Thanksgiving can bring out the best and worst in all of us. Travel delays, dealing with family drama, and stress mixed with the overwhelming availability of alcohol can be a recipe for disaster, especially for those in recovery. But fear not, as there is hope and there are strategies to use in order to cope with Thanksgiving stress and reduce the risk of relapse. Here are a number of ways to make this holiday go a bit smoother and more importantly, keep you sober.
Family drama and exit strategies
Plan for family drama, whether or not it happens. If you are newly sober, this may be the first time family members will learn of your recovery and this may spark anything from innocent questions about rehab to the resurfacing of old feelings about your former life in addiction. Hopefully, things will go smoothly, however, it’s always a good idea to have an exit plan if things turn ugly. Have your sponsor or a trusted friend’s number on speed dial and let them know you’re attending a Thanksgiving dinner or event and ask them to be on call if you need to talk or to leave. Have them stay in touch with you throughout the dinner through text messages or a quick call to help keep you disconnect from any drama that ensues. Ask your host if you can invite a friend to a Thanksgiving event or bring a plus one to a family gathering as added support. Your trusted friend will help you stay calm, sober, and even make you laugh.
Have a drink in hand (the ultimate decoy)
Not ready to discuss your sobriety or have a long discussion with your uncle on why you won’t be his holiday drinking buddy anymore? If it’s your first sober Thanksgiving, you can go with the classic excuses to avoid any penetrating questions about your abstinence from alcohol such as you’re on antibiotics, starting a clean eating diet, training for a marathon or you’re driving. However, sometimes just having a drink in your hand can diffuse the situation. If people ask, “Can I get you a drink? Eggnog can easily be “spiked” and any seltzer drink on ice can easily be a cocktail and no one will know the difference. If someone offers you a drink, you can just hold up your drink and say, “I’m all set.” You can even bring your own non-alcoholic beer or fancy seltzer beverage and honestly, most people won’t even ask what your drinking.
Channel your stress by keeping busy
When your anxiety starts to kick in or conversations with your friends and family members start to trigger old feelings, get busy. Ask your host or family member to help out with food preparations, cleaning dishes, or decorating. Maybe help out with the kids and get outside for some touch football or some kind of fun game or activity. Offer to be a designated driver for those who need a lift to the store or home. Whatever you can do to keep busy, do it – your sobriety will thank you later.
Put yourself first
Social situations can feel overwhelming when newly sober. And even if you have a supportive family – holidays like Thanksgiving will test even the most seasoned person in recovery. Self care is critical during times like these, and making the necessary preparations to deal with holiday gatherings is essential. Some ways to accomplish this goal may include reducing your stress level before the event through meditation, music, journaling, yoga, reading recovery books, or speaking with your sponsor to help mentally prepare you for the holiday. Remember your sobriety always comes first.
Seek out support
If you are traveling, make sure you know where the nearest meeting will be held. You need support during this crucial time and often the only way to find solace and understanding is through people who really get what you’re going through. Knowing you have a meeting close by can serve as a great source of security and comfort, especially if your recovery is threatened or things with the family go south.
Watch out for triggers and be prepared
If traveling back home for the first time since treatment, be honest with yourself about potential triggers. Stay far away from neighborhood bars, old drinking friends, social events or clubs where drugs were readily available or other temptations that could derail all of your progress. If you need to, make a list of all of the people, places, and areas to avoid while at home and stick to it.
Owning your sobriety
Sometimes, you may have to own your sobriety. Nothing is more empowering than just being open and proud about your recovery. Being honest with all of your family members and friends about how important sobriety is it you can feel very freeing. Being upfront about your recovery can help reduce your stress and disarm those who may otherwise pressure you into doing something harmful to your sobriety. You’d be surprised at how many people are more understanding about addiction recovery these days and some may even take a closer look at their own problems with substance use. In fact, when you’re honest about your recovery journey, this openness can offer support and encouragement to others who are thinking about sobriety but are afraid to ask for help. You just might be the catalyst that gets someone else started on their road to recovery.
Remember, this holiday season you are not alone. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder or addiction, The Kimberly Center is a treatment center that uses evidence-based methods of recovery to focus on your individuality and inner strength to help you get sober from drugs and alcohol. Your plan of recovery will be customized to fit your background and experience with addiction. Call us today to begin: 855-4-KCENTER (855-452-3683)