Sober Holidays [7 Tips for Staying Sober on Thanksgiving]
Thanksgiving is a time for celebration, when families and friends get together to feast and perhaps watch some football. While Thanksgiving can be stressful for some, people in recovery have a unique experience during sober holidays. Whether it’s dealing with being around alcohol or fielding the awkward questions from distant cousins, being in recovery on Thanksgiving can be a challenge.
Fear not however! This guide is meant to provide you with 7 of the best tips for making your sober holidays a success. While it is not meant to be a replacement for the advice and support of those in your sober support network, these 7 tips can help you avoid any potential Thanksgiving Day disasters and hopefully allow you to make the most of the day.
Sober Holidays Tip 1: Don’t stray too much from your routine
Recovery, particularly early recovery, is all about establishing a routine that works for you. While sober holidays present a challenge for anyone’s routine, it’s important to try and stray from your routine as little as possible. Don’t give up on all of the things which have helped you get past your drug or alcohol addiction just because you have a family function to go to. If you go to a 12-step meeting every morning, go ahead and do that. Most many meeting halls hold 24-hour marathon meetings over thanksgiving. If you call your sponsor every day at 5 pm, do it. Even if you have to step away from family for a few moments it’s important to stay in the mindset that it is not okay to skip your recovery for one day just because it’s Thanksgiving.
Of course, make time to celebrate with your family. After all, family is a big reason that many people get sober in the first place. Your entire day doesn’t have to be spent at meetings or meditating, just don’t skip everything you normally do. If you have a scheduling conflict, then try and work around it. Staying completely strict with the time of day you do something isn’t as important as the thought process. Being dedicated to your recovery is what matters here, not necessarily the schedule itself.
Sober Holidays Tip 2: Have a game plan for the day –
Thanksgiving can be one of the more challenging of the sober holidays because of the potential landmines that come along with it. That is why it is important to plan ahead. When you break away from your normal routine in sobriety, even a little, it’s important to be mindful about the situations you are going to be in. This will minimize the potential for unfortunate surprises.
Scheduling out your day can be extremely beneficial for a few reasons, especially if you have more than one family to visit or multiple dinners to attend. Scheduling these out can not only help you reduce stress, which is the pesky enemy of anyone in sobriety, but it can also help you get through the day smoothly. Make sure you a lot enough time for each event you are attending. You don’t need to stay for hours and hours, but it is good to give your family enough time to see you enjoying your healthy life in sobriety.
It is best to have a partner for the day as well. This can be a significant other or another person in recovery you are close with. Just like anything in recovery, it’s best to do things with others. Whoever your sober holiday partner is going to be, make sure to go over contingency plans with them. More than likely everything will go swimmingly, but it’s important to prepare for extenuating circumstances just in case. Perhaps you have another family member who struggles with drugs, make sure and have an exit plan in case they show up and you’re fearful that they may tempt you to use with them. You don’t have to live in panic about something going bad, just hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Sober Holidays Tip 3: Keep your support network on speed dial –
Most people who are in recovery didn’t get there on their own. Support networks are a huge part of almost anyone’s story who is in sobriety. That shouldn’t change on sober holidays. Make sure you talk with your support network ahead of time and figure out who is going to be unavailable at what times. A craving or a mental obsession to use or drink can hit at any time, even for those with years of sobriety. For these situations a phone call to a trusted friend in recovery is exactly what is needed.
It’s important to have support on any given day, but on Thanksgiving it is even more important. That is because Thanksgiving presents unique situations and challenges which you may not experience in your day to day life in sobriety. Potentially being around people who are drinking, answering questions from nosy relatives, or perhaps dealing with shameful memories of past Thanksgiving which were marred by your previous drinking or using. These are all things which can occur on any sober holidays, so it’s crucial to have someone to reach out to and talk through them with.
Most important of all is your sponsor. If you have a sponsor, make sure that you go over your plans with them. They probably have dealt with many sober holidays in the past and more than likely have some sage wisdom that they can impart on you to help make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to them throughout the day if you need to. They are probably going to be spending time with their family as well, but most are more than happy to step away for a few moments to help a fellow recovering addict or alcoholic who is in a time of need.
Sober Holidays Tip 4: Know your limits –
While everyone’s Thanksgiving celebrations are unique, sometimes there is no avoiding the fact that your “normie” family members may want to indulge in some red wine during the celebration. For some people in recovery, this is something that they have come to learn and live with. However, for others, especially those early in recovery, having alcohol around may be too much to handle. This is something that only you and those closest to you, like your sponsor, can really know. Before the big day, if you suspect there may be alcohol at your family thanksgiving talk about it. If it’s a situation that you have not dealt with since getting sober and you have concerns that you may be tempted, it’s okay to be weary. Many families are very understanding of this and if you might want to speak with them and see if they would be willing to forgo serving alcohol and stick to soft drinks instead.
If your family know that you are in recovery, then chances are they will be willing to skip the wine this time. If they aren’t, then you may want to consider bringing another person in recovery along with you if that is a possibility and keeping your stay there to a reasonable amount of time. Having the support of a person in recovery right there with you can go a long way towards making sure that if you do have any temptations or issues, you will have a person there to talk you through things and help you make a quick getaway if necessary.
Time with family is important, but it’s more important that you make sure you do not place yourself into a situation which may jeopardize the sobriety that you have worked so hard to achieve. The most important thing with sober holidays is to think ahead, talk with your sponsor and your families about your concerns and make sure you don’t run into any surprises on the big day.
Sober Holidays Tip 5: Don’t overextend yourself –
Thanksgiving is a time for celebration, but that celebration can also be a lot of work, both physically and emotionally. Cooking a meal complete with turkey and all of the side dishes can take the whole day. If you combine that with the time spent catching up with all of those distant relatives, it makes for a day full of tasks which can be overwhelming for anyone, sober or not. Remember to pace yourself for sober holidays, recruit your family members to help in any way that they can. Some of them will be happy to do something productive in order to avoid the same “What are you up to these days” conversation they are obliged to have with every aunt and uncle. This will take some of the pressure off of you and allow you to make sure you can keep your recovery in your thought process.
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed or feeling stressed, don’t hesitate to step away into an empty room where you can call someone in your support network, do a quick meditation or perhaps just catch some well-deserved alone time. Just remember that this sober holiday is only possible because of your new life in sobriety and that is a blessing. Don’t feel that you need to impress everyone by working yourself to the bone, just do the best you can and for most of your family members that will be good enough.
Sober Holidays Tip 6: Be of service –
If you find your self stuck in your head the best way to get out of it is focusing your attention on others. How can I be helpful right now? That may be washing the dishes, helping serve food, put your chef skills to the test, etc. Altruism is the underlying foundation of recovery. The more you think of others the less you think of you, which is important when it comes to the disease of alcoholism and addiction that centers in the mind.
Sober Holidays Tip 7: Try and enjoy the day –
All of the planning and thought that can go into Thanksgiving can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to try and enjoy the day once it arrives. Thanksgiving is a perfect time for you to remember why your sobriety is so important, spending time with friends and family around the dinner table without all of the potential heartache and drama that comes along with being drunk or high. After all, you didn’t get sober just to sulk around and worry all the time. Sobriety is supposed to be one of the best things that ever happened to you, so don’t let it ruin your day. Embrace it and cherish everything. Also try and remember that this day is not just for you but for your family. Many people in recovery have put their loved ones through a lot and days like Thanksgiving are the time when they are able to enjoy your company and see how well you are doing now that you are sober.
Finally, if you do find yourself getting annoyed by a family member or some other guest, try and remember that it will most likely be over in a few hours anyways. Once you leave the party everyone, including you, will be able to go back to their normal lives and it’s very possible that you may not have to see this person again until next Thanksgiving after all.