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How To Have a Sober Thankgiving

From my experience in recovery, especially early recovery, holidays can be like walking through a mine field. IEDs everywhere: flame throwers, snipers, relatives throwing grenades. People can tell you a hundred different ways, tips, tricks, but what worked for me is very simple.

A Method To Getting Through The Holidays Sober



You just got sober; you may not be ready to go into the lion’s den. It’s OK to say no to a holiday invitation. The earth will still keep spinning if you don’t show up at Aunt Mildred’s drunken drug fueled Christmas party this year. And if, like last year, you have to drug yourself to make it through the party, do you really want to go anyway? You don’t have to be the drunken uncle that ruins Thanksgiving by passing out in the mashed potatoes this year. Early recovery gives you a hall pass.


If you insist on going or simply must go, limit your exposure. Think of it like “just how close and how long can I expose myself to Chernobyl before I get radiation poisoning”. Your relatives are not bad people, you aren’t a bad person, you’re just not ready to be with them for an extended period of time.

Your expectations and resentments right now are at very high levels, toxic levels really. So set some simple limits and boundaries like “we’re not going to talk about that this year Aunt Mildred, let’s give it a rest and have fun”.

If you are like me and were expecting a Hallmark Christmas Special after rehab and be invited on a Rose Bowl parade float for being sober, every holiday will be a letdown. Lower your expectations of others, accept that the world is not a perfect place, that your relatives are flawed people but they love you. And begin to accept and love yourself with all your flaws and failures knowing your future will be better now.


It’s OK to leave. If your anxiety level is too high after 20 minutes there, simply fake an emergency phone call and get out. How enjoyable is it for the rest of your family to see you sweating bullets when uncle Marty enters the room? The look of panic on your face when you see him and remember you crashed his car last month and fled the scene.

The point is, that if you’re there and it’s too much for you to handle, it’s OK to leave early this year. It’s OK to recognize your limits and to protect your recovery. Everyone eventually will understand why you had to go early and they won’t even remember this time next year.


Call your sponsor, call your sober supports, call your account-abili-buddy. Text them, DM them, anything, but just stay in touch. Sometimes you just need to vent for a minute. Other times you may need a getaway car. If none of your sober supports are answering, reach out to the National Drug Helpline.

My first 5 years sober, I did all of these strategies. Gradually, I lowered my expectations of others and for the holidays. I set limits and boundaries in all my relationships. I ended relationships with toxic people. I learned to accept and love myself and others with all my failures and shortcomings. I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect or give 110% just in time for the holidays. Life became easier, and joy returned to my life. That’s my holiday wish for you.

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