How to Avoid Family Thanksgiving Awkwardness in Recovery

How to Avoid Family Thanksgiving Awkwardness in Recovery

Thanksgiving is a time when families come together to celebrate. However, Thanksgiving might feel like a minefield for individuals who have recently completed a substance use disorder (SUD) treatment program or alcohol use disorder (AUD). According to StatPearls Publishing, individuals in recovery have a higher risk of “physical relapse during special times, such as a social event, holiday, or a trip when they may use mental bargaining to justify their use.” Completing treatment at a facility like Restoration Recovery Center provides you with the tools and resources to effectively manage stress related to accepting or rejecting a family invitation to Thanksgiving dinner.

Attending Family Thanksgiving After Treatment

After completing rehabilitation for substance misuse, many people choose to avoid holiday events that might involve alcoholic beverages. Thanksgiving is a holiday often associated with social drinking and also comes with other unique stressors, including:

  • Family members asking questions about career or personal goals
  • An unrealistic family expectation that treatment “cured” the SUD
  • Stigmatization surrounding treatment or substance misuse
  • Family and friends actively drinking or participating in substance misuse
  • People using demeaning or judgemental language to discuss SUD and recovery

Families often happily change their holiday meals to accommodate individuals in recovery. You can request nonalcoholic drinks and ask that loved ones avoid discussing your recovery. However, every family and situation is different, so you must exercise caution and trust your instincts. Talk to people in your support system to determine the best approach to Thanksgiving. If you feel compelled to attend, it might help to have your sponsor or another member of your support system come with you to act as an emotional buffer. You need to put your mental health and sobriety first.

Making Amends With Loved Ones on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time when people come together and celebrate close connections. The holiday allows you to make amends and apologize to people you previously hurt with your words or actions. You can reach out and sincerely apologize for your behaviors, take responsibility for what happened, and ask how you can decrease the pain caused by your actions or inaction. Making amends can improve your sense of self-worth and heal family trauma.

3 Ways to Know if You Should Decline a Thanksgiving Invitation

Below are three ways to determine whether you should attend a family get-together for Thanksgiving.

#1. Does the Idea of Attending Fill You With Dread?

If the idea of attending a meal with your loved ones fills you with dread, then you might benefit from avoiding those events until you feel more confident in your recovery. Most of the time, people worry about encountering the following:

  • Uncertainty about how to discuss substance misuse and treatment
  • Fear of judgment
  • Uncertainty about facing potential triggers
  • Facing family members who may have enabled substance misuse
  • Feeling worried about how to react if alcohol is served or talked about

Dread is a natural reaction if you know that certain aspects of the event may impact your recovery. You need to put your health and well-being first. For some people, that might mean politely refusing to attend and instead having a smaller get-together with sober peers.

#2. Does Your Family Celebrate Thanksgiving With Alcohol?

If alcohol is a traditional part of your family’s Thanksgiving meal, you have a few options. You can ask your loved ones to offer nonalcoholic drinks instead. If they refuse to accommodate your needs for an alcohol and drug-free Thanksgiving, you may benefit from avoiding the event and setting clear boundaries.

#3. Ask Members of Your Support System for an Outside Perspective

If you feel uncertain about whether you should attend Thanksgiving dinner with family, an outside perspective can help you make the best decision. Your therapist, sponsor, close friends, or other support system members may have unique insights. In most cases, it is best to check in with your support system before taking part in any event that might potentially endanger your sobriety. Again, relying on your resources and prevention strategies will help you avoid potential relapse.

How to Control the Conversation About Your Recovery

Discussing the details of SUD, treatment, and ongoing recovery might feel invasive and emotionally overwhelming. Advocating for yourself is essential. You should feel comfortable doing the following:

  • Asking loved ones not to use disparaging terms about substance misuse
  • Ignoring inappropriate questions
  • Redirecting conversations to topics that you feel more comfortable discussing

You can make conversations about your situation less stressful by practicing with a member of your support system or doing the following:

  • Writing out and memorizing scripted answers to questions loved ones might ask
  • Practicing politely refusing to answer questions and redirecting topics
  • Using objective language to keep answers unemotional
  • Describing your condition using person-first terms to encourage positive language
  • Sending out an email or other message before the event asking participants to avoid bringing up certain subjects

Be Polite But Firm About Your Boundaries

Family and close friends do not have the right to ignore your boundaries. Your loved ones should treat you with respect and consideration. Communicating your needs effectively will make it easier for everyone to understand your boundaries. According to The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “Clinical experience shows that when clients feel they cannot be sincere, it is a sign of emotional relapse.” Be honest with your loved ones about how their questions make you feel. Establishing and maintaining boundaries is essential to controlling the conversation about your recovery.

Treatment programs like Restoration Recovery Center prepare clients to cope with social events that might trigger cravings or intrusive thoughts. We understand the danger of holidays that typically feature alcohol. If you are recovering from SUD or AUD, relapse prevention strategies can help you stay in control. Coping skills allow you to spend quality time with your loved ones without endangering your recovery. Our care team helps clients create relapse prevention strategies and set clear boundaries to keep them safe during ongoing recovery. Be open and honest when communicating with your loved ones, and use the tools you learned in therapy to keep yourself safe. To find out more about our programs, call our office today at (888) 290-0925.

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