Thanksgiving is meant to be a time of togetherness, but it can be a challenge if you are newly sober. Alcohol plays a big role in Thanksgiving celebrations, including the day before Thanksgiving (Blackout Wednesday) and the days after.
So exactly how can you make it through the Thanksgiving holiday, sober, without any setbacks, especially if this is your first time? A little preparation, a fresh perspective, and realistic expectations help protect your sobriety. Below are some tips to help avoid triggers on Turkey Day.
Make Staying Sober on Thanksgiving Priority
During the holidays, many of us go that extra mile to make others happy. It’s the holidays after all! But in your case, sobriety must come first. It’s not your responsibility to make others comfortable and happy.
If Aunt Judy is offended that you won’t try her spiked punch, it will have to do. If your friends are disappointed you can’t make it to their party, they’ll have to accept it. The people who know, love, and respect you will understand your choices.
Practice Good Self Care
Self-care is essential. If you’re not taking care of your mental and physical health, you won’t be able to make the best decisions for yourself. Be aware of the demands that the holidays can bring, such as overextending yourself or neglecting your own wants and needs. It’s easier to make smart choices when you feel good physically and emotionally.
Rehearse Your Responses
Chances are, you’re dreading some conversations that may come up at the dinner table. These conversations (and the anxiety leading up to them) can trigger deep emotions. Unfortunately, you can’t control what other people will say and do, so you’ll have to prepare for uncomfortable discussions.
We suggest having rehearsed responses on hand. Practice saying them out loud. It can be something simple and direct, like, “I don’t want to discuss this right now. Let’s enjoy the holidays. How have you been?” Or you can make an excuse for not drinking (i.e., work the next day) or simply change the subject.
Choose Thanksgiving Plans Wisely
Be smart about the places you go on Thanksgiving. Avoid groups or places where you know there will be drinking. Some people feel more comfortable hosting Thanksgiving themselves, because they can control what’s being served and keep busy with cooking, serving, and cleaning.
You can also talk to the host in advance to let them know you won’t be drinking. Offer to bring a fun non-alcoholic drink like this Thanksgiving Mocktail Punch. This way, you’ll have something available to sip on during dinner.
Create an Escape Plan
What happens if you start feeling anxious or out of your element? Have an escape plan. The good thing about not drinking is that you can leave whenever you want. If you’re hosting, it’s a bit harder to up and leave. But you can take a step outside to get some fresh air or change what you’re doing. For example, if a conversation turns awkward, you can remove yourself and start washing the dishes. Thanksgiving hosts have plenty to do!
Accept that a Sober Thanksgiving May Look Different
The holiday season often makes people feel nostalgic. However, you might only remember the good memories of you drinking, not the bad ones. Unfortunately, people who struggle with an alcohol use disorder tend to use the holidays to mask their drinking. They’re able to blend in with others, and they have an excuse to drink more regularly.
Now that you’re sober, the holidays will look different. Being sober also has its benefits. You won’t have to deal with hangovers. You’ll make memories with loved ones. And you won’t say or do things you’ll later regret.
Not Ready to Stay Sober on Thanksgiving?
If you’re feeling triggered just thinking about Thanksgiving without alcohol, you have a few options. First, you may find it best to celebrate with your sober friends. Family is important, but if you come from a big family of drinkers, you may have to skip the celebrations this year.
Second, you can choose to get away for Thanksgiving weekend. For instance, you can go camping, take a hiking trip, or stay at a resort.
Finally, the emotions you’re feeling right now may indicate that you need extra support. An outpatient treatment center like Awakenings Treatment Center is open during the holidays. You can start one of our treatment programs while still returning home to your family in the evenings. This can give you the extra support you need.
Try not to lose sight of what Thanksgiving is about – acknowledging our blessings and being grateful. This year will look different for everyone, so chances are, whatever you decide to do will be alright.