By Michael Leach
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season for most families. The time between now and New Year’s Day can often be filled with numerous celebrations. It’s also a time of year associated with increased alcohol use and even recreational drug use.
This poses a challenge for people trying to stay sober on Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays. Unfortunately, celebration and indulgence can lead to alcohol and drug-related consequences. However, there are practical approaches that anyone can use to stay sober or help someone struggling.
Statistically, Kentucky has a low rate of underage drinking deaths and a low rate of chronic causes – roughly 15.8% of adults in the state 18 and over binge drink at least once per month. Annually, over 2,200 deaths are attributable to excessive alcohol use.
Staying sober over Thanksgiving and navigating the holiday season should not be stressful. Consider some of the following pointers.
The best approach involves coming up with a plan to stay sober. Most temptation to drink or use drugs arises because of anxiety, depression, and feeling overwhelmed during the holidays, which can lead to relapse.
Chaos and unpredictability create triggers. Come up with a plan before the weekend arrives. What are you going to do? Where will you go? Who will you spend it with? A little planning goes a long way.
You might consider hosting your own Thanksgiving gatherings with friends or family. Or tell people beforehand that you are not drinking. It’s okay to be in the driver’s seat and take control. This can help reduce stress and possible triggers.
When attending any family or friend gatherings, bring your own beverages or invite a friend to go with you. Practice saying no, and don’t be shy to turn down party invitations if you think the experience could be a trigger.
Moreover, don’t forget your coping skills and plan your exit before you arrive if things begin to go sideways. It’s a good idea to have some support in place.
In contrast, suppose you notice someone struggling with their sobriety; do not brush it aside as just the stress of the holidays. Offer a helping hand and resources, be supportive, and avoid casting judgment.
There is so much stigma associated with addiction and sobriety, and this prevents people from asking for help. Help remove this stigma by showing compassion and understanding – be prepared to offer resources for support.
Thanksgiving does not have to be an alcohol or drug-induced blur, and family and friends can be a point of stability and help for someone struggling. It can also be a time to create new traditions and memories that you want to look back on.
Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a healthcare professional specializing in Substance Use Disorder and addiction recovery. He is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and contributor to the healthcare website Recovery Begins.