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Avoid the triggers that derail sobriety during holidays


Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, and many families are gearing up for celebration and cheer. Unfortunately, it is also a time associated with increased alcohol use. Thanksgiving Eve is one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year.

That poses a challenge for people trying to stay sober on Thanksgiving. The holidays are generally packed with gatherings from now until New Year’s Eve. There can be a lot of temptation to overcome. Fortunately, there are practical approaches to maintaining sobriety.

Statistically, Florida has an elevated alcohol-related death rate but one of the lowest rates of younger than 21 deaths. It’s estimated 17.5% of Florida adults older than 18 binge drink at least once a month, and more than 10,600 deaths annually are attributed to alcohol use.

The best approach involves coming up with a plan to stay sober. Most temptation to drink or use drugs arises because of anxiety, depression and feeling overwhelmed during the holidays. Chaos and unpredictability create triggers. Come up with a plan before the weekend arrives. What are you going to do? Where will you go? Who will you spend it with? A little planning goes a long way.

Consider hosting your own Thanksgiving gatherings with friends or family, or tell people that you are not drinking. Being in the driver’s seat is OK, which can help reduce stress and possible triggers.

Bring your own beverages or invite a friend to accompany you when attending family or friend gatherings. Practice saying no, turning down drinks, and it’s OK to turn down holiday invitations.

Moreover, don’t forget your coping skills and plan your exit if things go sideways before you arrive. It’s a good idea to have some support in place.

In contrast, suppose you notice someone struggling with their sobriety; do not brush it aside as just the stress of the holidays. Offer a helping hand, be supportive, and avoid casting judgment. There is so much stigma associated with addiction and sobriety, and this prevents people from asking for help. Help remove this stigma by showing compassion and understanding.

Thanksgiving does not have to be an alcohol or drug-induced blur, and family and friends can be a point of stability and help for someone struggling.

Make this holiday season a time to create memories you want to remember and celebrate with those you love. If you are struggling or know someone struggling, it’s never too late to get help; more resources are available now than ever.

Michael Leach has spent most of his career as a healthcare professional specializing in Substance Use Disorder and addiction recovery. He is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant and contributor to the healthcare website Recovery Begins.