Last weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada and oh my, so grateful was I to have our three sons, their wives and the three grandchildren all together for a weekend in the mountains. There was even a lovely early snowfall to make playing outside extra special. 

I’d spent the previous weekend prepping and freezing side dishes and desserts, so my husband and I arrived with our trucked packed to the roof with coolers of food. 

Cooking for dozen or so people is a common weekend event for me and easily in my wheelhouse. On top of the turkey feast there were also big breakfasts and lunches to be served so I spent most of my time in the kitchen.

It’s amazing how unimportant alcohol has become in all of our lives. It makes me realize how it was mostly me that drove up the priority and hype around alcohol at gatherings. The rest of my family enjoys a cocktail or a glass of wine at dinner, and that’s it. No one brought anything along with them, they just picked through the cupboards and settled for one of whatever was on hand. Some of them had nothing alcoholic at all, indifferent to it in that setting.

What I do notice is how anxiety can jangle its way up inside of me over little things. Cooking a meal and then expecting everyone to rush to the table the moment the food is ready. Being rushed by a large dog when I’m out walking my tiny pooch. Running out of towels. 

I may not feel tempted by alcohol much anymore but I have to stay watchful of those minor upsets that leave me feeling inexplicably rattled. Nothing is really wrong and yet my body grows increasingly tense and my voice gets an odd strangled quality.

Then I start judging myself: Oh no, I’m doing it wrong. I’m shrill and controlling. A graceful matriarch does not grind her teeth.

If my inner dialogue slips into the third person, I know that I’ve waded into dangerous waters: Shut up, Jean. You’re spoiling everyone’s fun. Go to your room so no one else has to be around you.

I used to get sucked right into this thinking, but I’ve gotten better about spotting it as nothing more than a thinking pattern that can be corrected. 

The antidote is a walk in the sunshine or a soak in the hot tub, a change of scene and pace. I get up early to have a cup of coffee alone before the activity begins. Sometimes just popping into the bathroom to randomly brush my teeth or use eyedrops is a powerful pick-me-up. 

I receive hundreds of messages from readers and podcast listeners at this time of year who are stressed about upcoming events that involve lots of family time and entertaining. Even though I indicated in my last post that I didn’t plan to write a non-fiction book, I am now compiling the most common information that I find myself sending to people into a small volume that will be available next month. 

As we move into the season of sweaters, boots, and pumpkin-spiced everything, I encourage everyone to take stock of their self-care and reset strategies. It is amazing how small adjustments can have a big impact on our thinking and behaviour!

Here are some previous UnPickled posts about the holidays:

From 2013 (2 years sober):

From 2017 (6 years sober):

From 2018 (7 years sober):


  1. Happy Thanksgiving from the USA! I woke up to a beautiful sunrise on a blustery morning. I am sober, present and blessed. Thank you, Jean and everyone, here. Reading your holiday survival guide so great! Hope is everything, and making sobriety 100% every day is really the only road to happiness.


  2. Hi Jean, Just wanted to thank you for all your posts. I’ve binge read them all from start to finish in last six days. And I am now Day 6 AF. They have been my focus and have given me so much strength. I am now going to move onto the blogs you recommend and turn to the online community like you did to help bolster me. Many Thanks!


  3. Hi Jean, Thank you so much for this post.

    I am so glad you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

    Unfortunately my good feeling after reading your post was almost immediately undone by the comment of Coming Clean – with her superior “willpower”, “self-respect” and “blessedness” – she annoyed me and almost, almost, made me feel less than.

    Then I caught myself. How I feel and how I treat others is up to me. How she judges herself and others is up to her – and is none of my concern. Her story and reactions are hers- I don’t know where she is coming from and I don’t need too. My actions and reactions are mine. If I am mad at myself – I should own it, not be mad at someone who comments on a blog I love.

    Shit this is hard.

    Thank you again for sharing your story.


  4. Hi Jean

    Still sober for almost 7 years. Your blog and willpower was all that I needed to get me through.
    I haven’t touched a drop. I have never even been tempted. I know that if I have even one sip I will lose respect for myself. I feel incredibly blessed to be in the small percentage of people with a strong enough willpower to persist. .
    I am a now a good sober granny and am always there ready for a good chat no matter when anyone rings no matter what time in the evenings. No more slurring of speech and embarrassing conversations. I love being in control. Thanks for bringing us all into sobriety together.


  5. I started reading your blog from the beginning a few weeks ago. I have been feeling uncomfortable with the amount I drink for several years but have never managed to stop for any length of time. My drink of choice is red wine. I drink in secret as I don’t like to drink just one or even two glasses when out as I can not drive home. I also drink in the afternoon around 3 because any later and I can’t sleep. There were a lot of years that I could have one glass but now if I buy a bottle of wine it’s gone. My solution was to go to half bottles or cans and soon that wasn’t enough. I know that I can not have even one drink or I immediately go down the rabbit hole.
    So reading your blog has inspired me. I started and was abstinent for 8 days and thought I wanted one really nice bottle of wine before I’m ‘done’. Of course that led to another one the next day. I feel terrible but reading the blogs reassures me that I can try again and so I will tackle today.
    I wanted to say that I am also following the podcast The Addicted Mind. They have some amazing insights and offer practical suggestions for replacement coping strategies. When I read this blog today -(I just signed up and this is my first comment). I wondered if you had explored this podcast. In particular episode 5 in 2017 is about using mindfulness to overcome addiction with Robert Cox. I think it offers a good strategy for negative rumination.
    Anyways, I am in awe of you and your accomplishments. I love that your family is so supportive. I am too embarrassed to talk to my kids at this point but I hope one day to be where you are.
    Have a great day!!


    • Thank you Jean. I am still following you, & loving your Bubble Hour one whole year later! And to think I was lucky enough to find both you and my other saviour, Lee Davy, via his Podcast (The Truth About Alcohol) … it is still my favourite episode of all!
      Thank you for mentioning your anxiety around dealing with minor upsets. It is undoubtedly true that we are better without the booze, but that doesn’t mean we are infallible and untouched by real emotions. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

    • thank you for the podcast recommendation. I too am a private drinker and my day 1s are countless. I so relate to your last hoorah before you were done. I’m only on Day 2 again but I have really been trying to figure out the why I go to rather than the impulse. It’s hard but when I see the great life of Jean and others in long term recovery,, I want that too. Just waking up today totally present feeling great being sober and writing here helps. And Jean is so right, total abstaining is the only way to move forward. There is no moderation. We are all in it together. We have each other here for support. I need to remember that and check-in daily too.


  6. God bless you Jean. You are a blessing to each of us and all whose lives you touch. The information you provide is invaluable and the vulnerability you’re willing to share with us gives us strength.


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