The holidays can be incredibly hard for many of us in recovery. We can encounter triggers from family tension and complicated dynamics, get thrown off our normal daily routines, experience increases in “downtime,” and potentially even experience our first holiday season without a loved one. Altogether, this can create a perfect storm to throw us off emotionally and create a significant increase in triggers. Here are six ways to make sure you have the tools you need to celebrate a sober Thanksgiving:
1. Plan in Advance!
The temptation to drink usually arises when you feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed. Chaos and unpredictability are breeding grounds for triggers, and the holiday season is full of both. Although you can’t eliminate every unexpected possibility, you can prepare yourself for them.
The best way of staying sober on Thanksgiving is to come up with a plan before the day arrives. What are you going to do on Thanksgiving? Where will you go? Whom will you spend it with? Don’t wait until Wednesday night or Thursday morning to decide what you’re going to do!
2. Let People Know Ahead of Time That You Aren’t Drinking
If you attend a Thanksgiving gathering where there will be drinking, let people know ahead of time that you aren’t drinking. You don’t need to inform everyone there if you aren’t open about your recovery. Keeping a few people in the loop will limit the external pressure to have a drink yourself and help keep you accountable. If you aren’t comfortable going into detail, you can always just say that you aren’t drinking because you are trying to make healthier choices. DO NOT make your privacy more important than your sobriety this early on in your journey!
3. BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage)
Bringing your own beverage is an excellent way of staying sober on Thanksgiving. You don’t have to worry about what the host has to drink if you bring something yourself. Having a drink in your hand throughout the day also keeps people from asking if they can get you something to drink.
4. Have Your Recovery Support System on Call
Make sure the people in your recovery support system are ready to pick up the phone if you need them – ask in advance! People in your support system should already understand the difficulties that come with staying sober during the holiday season. Remind them that you might need some extra support during the next few days so you can be sure to stay sober on Thanksgiving. Also, there WILL be meetings near you on Thanksgiving Day. Whether it’s 12-step, SMART Recovery, or something else, know when and where these will be in case you need some extra support.
5. Plan Your Exit Before You Arrive
Come up with an exit plan before you even arrive. Planning your exit before you get there relieves the inevitable pressure of people asking you to stay longer than you’re comfortable. Drive yourself there, so you aren’t reliant upon anyone to get you home. Decide how long you want to stay. You can even make plans for after the gathering to give yourself a real reason to leave by a certain time.
6. It’s Okay to Say No
Another thing to remember is that it’s okay to say no. You don’t have to attend any gatherings that make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. Thanksgiving is one meal. It is one day. Protecting your recovery is the most important thing you can do during the holiday season. If you think that going to an event will make it harder to stay sober on Thanksgiving, politely decline the invitation.
If you feel that attending a party isn’t a safe choice, then spend your time doing other fulfilling activities. There are likely sober Thanksgiving events you can find in your area. If you have a support group, ask them if there are any events or if they’d like to make plans. Volunteering is a great way to keep yourself occupied while doing good for your community. Soup kitchens and homeless shelters often need extra help during Thanksgiving. Volunteer with them to keep yourself away from alcohol and to have a gratifying experience
Learn More at Sophros Recovery Today