A Sober Thanksgiving

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By now you have probably been dreaming of a Thanksgiving feast complete with turkey,A Sober Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and food, but it’s also an unofficial time for drinking, partying and kicking off the holiday season. Blackout Wednesday is one of the busiest nights of the year for bars and clubs, and many beer, wine and spirit brands see huge sales from this night. In fact, NJ.com calls Thanksgiving Eve the “biggest party night of the year.”

The trend is most common among college students, as young adults are returning home from college and catching up with friends. But the hype of Thanksgiving Eve also attracts older adults, as many are seeing family and friends they haven’t seen in months or years. With many people enjoying a four-day weekend, it makes sense to go out and have a few drinks.

It’s not just Blackout Wednesday that is filled with drinking. The typical Thanksgiving feast also includes bottles of wine, beer and mixed drinks. Many people have the following day off work and spend their day shopping, so Thanksgiving facilitates heavy drinking. Most of these people are social drinkers, simply enjoying the hype of the holiday, but your limits are much tighter. So how do you deal?

As a recovering addict, the last thing you want to do is cut yourself out of the holidays. Depending on where you are in recovery, you may very well be ready for some normalcy in your life. You want to see your family, talk to your cousins and get a hug from Grandma, but how can you do all of this without thoughts of alcohol coming your way?

If you want to be with your family for the holidays, then you should make every effort to do so. On the other hand, if family holidays are typically stressful with a lot of angst and tension, then you should consider spending the day with a few close friends or immediate family members. Assuming that you do want to be with your family, a few simple tips will keep you in line with your goals.

First, plan your entrance. Can you attend the festivities with someone who is in support of your recovery? This person – a friend, a parent, a cousin – will give you confidence as you see your loved ones. Also prepare what you are going to say when you’re offered a drink. Your family may be aware of your struggles, but they may also forget as the night goes on. Feel free to take a non-alcoholic drink. Sometimes, saying yes to this gesture and having something in your hand is helpful in relieving those initial jitters.

Next, it’s important to be honest and realistic about what you are ready for. You may only be able to stay at the gathering for an hour. That’s fine. The best thing to do is arrive early when people are more likely to be sober and interested in enjoying the meal. Afterwards is when people start drinking more, so it’s best to stay a shorter time and then kindly excuse yourself. Also have an exit strategy in place in case you do get uncomfortable. You could leave with your parent or call a friend to pick you up. Driving yourself gives you the control to leave when you want.

Finally, remember what Thanksgiving is all about: being grateful for the things you have. It’s more than material things; it’s family, friends, the freedom to get out of bed in the mornings, make a difference in the world and share ideas. Try to take in the moment and enjoy being out with your family. For once, you don’t have to worry about saying or doing something that you’ll later regret. Life is short, and now you have one more Thanksgiving to add to your memories, one that may not have been here if you did not commit to treatment.