The holidays mean something different for everyone. But if you’re a newly recovering addict, you probably associate the holidays with a time to drink and relax with friends and family. The night before Thanksgiving (also known as Drinksgiving or Blackout Wednesday) starts the festivities, and they usually continue through the weekend. Even if you do your best to focus on the true meaning of Thanksgiving, there’s no question that temptation will be there.
So how can you celebrate a happy Thanksgiving without slipping up in your recovery? And how can you handle stressful situations and cranky family members without a drink? We have all the tips you need to know to make your holiday a happy one.
Avoid Stressful Situations
There are many things we have to do in life that we may not want to. And that will continue even while you are working your recovery. But for right now, your sobriety must come first. If you are invited somewhere that will cause you stress, politely decline. People who respect and love you will understand.
Of course, you can’t plan for every stressful situation. You may be relaxing when all of a sudden, a family member gets drunk and starts acting out. So, be sure to have an exit strategy in place so that you can remove yourself from the situation. Again, your sobriety is your priority.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Holiday dinners naturally carry a lot of expectations. Everyone envisions a perfect sit-down dinner with happy people and a table of food. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality for most families. So, try not to stress yourself out over how things should be. Prepare yourself for a nice evening with the people who love you, along with delicious food and (hopefully!) a day or two off work.
If you need a refresher on positive thinking, check out this article from Mayo Clinic. Positive thinking starts with positive self-talk, so you’ll need to start here. If you find that mostly negative, pessimistic thoughts are running through your head, you’re going to approach the holidays with that mindset. Now is a good time to get to the bottom of this thinking before it becomes a bigger problem.
Keep Up with Your Meetings
Now is not the time to slack on your 12-step meetings. Continue attending these meetings so that you stay on track with your recovery and talk through any negative feelings you are having. Your fellow 12-step members may also be able to offer you some helpful suggestions on making it through the holiday season.
Knowing that you’re not alone is also a good reminder during these trying times, especially when you feel like everyone’s out drinking and having fun. You may even find that celebrating Thanksgiving with some of the members from your 12-step groups is a safer option this year.
Dine at the Kids’ Table
One decision you can make to ease uncomfortable conversations is by sitting at the kids’ table. Chances are strong that the kids’ table isn’t stocked with bottles of wine and cans of beer. This in itself can allow you to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal without temptation.
Plus, there’s something sweet and innocent about children. Talking with them can change your attitude and help you see things in a new light. They probably won’t be asking you questions about your love life, job or sobriety, which is another bonus!
Help Out and Be of Service
Another thing you can do is be of service to the Thanksgiving host. Offer to set the table, serve the food, clean up dishes, entertain the kids and so on. This will keep you busy and out of uncomfortable conversations. Plus, it will make you feel like a valuable part of the team. It’s possible that in years past, you weren’t much of a help on the holidays, so now is a good time to redeem yourself.
Arrange Your Own Transportation
If you’re traveling to someone’s home for Thanksgiving, it’s a good idea to arrange your own transportation. This allows you to leave whenever you want and keeps you responsible for leaving sober. If you don’t have a car, arrange a ride on Lyft or Uber. Or have a trusted friend or family member on call for you. Staying longer than you’re comfortable can put you in a difficult situation.
Show Your Gratitude
Sure, the festivities that come along with Thanksgiving are fun, but the true meaning of Thanksgiving is showing gratitude. Being grateful keeps up humble and reminds us of the things we have at the moment. Keep yourself grounded on this day by practicing gratitude.
When you wake up, think about the things you are thankful for. As you go throughout the day, be present and aware of your surroundings. The smell of a freshly cooked turkey. A sweet piece of pumpkin pie. Family and friends who support you. A year of hope that awaits. There is so much to be grateful for – just look around!
Bring Along Stress Relievers
A final word of advice is to bring along stress relievers. You’ll feel better having something to rely on if you start feeling uncomfortable. A few ideas include an essential oil roller ball, a stress ball or a calming herbal tea. You can take a step outside and use your stress relievers to ease tension. If they don’t work, you’ll probably want to follow through with your exit strategy so that your stress levels don’t rise any further.
With the right attitude, smart choices and solid boundaries, you can have a great Thanksgiving holiday! If you need extra help or support during the holiday season, reach out to Acceptance Recovery Center. We offer a number of convenient, affordable programs that are available year-round.