Thanksgiving can be a challenge to our sobriety. Here’s some of the things that can make it really trying:
- When everyone else is drinking wine.
- When people around the table have differing views, political or otherwise.
- Seeing a certain person who always seems to get under our skin.
- Seeing someone who has hurt us.
- Feeling emotional (whether happy or sad or something else) and not wanting to be that vulnerable.
- When people are arguing.
- When we are feeling introverted and not wanting to engage with others.
- Not wanting to be alone on Thanksgiving.
- Falling back into old patterns when we are around our family.
- Memories, either nostalgic or painful or both, of past holidays.
- Grieving someone who is not at the table either because they passed away or they are no longer in our lives.
- Remembering what it’s like to be numb and not bothered by these things.
- Stories we tell ourselves about some ideal Thanksgiving.
Sometimes it seems like holidays are such a test for our sobriety. But I look at it this way. It is not a test of my sobriety but a test of my recovery. What practices and beliefs and behaviors do I practice in recovery? What do I do in order to thrive? What self-soothing and coping practices do I have in place?
So here’s what we can do to thrive this Thanksgiving.
Get a good nights sleep the night before.
An hour before you go to sleep wind down by having tea, turning off devices, taking a bath, turning down the lights or any other ideas you have.
Start your day with meditation.
Don’t worry if meditation is not your thing. Just set a timer for 1 min, 5 min, 15 min, 30 min. Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Notice your thoughts and return to focusing on your breathing. For a longer meditation you might do a body scan. Start by focusing on your breathing for a few breaths. Then focus on relaxing every part of your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. Notice your thoughts and return to focusing on your body.
Be aware of what you say yes to and what you say no to.
Allow yourself to only say enthusiastic yeses. Allow yourself to say firm nos. Allow yourself to change your mind in order to take better care of yourself.
Make a list of things you can do to soothe yourself. Make a list of what helps you cope.
Make this list when you are feeling OK. Don’t wait until you are triggered. Do it right now!
Take a break.
If things get heavy or sad or uncomfortable, walk away. Go outside for a quick walk. Enjoy the fresh air. Or just go to the bathroom. Either way, focus on deep breathing.
Yes! This is what Thanksgiving is all about. And it helps us in recovery and it helps us to connect with others. Practice it in private. Find a place to sneak away with your phone or paper and pen. Write down what you are grateful for. Practice it in community by telling others what you are grateful for. You don’t have to direct your gratitude to them. You can just tell them something you are grateful for in the world.
No matter where you go to celebrate Thanksgiving, take your very own special beverage. What do you absolutely love to drink? Blood orange soda? Chai tea? Coconut water? Strawberry milkshake? Whatever is your favorite, bring it with you.
Create your own tradition.
You can host your own Thanksgiving. Also, don’t forget, you always have the option to scrap the tradition and make it your own. Maybe you are surrounded by sober friends playing board games. Maybe you are alone doing a self-care day. Maybe it centers around a meal. Maybe it centers around crafts, like creating a giant gratitude collage. Maybe you write thank you cards to all your friends and loved ones.
Whatever you do, make sure you are gentle and loving with yourself. Notice when you need a break and take it. I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving filled with gratitude.