Thanksgiving is just a few days away. You recently stopped using, but you are about to encounter your family for the first time.
You’re already dreading the one family member you used to party with that won’t be happy about you not partaking in the drinking (I was that guy). Your cousin who you used to “go for a walk” with will be expecting you join him/her. Your great aunt has been living with your family for a few years and now you’re afraid you’ll be tempted to raid the medicine cabinet as you usually did. Your dad is going to ask you to help him set up the bar and your mother won’t stop fixing your hair and commenting on your outfit, constantly asking you to fix something. F#%! Talk about pressure! Now what do you do?
Maybe you can avoid it altogether. Many families have expectations that everyone be together during the holidays. These might be so-called “traditions”, but in this fragile time, where you feel your recovery might be in jeopardy, you may be better off not going. Find a place in your town/city where you can volunteer doing something like feeding the homeless. Maybe you can get that one super cool humanitarian/ environmental/ open minded family member to go with you. You will be working for a good cause, you will be around others that are there with positive spirits and you’ll likely still have turkey. You will likely meet some new people in a place that won’t be centered around drugs and alcohol. Your mind will be on helping others and most importantly, you will feel good about yourself!
If that’s not the case and you have to go, make a plan. Get there early and talk to the family member(s) that will be least judgmental and most supportive. If you can, let them know that you are not drinking or you can come up with something positive like you’re trying to be healthier for whatever (most realistic) reason you can find. Telling the one cousin or family member that will be most supportive can be very helpful. They can keep an eye out for you and help diffuse that one family member’s pressure to have “just one”. Keep in mind, if that were the case, IF you could have just that one, none of this would be an issue. Does that person ever have “just one”? What’s their condition?
Another helpful thing can be to just dive into helping with the setup/ serving/ cleanup of the party (leave the empty liquor/wine/beer containers to someone else). This will help keep you focussed on something positive rather than the booze/drugs. Maybe you will get to speak with that family member who you love, but were always too “out of it” to have any kind of meaningful conversation with. Take the opportunity to spend time with the young ones/kids at the gathering. You’re likely to make a better impression than in past years.
Making yourself accountable to someone supportive is key. Letting them know about your thoughts of the medicine cabinet, for example, will help deter you from taking a peek in there.
You can bring your partner or other friend that has been supportive in your recovery with you. This would be incredibly helpful as well and can save you from having to tell anyone in the family if you’re not ready to.
In terms of having a beverage yourself, make your own water/seltzer/soda/tea/milk or whatever you like to drink for yourself. Always refill it yourself keeping some in there at all times. That way, you can politely refuse a drink stating that you “already have one”. Double make sure to sit away from the “pusher(s)” in the family so they won’t be inclined to keep hassling you with alcohol.
Is there a support group in the neighborhood you’ll be in? Maybe you can catch one before the gathering, or excuse yourself after the meal citing that you’re going to visit some local friends and go after the gathering, before that one guest gets extra sauced up and starts talking nonsense. You don’t need to be around that. Plan ahead of time, let people at the gathering (especially whoever invited you) know what you’re doing in advance so they don’t try to talk you out of it (remember, they’re likely to have a few drinks as well..). Then, when the time comes, respectfully say your good-byes and make a graceful exit.
Last, and most important of all, don’t forget to have fun. You’re not drinking or drugging today, so you will get a kick out of seeing the family or the characters at the place you’re volunteering at “clearly.” Everyone is wacky to whatever extent, especially family. You’ll be hearing them like you’ve never heard them before. It might help you to reflect on your past Thanksgiving experiences. How is this one different? How is it better?
You’ll be able to take it all in and learn what to do from some and not do from others. This will be a great practice for many holidays to come! At the end of the day, you can be GRATEFUL that you’re not the one killing the duck.
If you feel this is helpful or can help someone you love, please pass it along. If you have any other ways to get through the holidays without using, we would love for you to share them with us. Have a safe holiday with your loved ones. Love Life Today. THiS ReCoVeRY LiFE.