A Recovering Alcoholic’s 10 Tips on How to Survive Thanksgiving with Your Family
By: Tim Myers
Alcohol recovery can be particularly challenging during family gatherings and holidays such as Thanksgiving. When it’s time to pack the entire family around the table and saddle up for the biggest feast of the year, it is also time for those who have been working through an alcohol treatment program to prepare for the challenges ahead.
Relatives you haven’t talked to in years are ready to chat. Uncle Richard has inappropriate pictures on his phone he thinks you’ll think are funny. Aunt Dot can’t wait to tell you that story she told you fifteen times. Grandpa is already snoring at 11 am.
Thanksgiving – the Native Americans survived it and so can you. Here’s how to avoid alcohol relapse.
10) Make Sure You Have a Means of Transportation
I don’t care if you have to rent a car, borrow Grandma Donna’s mini van, take your cousins bike, or suck it up and roller blade around town – make sure you have a way to get out.
Thanksgiving can be stressful. You’ve got family members sitting face to face for the first time in years. It’s only a matter of time before Uncle Mike hits the bottle too hard and starts crying about how no one one loves him.
You have to be able to get out in a hurry, even if it’s just for five minutes. Make sure you have a way to get some air or get some alone time. When you have that much family drama all compressed in one container, at some point it’s going to explode.
Just make sure you don’t.
9) Avoid “Serious” Conversations
Serious conversations can lead to stress: something a recovering alcoholic does not need more of, especially during the holidays.
Thanksgiving is not the time to ask, “WHY AM I NOT IN THE WILL?” It’s not the time to bring up the fact that Jimmy still owes you $20,000 from the internet company he tried to start ten years ago.
If someone corners you and says something along the lines of, “Do you remember last fall when you called me a ________?” Say this: “I really think we should just enjoy each others company today, but I would be willing to discuss this with you tomorrow.”
That will work 50% of the time. If they persist, let’s hope you took my advice on tip number one. Start strapping on your blade runners.
8) Use The Buddy System
“Uncle Richard, this is my friend Brian. I bet he hasn’t seen those special pictures on your phone.”
“Oh Aunt Dot, do you have any stories from the nursing home you want to tell Brian?”
See, it works perfectly. Having your buddy around will also deter the family from completely launching the family nukes across the table. Most families won’t spread the drama butter all over the floor if there’s an outsider present.
Plus, if the storm does start to get nasty, you and your buddy can retreat to safety together.
A buddy can also help hold you accountable or keep you from spending the day along if you are unable to spend it with your family.
7) Start new Traditions
Whether spending Thanksgiving in a room full of family members drinking wine and whisky sounds too tempting or you simply don’t have family to spend the holiday with, starting a new tradition is a great alternative for an alcoholic in recovery. There is no rule that says you have to spend Thanksgiving with your family.
Reach out to your other sober pals and see if any of them are in a similar situation. Likely one or two of them will be!
Consider going to a pumpkin patch or hosting your own sober Friendsgiving. Don’t even worry about making the traditional foods if you don’t want to. Focus on enjoying each other’s company and giving thanks for your sobriety.
6) Go to an AA Meeting
You are far from alone when it comes to navigating Thanksgiving as a recovering alcoholic. Whether it is your first Thanksgiving after entering an alcohol treatment program or your 5th, an alcoholics anonymous meeting can offer a lot of support in making it through the day.
If you are spending Thanksgiving out of town, locate a meeting near where you will be staying before the trip starts. This gives you something to look forward to and an escape location if you need it.
5) Sit at The Kids Table
One sure way to avoid alcohol for a least the meal portion of Thanksgiving is to sit at the kids’ table. This is also a great time for the kids in your family to get to know sober you and for you to build a stronger relationship with them. The sweet innocence of children can be fun and entertaining in a harmless way.
Ask little Jack, “What are you hoping to get for Christmas?” and go around the table to see what the kids are thankful for this year. They might surprise you with something touching and insightful or simply hilarious!
4) Be of Service
Your relatives are going to be running around doing a lot of different tasks to get the big meal ready. Step in and ask, “Grandma Donna, can I peel those potatoes for you or help set the table?”
“Uncle Richard, do you need any help holding the turkey while you carve it?”
Creating havoc and disasters, or simply being lazy was probably common when you were drunk. Make helping out and cleaning up messes a part of sober you. Offering to be of assistance in the kitchen might surprise your family in a positive way and could help in rebuilding some of the relationships and trust that drinking damaged.
Offering to chop the vegetables or clean up after the meal is also a great way to keep yourself busy and avoid stressful conversations.
One by one, your relatives are going to be telling you stories. If you’re anything like me, you spent a good portion of your life not giving a care in the world about other peoples’ problems or successes.
Now’s a good time, no, now is the perfect time to actually be there for people. You don’t have to give advice or take sides. You just have to listen, be supportive, and be the person that your family came to spend time with. While peeling potatoes with Grandma or sitting at the kids table are perfect times to listen.
Many years from now you may wish you had a little extra time with these people.
2) Have Gratitude for Your Sobriety
Thanksgiving is centered around giving thanks for the various things in your life. This time around, your alcohol recovery program has given you something incredible to be thankful for, sobriety. Whether your family goes around the table to announce what they are most thankful for or not, allow yourself a moment to be thankful for what you have achieved. This keeps us humble and hopeful for the future.
1) Don’t Drink
Sobriety is a chance to start over. This year, if you pass out, it will not be because you drank too much, but because you indulged in the delicious turkey. Take advantage of this opportunity to create new memories and traditions with your friends and family.
Are you looking to get sober? Get Started today with our Alcohol Recovery Program.