Thanksgiving is a time for great joy. We get together with loved ones and celebrate the holiday and everything it represents. Families gather to cook, watch football, and share traditions that have been passed down for generations. We catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a while, and we express blessings for the coming year.
But the holidays can also be stressful, from coordinating travel plans to dealing with estranged family relations. If this is your first Thanksgiving since getting sober, you may be worried about how you are going to survive the holiday without drinking. The key is to enter the situation prepared for all possible outcomes. Here are a few tips to help get you through your first sober Thanksgiving:
1. Avoid Stressful Situations
If you are invited to a family dinner that you are certain will be so stressful it might make you feel the need to drink, turn the invitation down. It’s ok to say no, they will get over it. The people who really love you will understand. If you’re having a hard time at the thought of saying ‘no’, enlist the help of a trusted family member who can make your excuses for your (or corroborate any white lie you might need to get out of the situation).
2. Stay Positive
There’s quite a bit of truth in the old saying ‘It’s all in your head”. Thinking negatively about a situation can sour your outlook, and quickly turn your dour expectations into reality. Having a positive outlook, however, can prepare our brains to minimize annoyances and other issues that arise, protecting ourselves from stress While it’s okay to prepare yourself for the worst, approach family gatherings with a mindset of hoping for the best.
3. Hit a meeting
If you have a 12-step meeting scheduled on or just before the holiday, do not skip it. Remember, your health takes priority over everything else. You will also find strength from others who will be dealing with the very same anxieties and stresses you will be experiencing. Often, various fellowships run meetings 24-hours a day during the holidays. Surround yourself with love and support.
4. Sit at the kid’s table
There is a 100% chance that there won’t be bottles of wine at the kid’s table, making it an easy way to avoid temptation during dinner. If you haven’t disclosed that you are in recovery, use the excuse that you would like to spend time with the kiddos. There is something sweet and magical about the innocence of children and you will probably have more fun sitting with them than you would be sitting with the adults.
5. Be of Service
Your addict past likely resulted in a lot of messes both for you and your loved ones. Use the holidays as an opportunity to make up for instances. Being helpful around the house is also a great way to distract yourself from that fact that you’re not drinking. So, jump in and peel those potatoes. Don’t burn the turkey. Volunteer to keep the kids busy while the rest of the family is setting up. Cut the pie and serve dessert. Offer to clean up after the meal.
6. Have Your Own Transportation
While you should not go into the evening expecting something negative to happen, you should at least be prepared. Make sure that you have transportation so that you can leave at any time. If you do not have a car, make sure that you have access to Uber or Lyft, or that you have enough money to pay for a cab. You could also make arrangements for a friend to pick you up if needed.
Don’t just “give thanks” because a calendar day says so, aim to make it a part of your daily life. The success of our sobriety depends on the extent of our gratitude. Being grateful keeps us humble and hopeful. Give thanks with a grateful heart for your sobriety. Count your blessings.
You will have to get through many firsts during sobriety. That’s just part of the deal. Think of your first sober Thanksgiving as an opportunity to create new traditions and positive memories. Find more tips in our relapse prevention guide to successfully navigate the rest of the holiday season and afterwards.