity or their pressure. While this might come off as harsh, sometimes people aren’t aware of their actions or words.
8. Remind Everyone Before Dinner
Before the big day, remind the host that you’re in addiction recovery. Let them know that you’re practicing abstinence from alcohol and that you’d hope for their collaboration. Just a gentle reminder can help them make any adjustments. It’s also a good moment to let them know about any triggers you could possibly experience, and you wish to avoid.
9. Spend Thanksgiving Differently
If the traditional dinner with the family seems too daunting this year, you can always skip it. Many people in recovery chose to stay sober and away from all the chaos by spending Thanksgiving differently. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, for example. Or, you can just skip dinner and just stay at a 12-step meeting. Plan a day outdoors; all of these options can help you keep your mind away from the big event.
10. Be Grateful
More than anything, use this day to count your blessings. If you must, replay the whole movie in your head to see what would happen if you grab that drink over dinner. Acknowledge how far you’ve come and how your sober life is such a blessing. Be grateful for the experiences, the journey, even the setbacks. After all, Thanksgiving is all about being thankful.