Thanksgiving isn’t really known as a big drinking holiday, but for those new to sobriety, getting together with family and friends who drink may be a bit scary. The temptation to have a glass of wine or champagne may be strong, as we alcoholics have a strong association with alcohol and social events.
Instead of opting out of the holiday altogether, I challenge you to confront your fears. And here is why.
#1: Isolating yourself is not always the answer.
If you really don’t think you can handle it, opt out – and do so, certainly, if you feel your sobriety is at great risk. But also, consider what you could be missing. You could be missing the opportunity to see family and/or friends and operate normally while sober. This could be your chance to show others, as well as yourself, that things are better and that you can do this.
There’s a real stigma surrounding alcoholism, even now. While more and more people understand it’s a disease and not a moral issue, others still struggle with this fact. By coming forward and showing how you’ve improved, both mentally and physically, you can put your best face forward to those close to you.
Conversely, think about how your absence will affect everyone else, as their concerns and thoughts about you will be front and center.
The bottom line is, you’ve got to do this sooner or later – whenever you are ready – or be forced into isolation indefinitely.
#2: Successfully engaging in social situations without drinking helps re-program your brain.
As I said, as a recovering alcoholic, I know that I often associate social situations with drinking. If you start attending holiday and social occasions, even for a short time, your brain can begin to let loose of that strong connection between drinking and being social.
Show yourself and others that you can be outgoing and functional without alcohol, and you have placed a big positive mark on your chart. That’s called a little success, but really, it’s just as big as you can imagine.
#3: If you need to, you can limit your time.
If you can’t handle an entire day, remember that showing up for the holiday, even an hour or two, is a triumph. Whether for dinner or to watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, you can set limitations as needed. That is, either commit to a general time to leave, or plan out a reason for an impromptu exit as you deem necessary.
It’s okay to be honest with others if you need to leave due to temptations – but that’s between you and those people. In other words, be as honest as you can, but if you don’t feel comfortable, it’s okay to fudge excuses a bit. It’s better to go and back your way out than to never try at all.
And ultimately that’s it – make an attempt. If you fail, at least you tried, and you probably had some success in the process. Consider the following quote by John Barrow: “If you never try, you’ll never know what you are capable of.”