While this post is intended for the newly sober at Thanksgiving, it's actually a great post for ANYONE looking for a more peaceful, healthy, and flowing Thanksgiving holiday - sober or not - and is also a great post to keep in your toolbox for any high-stress social situation.
Enjoy and if you have any tips to add of your own, please drop them in the comments section below.
1. Go into it knowing you are not going to drink. This I cannot stress enough. Drinking doesn't begin with drinking. As all actions do, It begins with a thought. A seed is planted in our mind, and our bodies carry out the action. If you're on the fence as you go in to the holiday about whether or not you are going to drink, you are planting the seed that you might, and therefore, setting yourself up for some major battle of will, unnecessary guilt, and - most likely - a not so sober holiday. The strength to do comes from your undivided decision. So make up your mind now by eliminating the option altogether and tell yourself you are not going to drink. No matter what.
2. Get excited about it!!!! Once you've made up your mind, get super pumped about it. Better yet, start visualizing yourself sober and drinking fizzy water as the rest of your clan becomes inebriated, and literally FEEL the sense of pride in your restraint. Imagine the extra slices of pie you can consume or whatever the hell it is you skimp on. Imagine how much PRETTIER and HEALTHIER you'll be. Imagine remembering the whole night, what it will feel like to not be hung-over or bloated with the weekend ahead of you, and returning to work on Monday refreshed. If you need more inspiration, check out this piece, 12 Fabulous Things About Sobriety.
3. Get your toolbox ready. Come up with a list of five things that help you manage stress, keep you happy, and in your peace. Some of my favorites:
Lavender oil or peppermint oil. When I feel overwhelmed or on edge or disconnected or even depressed, I place a drop on my hands, rub my palms together, cup my nose, and inhale deeply a few times. Instant mood change. Use a citrus based oil like grapefruit or lemon if you struggle with holiday blues. You can pick up essential oils on Amazon, doTerra online, or at natural foods stores like Whole Foods.
This meditation. The Tattva Balance Beyond Stress and Duality meditation is my favorite. Doing it for just 3 minutes brings me back to my center immediately. It's great for escaping a negative mind set, centering, grounding, and also feeling my spirit and aliveness. It can be done in bathroom stalls standing up if needed.
10 deep breaths. If you can control the breath, you can control the mind, and 10 deep breaths can totally shift you entirely. You can do this non-ceremoniously (like while in line at a store or even at the dinner table - just inhale for a count of five and exhale for a count of five), or you can find a quiet private place and do it meditation style as follows. Sit in easy pose (legs folded in front of you). Breath in through your nose for a count of five, eyes closed and rolled up to your third eye point if possible. Breath out the mouth, exhaling to a count of five. For extra release, stick your tongue out as you exhale and make a "HAAAAAAA" sound, blowing out the air, the heat, and the stress.
Amino Acid Relief. If you feel stressed, drop a GABA Calm lozenge under your tongue and let it dissolve. It's literally a chill pill. If you are craving alcohol or sugar or just feel like your whole nervous system is "firing", open up an L-Glutamine capsule and empty the contents under your tongue/let it dissolve.
4. Act like a vegan. Remember that you are a non-drinker, it's a choice you have made, and you are by no means obligated to engage in discussions about your choice. You don't push it on others or ask them why they drink, and you are by no means required to justify or explain your choice. You don't drink. End of story. If it's your first holiday around people who don't know you're a non-drinker, here is a post on Coming Out Sober: 8 Tips To Navigate Your Social Life to help you out.
5. Be prepared for family shit and other people shit. Stay in your peace and power by employing these four practices.
Remember what anyone says to you or how they act towards you is NEVER about you. It's about them and their perception of the world, their judgments, their story. Your reaction to them - however - is about you. Keep focus on that. It's the only thing you have control over.
Consider everyone an angel. I wrote about this the other day and it's by far one of the greatest tools in my toolbox. I consider every single encounter divine, a perfect lesson designed to help me grow in my own skin and space, and every single person an angel. The relationships that challenge me the most as gifts, showing me the places where I can still grow.
Be a witness. After one particularly trying holiday where I LOST my shit, I sat in my therapist's office completely wrecked, exhausted, defeated, sobbing. Asking when does it get easier? I had worked so hard, I told her. I had come so far, I told her. How could it still be this messy and further, how could I have regressed so much and given in so much? She looked at me, HUGE beaming smile, and said "congratulations. You just clearly witnessed not only everyone else's behavior, but your own. What a gift. Now let's do something with it." What she meant was, by doing the work I had done in my recovery - while it didn't prevent meltdowns and disagreements and friction at that point - it had given me the space and mindfulness and wisdom to see. To observe. To interpret. And now I could correct. I had moved from autopilot to empowered, from blind participant to empowered witness. While things may be raw for you, and while your life (especially the life that still thinks of you as a drinker/possibly a mess) might not be caught up with the changes you have made, give yourself a break on being perfect. Just take care to witness and observe, and then you can adjust the next time around based on what you learned.
Set MAJOR boundaries. You don't have to engage in every conversation or relationship - you have to first and foremost take care of yourself and your path. Your oxygen mask on first. When a conversation starts going down a path you don't want to travel, remember you have the power to disengage - excuse yourself, change the subject, or even say "I'm not going to have that conversation." When a relationship - NO MATTER HOW close or important or established or whatever - is doing more harm than good, take a break from it. I'll write more about this later but there were definitely relationships that I couldn't sustain as I was recovering. To some I explained I needed time off, to others I just naturally let them breath. Your wellbeing, your health, and your sobriety are your responsibility, and before you can be anything to anyone else, you have to create the space and the choice for you.
6. Treat Yo' Self. Practice EXTREME SELF CARE, and plan a reward. Extreme self-care is beyond important - especially during the holiday season where our eating habits go to shit, we're traveling, out of our routine, and possibly engaging in stressful relationships. Stay hydrated, take baths, do yoga, keep your meditation practice, set aside time to journal, read spiritual texts, eat good foods, relax. Reward is even more important. Reinforce the good you are doing by giving yourself a distinct and tangible reward. Book a massage for the weekend, buy a new tube of lipstick, take yourself to a movie, buy that book you've been meaning to read and set time aside to read it, or maybe even just allow yourself a few hours in your pjs watching shitty TV. Decide what it is now, and decide when you'll do it, and put it in your calendar.