If you've decided to get a sober head start on the holidays, you're probably wondering how on earth you'll make it through a whole weekend with your family without burning those efforts to the ground.
As someone who's made it through the past nine Thanksgivings completely sober (OK, fine, I still smoke cigs), let me give you a few guidelines for rising above your desire to self-combust and making it through Thanksgiving 100 percent booze-free.
Check your expectations.
You may feel that with alcohol out of your life you're basically a buddha-child, a warrior for peace, untouched by the frivolousness of family triggers. I hate to break it to you but if this is your attitude, you are in for a world of hurt.
Your family is going to know exactly how to press your buttons -- they're the ones who installed them.
The best way to deal with the feelings they'll bring up is to keep the focus on yourself and to know your emotional shit is about to hit the fan, big time.
The more wholly you accept this fact, the better your chances of a booze-free weekend.
When in doubt, blame God.
It's not exactly easy to keep the focus on you when your mom is stressing out, your dad is asking when you'll get a real job and your step-mom keeps insinuating you and your siblings are actually her kids.
Holidays are the perfect time to play the game Who's-To-Blame-For-This-Shit-Show-Family, and that game can be tough to avoid.
You may or may not believe in God, but one thing's for sure: Blaming someone who isn't seated at the T-Give table will absolutely come in handy.
Avoid answering questions by asking them.
Prepare yourself for questions like, “Why aren't you drinking?”; “When are you going to start again?"; (and my personal fave) “Can't you just have one?”
Remember, it's natural for people to be curious about you and your life, and it's best to operate under the assumption they don't mean any harm.
Most importantly, remember these questions don't pose any threat to your personal safety, and neither will your answers.
Still, for the sake of boundaries, it's best to avoid questions about drinking altogether; and one way to do so is to keep your answers short and simple.
Then, focus your attention back onto the questioner with some inane question like: "How is work going?"
If you can get people to talk about themselves, their egos take over and they won't stop.
Be helpful to others.
The absolute best way to stay off booze, hands down, is to focus on being helpful to everyone and anyone around you. Not in a look-at-me-I'm-the-best kind of way; it's just easier to avoid guzzling booze when you've got both hands busy washing dishes.
Being helpful extends beyond basic chores as well. It can include anything from walking the dog to keeping nieces and nephews occupied.
Maybe you could act as a soundboard for that one cousin who takes every conversation hostage, or go a less strenuous route and compliment your mom on her T-Give sides game.
The basic idea is to keep the focus off yourself and how you're feeling because if you're anything like me, feelings make you want to drink.
Eat your feelings.
If all else fails, it's important to remember the reason you came to this awkward family gathering, risking your health, sanity and efforts at sobriety in the process.
That reason was food. Plentiful amounts of food.
If nothing else works, stuff your feelings of familial resentment and existential dread deep down your gullet with a plate full of turkey... because tryptophan's a drug, too.