Holidays Ahead

This weekend kicks off the beginning of “the season” for parties, family visits, over-spending, over-eating, and over-doing.

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving is a smaller event that occurs in October. However I’m keenly aware, thanks to social media, that my American friends are preparing for their version of the holiday, and it is a much, much bigger deal.

This weekend launches the trifecta of events: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years – each of which can challenge sobriety in its own way.

If you’re affected, I offer some simple suggestions to help you through. Rethink traditions. Simplify. Stay home if necessary. Leave early if possible.

Ask yourself if you have a secret line, an unspoken excuse you’ll allow yourself under duress. Be honest. Do you believe there are any situations that would make it okay to abandon sobriety?

I pose this after noting a sober woman on Instagram confessing that she planned to drink in order to get through a visit to her mother’s home. Don’t judge me. It’s the only way I can do it.

Is it, though? Or does the addicted brain leverage our fears of old patterns and resentments with our families of origin? Challenge those thoughts. There are other, better ways to cope.

Finally, a suggestion. Gratitude does wonders for recovering to a healthier mindset. Imagine what it might do for your extended family, especially those who you find triggering.

Thanksgiving is a perfect excuse to show normies (and others) the power of gratitude.

One year, I handed guests a pen as they arrived and a stack of cards with names on the front. Inside, a heading said: I’m thankful for you because…

Everyone in attendance jotted a few words on each card (careful not to peek at their own!) and these cards were then set on each plate as a seating plan.

It was beautiful to watch each person read the messages written just for them, words of appreciation from everyone else around the table.

Perhaps this simple exercise might help set the stage for a more caring gathering of your own family.

For Canadians, I encourage you to enjoy Grey Cup weekend in sober style. Bring your own drinks, eat as much fun food as you want, and leave when you’re ready, even if the game isn’t over.

If you need encouragement, post a comment and ask for help (you can do this anonymously). Or find my UnPickled page on Facebook and send me a private message. I’m happy to point you in the direction of resources and give some support.

Take good care.


  1. Does anyone have any good resources for meditation? I’m back to day 1 and need to employ some new strategies this time. Feeling discouraged. 😔


  2. Thanks for the reminder Jean. This is my second thanksgiving sober. It was hard, I had thoughts of drinking, I really did, and they were loud loud loud. I am still recovering from a breakup that happened over the latter part of the summer. That process is very much like my breakup with alcohol. It washes over me, I feel like I’m spiraling, sometimes I feel ok, repeat. It’s exhausting. Everything about the breakup with my SO come bubbling up to the surface this past week. I was really missing him, I was thinking about him a lot because of the holiday, so I did what in my mind seemed like a rational thing, I googled his name and came across his picture with another person, someone from his job. It was heartbreaking, devastating, I felt so betrayed. I did the rumintating, connecting the dots, looking back, said to myself “so it now all makes sense, I should have listened to my gut.” Through all of this, the way I thought to make this better was to drink and drink and drink and drink until I was numb (that was my pattern). But I didn’t, I had to remind myself that alcohol will always make things worse, not better. Had I drank I would have sent him text messages and made a complete fool of myself. I would have said and done things that I would def regret, putting me right back to where I was the day I decided to stop drinking. It was too much of a risk. The drinking thoughts remained, and I talked back to them. Did thanksgiving with family, I served people wine (not a smart thing to do, but all the while I reminded myself this will not make you feel better). I played with temptation, but thankfully my desire to continue on in by sobriety and recovery is stronger than the need to numb out. I have been in a process of relearning how do deal with pain, hurt, anger, anxiety, loss, and relying on my go to coping (drinking) would disrupt that process. I will not let it defeat me.

    To those of you contemplating stopping or on your day 1. I never thought I would be on this side of the fence, I truly truly didn’t. But finding this blog, commenting, journaling, meditating, being kind to myself all have worked. I am a true believer in Jean’s patchwork recovery process, today is proof of it. Through this all, I am so thankful I decided to put the glass down. I hit 2 years in December, and have learned throughout that this process that taking it one day at a time is all there is. Find what works for you, cheering you on warriors!

    Day 719 post-alcohol. Day 118 post-breakup


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jean, your blog has meant so much to me. Thanksgiving with family – whom I love dearly – was fun, exhausting and filled with a lot of wine. More for me than for others though. I’ve been here before, and I’m tired of my private shame and physical exhaustion. I’m ready for something else now. I want something else so badly. I’m keeping you and other fabulous, brave women close to me, tucked away on my phone, where I can pull you up when I need you. It’s Day 1 … again.


    • Hi Ellie. (Note: Bubble Hour listeners will wonder if this is Ellie from the podcast posting. Different Ellie!). Okay, hi Ellie. Day One. Let’s look at this. Whatever you were doing in the past to stay sober was not quite enough to stick. Something is missing. What could we add to give you the support you need to be successful? Are you willing and ready to do something more? Therapy, support groups, (online and/or in person), a recovery coach (I highly recommend Kelly at Shining Bright I’d be happy to help you find more resources if you’d like. Just message me privately via UnPickled on Facebook. Big hug. Day one is a good thing and I’m glad you’re back.


      • Thank you, Jean. Your reply means a great deal to me. I’m reading about Kelly now, thank you. I also signed up for daily recovery support messages on two other sites, which is also a first for me. Something has been missing and I know I need to take it hour by hour, one day at a time, but today feels different. I have never wanted this more. I read another mother’s comment … “reeling away from her children’s brightness in the mornings” and it struck such a profound place in my heart. Those are my weekend mornings with my darling young children. I never want to do that again. It’s an aching type of shame. I have to figure this out and am committed to creating a support network for myself.

        Thank you, again. Your posts and the comments of your other readers are so important to me. I have found many resource options, but I will message you via FB if I find I need some other specific recommendations.


  4. I just decided to become sober. Feeling like its going to be a jail sentence right now. But also feels like I have been freed. I dont want to count days. it might make me obsessed more than I am


    • You’ve made a great decision and one you’ll never regret. Mornings are fantastic in sobriety- every day you wake up and say, I DID IT! I made it through another day!!
      It’s not easy but it’s a much better life and eventually you’ll start to feel more free than captured. Big hug. You can do it. Message me or post a comment if you need encouragement!


    • Fantastic decision. Stay with it even if you slipped up. I was on again off again the past two years and now am celebrating Day 22 of sobriety. My first Thanksgiving in 35 years sober and my first visit with my Mom in 19 years sober. My mom stayed with us 8 days and I stayed alcohol-free and ACTUALLY felt better and didn’t get as irritated as I used to.


  5. This is day 1 for me, again. I really made a mess of things this time and I’m very worried about the consequences. Why do I do this to myself? I can’t help but to feel this is so unfair. I never wanted this for myself. I’m 33 and have spent the last 10 years in misery. I just want to stop. I just want my life to be ok. I just want to start over. I’ll be reading through your blog. Thank you for having a resource like this available. I feel hopeless right now but I have to keep trying.


    • I’m so sorry you’re hurting. You never have to feel this way again. Onward. I’m glad you are here and reaching out. You are not alone. My phone was buzzing all day yesterday with people who were struggling through Thanksgiving dinner, triggered by old family patterns, and holding on their sobriety by posting on support groups or reaching out in other ways. We all help each other through it, no one has to go it alone. Whatever unfolds as a result of your last episode, you will move through it stronger, faster and with dignity by not drinking. Making sober connections will really help. Do you have any support? Are you willing to go to a meeting to meet some sober people in your community? Or
      Join an online group? If you need help finding resources please send me a private message via UnPickled on Facebook and I’ll set you up. Big hug.


    • YOU CAN DO IT!! Don’t beat yourself up over the “mess of things”. Self-forgiveness is key. I just FINALLY quite drinking at age 56. I would have so much less to beat myself up about re: “making a mess of things” if I had succeeded with living Alcohol-Free (“A-F”) at your age. Check out Annie Grace’s free Alcohol Experiment on line. It’s a great re-kick-starer and has lots of tools to help you succeed. Also, Hip Sobriety on-line and SheRecovers Group. There are thousands of people out there for you.


  6. For me this is one of the reasons I have stuck with AA. I’ve seen others both kick all my excuses into touch… if I get ill, if my kid’s are hurt, if my mum dies, my friend dies, I lose my job…. all I’ve been through myself and remember others who set me an example that they didn’t have to drink. And then more excuses to come…. my spouse dies, I lose my house, my child dies, my grandchildren dies, I have a terminal disease. Etc


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