During the Thanksgiving holidays, families come together and appreciate each other while giving thanks for the blessings of the past year. They are loaded with emotion, and can be particularly stressful for families with members who are attending clean and sober for the first time. There may be old wounds that have not healed, others in the family may still be drinking or using other drugs, and the emotions and memories of other holidays may make it difficult for everyone to remain calm.
Family gatherings are not the time to discuss old hurts, examine old scars, or hold people accountable for their past. This is equally true of the non-addict members. It is difficult to be thankful for your blessings if someone is starting an argument — or worse — at the dinner table.
We need to look at these things ahead of time. Certainly the one thing that no one wants is for their addict to relapse, and everyone needs to remember that stress is a primary cause of relapse. It is good if all family members are aware of this, and determine to keep the gathering calm and under control. Also, be aware that some members may have hidden agendas with regard to the newly-sober person. They may miss their drinking or drugging buddy, and put pressure on him or her to join them in one last fling. Try to intervene without being obvious, changing the subject and removing the addict from the line of fire if possible.
As far as the recovering person goes, make them aware that you know they may be ill at ease, but that they should remember that they are loved. Encourage them to bring a sober friend who can offer support. Be sure that they have a beverage that does not contain alcohol. If they have empty hands, someone is likely to offer them something to drink that may not be good for them. Make sure that they have transportation, if they are not staying at home, and that they can be assured privacy if they are. Let them know that you understand that they may have to step away from the party for a few minutes, or even leave early, and that it is fine if they do so.
Thanksgiving means homecoming. In many ways, this will be your addict or alcoholic’s first homecoming in years. If there are to be others, it is a good idea to make this one as pleasant as possible.