For those in recovery, avoiding relapse during Thanksgiving can be especially difficult. Thanksgiving has always been a day in which people in recovery are more vulnerable to binge drinking, as well as a day for people to just drink too much in general. This year, with the pandemic separating people from their loved ones and increasing rates of anxiety and depression, there’s even more of a danger of self-medicating with alcohol, and in some cases, other drugs.
Whether you’re going the traditional route and celebrating with family this year, or you’re observing COVID-19 protocol, the threat of relapse or, at the very least, excessive drinking is very much a reality. Here are some tips for avoiding relapse during the Thanksgiving holiday and how you could help a loved one in recovery who is feeling vulnerable:
Do Some Advance-Work
Avoiding relapse during Thanksgiving starts with planning. If you’re going to someone else’s house, find out if there’s going to be alcohol ahead of time. If you’re new to recovery, you might want to skip the celebration and make other plans. The reality is that, for many people, food and wine go hand in hand, and it can feel awkward asking people to give that up on one of the biggest eating days of the year. Don’t be afraid to “respectfully decline” invitations in which you might feel vulnerable. If you do end up going, tell people you’re in recovery so they can understand.
Have An “Escape Plan”
An escape plan means many things when you’re trying to avoid relapse. It can literally mean making sure you have a way to leave the celebration if you’re feeling uncomfortable, and it can also mean navigating your way out of factors that you know can be triggers (toxic interactions with your family, stress, fatigue, etc.). Make sure you’re able to contact a member of your support system when things become overwhelming. Coordinate with them ahead of time to make sure they are available throughout the day.
Get Yourself Mentally Ready
Increase your attendance at meetings and therapy sessions. Tell your group what you’re going through and what is making you feel vulnerable. See if they can provide insights, support and guidance. Work with your therapist on in-the-moment coping strategies that you can use when things get tense or difficult. This mental preparation may help get you through the day. There are virtual AA, NA and SMART Recovery meetings that you can go to if you’re new to the process and afraid of COVID-19. If you’ve already been to treatment, lean on your alumni community. Chances are, there are others who are going through what you are.
Helping A Loved Avoid Relapse during Thanksgiving
If you’re celebrating thanksgiving with someone in recovery, keep an eye on them throughout the night to make sure they’re comfortable and at ease. It’s possible to check in with them every so often without hovering or being overbearing. If you notice them start to get withdrawn or anxious, step in with them and make sure they’re not feeling tempted to drink. You may have more power than you realize in steering your loved one away from making a serious mistake that could derail their recovery. These momentary slips can lead to serious long-term complications.
In the Event of Relapse…
If you do experience a setback, call a member of your support system, let them know what happened and take steps toward getting back into treatment, if it’s needed. Recovery Unplugged is standing by 24-7 to help you or your loved one get your recovery back on track after relapse. We wish you and your family a safe, happy, and sober Thanksgiving.