It’s that time of year again – parties, family get-togethers, and excessive eating, drinking and merriment. This time of year can create difficult situations for those in recovery. Thanksgiving, in particular, can be a challenging time, family interaction is often expected and it may be one of your first family get-togethers you’ve had in a while.
6 Tips for Having a Sober and Happy Thanksgiving:
1. Review the Past.
If you are planning to be with family or friends during Thanksgiving, reflect on past Thanksgivings. Were they stressful? Was there excessive drinking and partying? Was there family members fighting, or bringing up and/or re-inflicting old wounds? Did you feel comfortable and at ease?
By reviewing past Thanksgivings, you can look for triggers that may result in you drinking, or using again. When and where do you think your buttons will be pushed? What situations or encounters resulted in you feeling stressed, angry, sad, or hurt? Just because you’re in recovery doesn’t necessarily mean that things will be drastically different. Hope for the best, plan for the worts and be ready for everything. Being prepared is the best thing you can do.
2. Plan Your Entrance.
Now that you have reviewed where you could feel stressed, anxious, irritated/angry or triggered, plan how you will attend. Is it better to go early and get comfortable? Is it better to go later, to avoid certain encounters? Is it better to go with a sober friend or family member?
Perhaps it is better to not attend at all? If that is the case, is there a way you can communicate with your family to express your thankfulness for them, but yet keep yourself safe? Look for sober friends you can celebrate with. If you decide that it would not be healthy for you to be around family and old friends during Thanksgiving, plan something special with others.
3. Plan Your Exit.
Before you go, plan on how long you think you can comfortably stay. If you know from past experience that staying for a full day, or a full holiday weekend will be too much or dangerous to your sobriety, then plan your visit accordingly. Let your family know about your plans ahead of time. This will help you set realistic expectations and allow others to understand your plans. Be prepared to leave even earlier than you may have originally planned if you are triggered or feel unmanageable stress, anxiety or anger. It is acceptable to explain that you feel you need to leave early.
4. Have Support Ready.
Let your support group and sober friends know about your plans and any difficulties that may arise or did arise in the past. Tell them your travel days and times. Have a person available you can call if things get difficult. Or perhaps ask someone to go with you.
If you decide that you cannot safely attend your family’s Thanksgiving, see what sober events are available near you. Thanksgiving can be triggering even without family and old friends around. It can also be lonely…most restaurants and stores (although fewer each year) are closed. So plan ahead to share your Thanksgiving with others. One great way to spend Thanksgiving is to volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter for the day. It can be an incredibly moving experience that will fill you with gratitude.
5. Be Honest and Realistic.
It’s best to be open about your addiction and recovery with family and friends. At a minimum be clear about your boundaries and rules. At a minimum tell your family that you are not drinking or using during the visit.
You should feel wonderful about your sobriety, however, don’t expect that everything within your family will be drastically different immediately. People change and evolve in small steps, so look for tiny increments of change. Sure, you are different, but give your family time to actually see and experience the difference. Seeing truly is believing for family and friends, especially those you may have hurt in the past.
6. Be Grateful and Enjoy.
Now that you have planned ahead, you can relax and enjoy your Thanksgiving. Relaxing during a holiday isn’t always easy, so remember to breathe deeply. Thanksgiving is a holiday dedicated to being grateful, so think of at least three things you are grateful for, and try not to stop with three. Our entire world changes when we see the world through gratitude.
If you or a loved one would like help with an addiction, you can contact Moonlight Mountain Recovery for assistance.