Thanksgiving tables are full of countless flavors to savor, but some aspects of holiday get-togethers can be less than appetizing. From difficult family members to “festive” alcoholic beverages, Thanksgiving can present numerous triggers that can jeopardize your recovery. However, if you stay mindful of your own needs, you can survive Thanksgiving and safeguard your sobriety, all while having a great time!
Focus on What You’re Thankful For
Give thanks to yourself, for yourself. There’s a reason why gratitude journals are all the rage: consistently reminding yourself of your blessings is proven to make you happier. It’s so easy to automatically think about the aspects of life that are going wrong and become consumed by dreadful emotions. But you can have control over your perspective in life by redirecting your mind to what’s going right.
Adhere to Your Boundaries
You know that you cannot take even small amounts of a substance without spiraling into relapse, so be prepared to say “no” and mean it. You can even bring someone from your 12 Step group with you to a holiday function if you need someone to keep you in check. It is also best to kindly decline any Thanksgiving celebrations that will have drugs or alcohol present. You do not want to encounter triggers for the sake of keeping traditions alive.
Bring Stress Relievers
Perhaps you once sought drugs or alcohol when your anxiety levels were high, but you now know how dangerous and out of the question that maladaptive coping mechanism is. Luckily, there are holistic alternatives that naturally reduce stress. Consider a lavender or peppermint essential oil rollerball, or bring a calming herbal tea, such as chamomile, just in case you need to step aside and calm your nerves. You can even download a short-guided meditation to follow at any point of the evening where you might need to center your mind.
Ensure You’ll Have Fun
If there’s anyone who knows what you need to enjoy this Thanksgiving, it’s you. Ask yourself, “what do I need to bring and do to have a great holiday?” Perhaps you haven’t had your favorite dish in a while, but it’s not common to the traditional Thanksgiving spread – cook that cuisine and bring it! Do you wish your family would stop talking about politics and partake in light-hearted fun? Bring a board game and see if your family is up for joining in on the fun. You don’t have to depend on those around you to have a good time; take control and create the Thanksgiving celebration you want.
Prepare for the Worst
Of course, no matter how hard you try, there is always the chance that someone else ruins the fun by causing conflict or exhibiting other unruly behavior. If you know that a difficult person is going to be present as you gather around the Thanksgiving table, prepare an exit strategy. You do not have to subject yourself to unhealthy situations and should feel empowered by the fact that you can walk away from those who make moments uncomfortable. Remember to keep handy the phone numbers of a few people who you know are sure to help you cope if something goes wrong. Be ready to contact them the moment you feel like you could be putting your sobriety in harm’s way.
With great food, gratitude, the power of choice, and boundaries by your side, you can have a great Thanksgiving. Even if something goes wrong, you will be prepared and know how to respond to get yourself back to a happy, healthy place. And that is something to be thankful for!