Thanksgiving is here. It is a time to gather with family or friends we consider family. It is a time to look back on the year and reflect on what we are thankful for.  

Yet for those who are in recovery or are actively struggling with substance use, Thanksgiving can be a difficult time. It is filled with stress from complicated family situations or no family at all. Financial struggles can often be overwhelming during this time, too. And with 2020 being like no other year, it might feel hard to find things to be thankful for. Many people may not even be able to gather with their families or friends because of what is going on with the pandemic. A study on PubMed.gov about the correlation between COVID-19 and substance use suggests that there has been a surge in drug and alcohol use during this time. As a result, Thanksgiving may be especially stressful this year.

Why Is Thanksgiving So Hard?  

There are several reasons for why someone relapses or increases the use of drugs and/or alcohol during the holidays. One reason, according to Psychology Today, suggests that returning to a familiar place can trigger underlying issues that are the cause of the substance use issue. These triggers can be more powerful than re-experiencing the drug and/or alcohol. It is also possible that other family members are unaware of the substance use and the added need for secrecy increases stress and sometimes brings on the desire to use. Other family members or friends are another source to trigger stress and can increase cravings if they are around. Understanding what triggers substance use behaviors is an important tool for recovery.

Avoiding Triggers During Thanksgiving

It is not impossible to get through the holidays clean and sober. It requires a lot of preparations and a few alternate coping strategies to help keep you on the right track.

  1. Have a plan: Being prepared is the best way for you to avoid the temptation to use drugs and/or alcohol around this time. Make sure you have the contact information for your sponsor and a backup person to contact if they are not available. Having this information available and easily accessible can help avoid excuses for not calling. Heading out of town? Bring along some reading material to help keep you engaged. It is important to also have information on available AA or NA meetings near your destination. If you are staying in town, attend a meeting before seeing your family and friends. Staying accountable can make a difference should you be tempted to use. 
  2. Get there early and leave early: Choosing to arrive early allows you to interact with everyone as they arrive as opposed to walking into a room full of people, which can be stressful and overwhelming. It also helps to cover any frustration later in the evening when you choose to leave early. Oftentimes the “real party” starts after everyone has enjoyed their meal and any children have been put to bed. Being able to leave before the party gets started allows you to avoid reverting back to using any substances. 
  3. Bring your own drink: Don’t undervalue the importance of bringing your own drink. By having your own drink at the gathering, you have more control over what you consume. It allows you to politely decline an offered alcoholic beverage from other attendees. It can also keep you safe from having your drink spiked by someone else. 
  4. Plan your escape: Having an escape plan is important if you start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated. Planning how to bow out of the party if needed can help make it easier for you to leave and not get wrapped up in potentially bad choices. You are never obligated to stay somewhere when you are ready to leave, no matter how much pressure someone else may put on you. 

Stress Less this Thanksgiving

It is not anyone else’s responsibility to help you stay sober so you have to figure out ways to put yourself first, which means putting recovery first. If you have a plan in place, arrive early and leave early, bring your own drink and know when it’s time to exit a gathering, then you are on your way to a less stressful Thanksgiving. You can enjoy yourself more and not have to worry as much about making a bad choice. 

The holidays can be such a stressful time of year. If you or a loved one is struggling not to use drugs and/or alcohol this Thanksgiving, New Hope Ranch is here to help. We are located on a ranch just outside of Austin, Texas. We are a drug and alcohol treatment facility offering full mental health assessments and treatment plans set up specifically to meet your needs, even during the holidays. Get the help you deserve and call (737) 600-8565 today.   

Patient, Family & Staff Safety is our Priority: COVID-19Update