Thanksgiving is the start of the Holiday Season each year.
It’s an occasion when family and friends gather to enjoy food and drink and reflect on their blessings. These feasts seem like a time that everyone can look forward to, but for people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, Thanksgiving can be quite stressful.
The best way to stay sober at Thanksgiving is to think about the day and have a plan in place in advance. These tips and hints can help you to enjoy the occasion while keeping your sobriety intact.
Keep in Mind that Traditions Can be Changed
Some family holiday traditions are fun or comforting. These are ones worth keeping. There are others that aren’t so positive, though.
If you have received an invitation to a family dinner that you know (or can reasonably expect) will be stressful and will make you want to go somewhere to drink or use, then turn it down. You don’t “have” to do anything.
Let Go of Negative Expectations About the Day
No family is perfect, and family events tend to be breeding grounds for their own kind of drama. It’s natural to remember previous family events and use them as a measuring stick for future ones. If you know there will be one or more relatives attending who have a history of being difficult to get along with, you may be picturing past holidays when things were said that made the occasion awkward. You may picture the upcoming Thanksgiving event and be thinking that you already know how the day will go and that you need to “be ready” for what certain relatives will say or do.
We all do this type of fortune-telling from time to time. It’s a type of mental preparedness for a stressful situation. We think if we already know how a situation will unfold, we will be ready to deal with it and can “stay strong” throughout. This kind of thinking implies that the only two options are staying strong and being weak.
To the extent that you are able, try to let go of negative expectations around the day. Attend Thanksgiving dinner without anticipating how anyone else is going to behave. The day will be less stressful and more enjoyable for you.
Go to a 12-Step Meeting
Stick to your regular routine, even though it’s a holiday. Go to a 12-step meeting before you head out to see family and friends. Your recovery is a priority every day of the year.
Take a Friend with You
When you go to Thanksgiving dinner with your family, take a sober friend with you. If you think you may feel uncomfortable being the only non-drinker at the event, your friend will also be present.
Have Something to Eat Before You Go
Thanksgiving Day is a calorie-counter’s nightmare, and it may be tempting to skip breakfast and/or lunch to “save room” for the big meal. Instead, eat small meals to keep your blood sugar in its normal range throughout the day.
Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar. Mild cases of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) cause feelings of anxiety and nervousness that you may not necessarily relate to not having eaten. More serious cases of low blood sugar lead to irritability and fatigue, which is not the general vibe you want to be putting out on Thanksgiving Day.
Avoid sugary sweets that will give you an immediate rush and then make you crash shortly after. Instead, choose some lean protein that will keep you feeling “full” longer in case dinner is delayed along with some whole grains and vegetables to give you energy.
Bring your Own Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Most hosts will have some non-alcoholic options to offer guests. To avoid any awkwardness or suggestions that you “can just have one,” bring your own drinks to Thanksgiving dinner.
You may want to do an online search for some non-alcoholic drink options you can bring with you. Bring the ingredients with you and invite your family members and friends to try the drink you have prepared. They might find that they enjoy these alcohol-free beverages, too.
Make Sure You Have Your Own Transportation
When going to Thanksgiving dinner, make sure that you can leave early if you choose. Have enough funds available for cab fare or make arrangements with a friend to come pick you up if you decide you need a ride home.
Plan Something Fun for the Next Day
Thanksgiving weekend is not just about the dinner. If you have a fun, sober activity to look forward to the day after you will be joining your family and friends for dinner, then you aren’t putting all your emotional eggs in one basket.
- Plan to go to a movie Friday with family members who won’t be hitting the stores.
- Offer to babysit so that out-of-town relatives can spend some time exploring your city on their own.
- Suggest a group walk in a local park, followed by hot chocolate.
- Play cards or board games that you enjoyed as a child or teen.
Sober living is a daily process for people in recovery and Thanksgiving and other holidays can be challenging to navigate. If you or a loved one has had a slip or a relapse, Great Oaks Recovery has addiction recovery programs to get back on track.