Thanksgiving is traditionally a day to reflect on the past year, to celebrate friendships and families, and to honor what we have in our lives that we are thankful for. Although this year may be more socially distanced than we are used to, it can still be a time for contemplation and gratitude.
The holidays are a particularly difficult time for many individuals in recovery. Whether you are new to recovery, years into sobriety, or are still thinking about treatment—navigating the social situations that arise can be challenging. There are unhealthy temptations that can crop up, and it can be stressful! With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to share some ideas on how to be prepared for holiday gatherings and get-togethers with family and friends.
- One of the great things taught in early recovery is to keep a gratitude journal, or make a short list each night of what you’re grateful for. Whether you practice this in your recovery routine every day or never have before, Thanksgiving can be a day to give it a try. Write down things you are thankful for in the past month, year, or even week. Expand on one or two of them, and then share with your sponsor or friend.
- If you are attending an event with family and friends and there is alcohol, bring along your own beverage. Having something in hand is important for those who used to drink at parties—it’s been proven to psychologically bring a person comfort, and can reproduce that feeling of social calm that you previously associated with alcohol. Have fun with this; bring some fancy seltzer, or iced tea and lemonade and make Arnold Palmers!
- If you are attending a social event, use the buddy system and bring a sober friend along. If it’s a family event and you go alone, have a way to get in touch with your sponsor while you’re there in case you run into a tricky situation.
If attending a party or dinner, try to occupy yourself with a job or task. You can volunteer to bring a part of the meal, help to set up the Thanksgiving dinner table, or offer to hang up coats. Let the host know you are willing to help out, and it will keep you busy!
Bring a board game or deck of cards with you. Games worked when we were kids, and they can still be a great way to break the ice now!
- If you feel that someone is disrespecting or endangering your sobriety, you can politely let them know. If they aren’t aware you are in recovery, they might offer you a drink unknowingly, but if you feel unsafe you can always call an Uber or trusted friend and head home. Another way to avoid this is to let whoever is in charge of the party know, and they can discreetly tell guests so they will respect your situation.
- Offer to be a designated driver. If you are attending an event with family members or friends that are not in recovery, you can simply say you want to be the driver. This will keep you focused on your responsibility so you’ll be less tempted to reach for the rum punch.
- When in doubt, meditate. If you are overwhelmed in a social situation and don’t have a way to leave, try to find a quiet place to sit for a few minutes and do a short, guided meditation on your phone. Another stress reliever is chamomile tea—bring along a few sachets in your pocket just in case.
- Have some meetings in place for the morning and evening. There are plenty of online meetings available, and they can serve as bookends to your day—the AM meeting to help you prepare, and an evening one to wind down (especially if the day was stressful).
It is also important to know that some feelings that might arise that you aren’t expecting. Holidays can bring up painful memories sometimes, and we don’t always know what emotions we might experience. As much as we can prepare and have support in place, it’s normal to feel emotional. Simply try your best to enjoy the time with your loved ones, and the fact that you can experience it sober. That’s an accomplishment in itself!
If you think that you need help with your sober Thanksgiving, we are here to help. Our Admissions Specialists are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have, whether they are for you or a loved one. Please give us a call at 855.712.7784 today.