Tips On How To Stay Sane Through The Holidays: Thanksgiving Edition

As Christians, we recognize the importance of the yearly feasts and holidays, and we want them to have their due significance. But we have to admit, for those of us in recovery, our holidays aren’t the Norman Rockwell image. Many of us come from dysfunctional homes, and though we’re told to honor our parents and love our enemies, the holidays can bring out the worst in us. With all the turmoil, we can’t help craving our old addictive comforts.

Tips To Stay Sane And Sober Through Thanksgiving

Watch Expectations

Holidays create a lot of expectations. We think we’re in charge of making a perfect day for everyone else, or we use these days to measure the health of our family relationships. When everything turns dysfunctional and uncomfortable or we can’t manage the same amount of work as we have in years past, we wonder why we’re failing at life.

Tips To Stay Sane & Sober Through Thanksgiving - Christian Drug RehabWhat if this was the year we didn’t try to pretend our family was perfect, functional or even sane? What if we stopped looking to a couple of days on the calendar to define the state of our relationships, fulfill our hopes or redeem our broken childhoods? What if we practiced accepting things as they are and then getting back to regular life?

Pray And Trust God

As Christians we want to represent Christ to our families—many of whom may not be believers. We also want to be good examples of the power of recovery. But this is hard when they’re constantly getting under our skin!

We have to start with prayer. Ask that God would help you demonstrate the power of faith and recovery in your interactions with your family during the holidays. Then trust. God knows your struggles, He knows your family. He’s in control; all is perfectly managed. You can serve up another helping of pumpkin pie and trust Him to figure it out.

Get Support

If you have a Bible study group or prayer group at church, ask them to support you with prayer before and during Thanksgiving. Talk to your sponsor and other program friends. Discuss the potential pitfalls. You might even bookend the day with phone calls to program friends: talk about your intentions, then recap afterward. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others; they need you as much as you need them.

Recognize Your Limitations

This means we get honest about what we can handle and we don’t take on too much. If you’re in early recovery, maybe this isn’t the year to be the host, even if you always have been. Or, if baking the pies from scratch feels overwhelming, there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing the job to your local bakery.

It may also mean staying home this year. If your family or the stress of the holiday is going to push you back into your addiction, take a year off. Better to end the day sane and sober at home than to show up to the Thanksgiving dinner and relapse. Your family may not be happy about it, but they’ll get over it. Staying sober is your No. 1 priority.

Know Your Triggers

Maybe it’s how your mother micromanages the mashing of the potatoes or the way you and your siblings fall into the same rivalry patterns you’ve been manifesting since elementary school. If you think back on Thanksgivings past, you can probably identify the sorts of events, patterns or comments that create resentment or that make you want to use.

Recognize it in advance: your family or your in-laws are going to annoy you. That means you can have a plan of action. Mom’s getting weird about the potatoes? You have a couple of options: offer to let her take over or let it roll off your back. Sure, you might be a successful executive, so it’s grating when mom doesn’t think you can handle the basic preparation of potatoes, but it’s also not the end of the world. You can decide in advance how you want to react; fighting about it probably isn’t worth it.

Practice Gratitude

Taking some time before Thanksgiving to thank God can put you in the right mindset for dealing with the actual event. We have much to be grateful for this year: we’re alive, we’re in recovery and we have hope. When we focus on what we’re grateful for, the things that cause resentment and irritation start to pale. Choose to be grateful, choose to be happy and choose to take it all a little less seriously.

Remember, even the sanest families tend to act pretty weird around Thanksgiving. If things feel crazy, it’s more “normal” than you think!