Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Thanksgiving is two days away.   Holidays can be difficult for sober people, or people struggling to get or stay sober.

Now is a good time to prepare. 

We thought we'd share some tips.   You can not only survive Thanksgiving, you can enjoy it.   All you need to do is plan ahead.    Please add your own in the comments below; this is by no means a comprehensive list.

  1. Think ahead.  Is it hard for you to be around alcohol?   Be honest with yourself.  Now is not a time for heroics.   Keep your expectations realistic:  if it is going to be too difficult, maybe this year is a time to do something different for Thanksgiving.   Don't set yourself up to fail.    You can spend a quiet time at home watching movies or hanging out with other friends, volunteer at a shelter serving food, or go to a meeting instead.  
  2. Thanksgiving is usually about family.  If there are people in your family who trigger you, be ready.    You don't have to go to every fight you're invited to .. plan what you'll say or do if someone gives you a hard time.  
  3. Have safe people to call - program their numbers into your phone in advance, and tell them you're going to call if things get tough.   If everyone around you is drinking and it starts to bring you down, talking to someone else who is sober helps you remember that you are NOT alone.
  4. Bring your own beverages.  This is especially important if you're going to be around people who don't know you're sober.   If you always have a drink in your hand, people won't hand you alcohol or ask if you want something to drink.  
  5. You don't have to over explain.   If someone is pressuring you to drink, be ready with an answer.   A white lie is totally acceptable - tell people you're on antibiotics, or you're watching your calories and so you aren't drinking.   
  6. Have an escape plan.  If you can, bring your own car.    Plan to go for a post-turkey walk - fresh air and exercise will get your endorphins flowing and help tamp down cravings.
  7. Plan your exit in advance.   If everyone is going to settle in to watch football and drink and you don't want to be part of it ... don't.   Tell whoever is hosting that you have to leave at a certain time so you don't get drawn in to staying longer than you want to.
  8. Remember to be proud of yourself - shame and guilt are huge triggers.   Give yourself credit for staying strong.
  9. Think about the next morning, when you'll wake up hangover-free and rested.    Think about how horribly you felt the morning after drinking, and how sober you don't wake up and think, "I wish I drank last night."
  10. Think through the drink.   If you start romancing how nice "one drink" would be, remember how many times you told yourself you were only going to have one and failed.    Having one is harder than having none, because once alcohol is in your system the obsession comes alive.
  11. Remind yourself that Thanksgiving is just one day.    A simple 24 hours, just like any other day.   Don't put more importance on this day over any other.  
  12. Go to bed.   If the day is harder than you expected, go to bed early just to put the day to rest.   Tomorrow is a new day.
  13. Believe in yourself.   Getting sober and staying sober takes serious guts - you are brave and strong and true.   If guilt, shame and remorse start talking to you, remind yourself that it's your disease sneaking in the back door.   Let your sober voice ring loud and proud in your head.
  14. Forgive yourself for wanting to drink.   Don't expect that you won't be hit with a craving; it's natural.   Prepare for how you're going to handle the craving instead of berating yourself for having one.
  15. Be grateful.    Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks.. make a gratitude list and carry it with you.   Try to focus on the gifts you have in your life, all the possibilities that lie in front of you, instead of all the things you can't have.   Sober, you can do anything
Please add more thoughts and ideas in the comments; we want to hear from you.    Addiction thrives in the dark, and together we bring the light.  

You are not alone.


  1. Exceptional advice, precise and thorough! I brought this one down ~
    2."Thanksgiving is usually about family. If there are people in your family who trigger you, be ready. You don't have to go to every fight you're invited to .. plan what you'll say or do if someone gives you a hard time"
    Look, we are privileged to choose our friends, our mate for life, etc. We're not offered choices in family members. Though, some of our most profound triggers may originate from family. Is what it is. I like what you said about thinking forward. We really can predict the "scenarios" as they tend to play out at every family gathering , have occurred repeatedly over decades. So, yes!! We can spend some time thinking through our response, warding off heated discussion, or hurtful feelings, all the while displaying grace and an example of the principles we now adhere to. Don't accept the offer to engage in controversy and don't allow someone an opportunity to reside in your head, therefore obliterate your grateful Thanksgiving disposition. Thanks for these critical holiday tips. Printed, and on my fridge as I type

  2. Did you write this for me? Because you know I needed to read every single one of these :) Thank you...

  3. I'm lucky enough to not have a problem with alcohol and these were still really good. They're great to apply to whatever is your nasty vice. Smoking, eating, drinking, drugs. All of them. Thank you so much!

  4. I am very thankful for this blog...

    I appreciate #2 as well. Will remember this line as I head into a week with family -- "You don't have to go to every fight you're invited to."

    I actually just had a nice conversation with my dad about topics I won't engage in -- politics and religion are our biggies.

    Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

  5. Excellent, excellent survival guide! I don't think I could add one thing. I had to post over at BFB, I hope you all don't mind. Many are in need of this and it shall surely help many. I'm so grateful that all I have to do is bring some sides and my mother-in-law's precious grandsons over to their home on Thursday. Things have changed so much since getting sober and I am SO grateful.

    Thank you so much for your live-saving guide. : )

  6. A great tool I was taught in "treatment" was instead of saying "I don't want to drink" say "I want to stay sober". Thought it was too basic, until I actually used it. Amazing how our minds can be adjusted through positive thoughts. It made me feel so strong. Try it!