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):