Most drunken thanksgiving memories are not really my own.

…sitting across the table from someone, unable to take my eyes off their beautiful teeth, now stained bruise-gray from red wine…

…someone else insisting they’d once seen my grandmother’s cat run up the entire wall from floor to ceiling. He is swaying and slurring from hours of vodka and I am clucking my tongue and nodding like you would at a small child telling tales…

These happened years ago when I was still drinking, though it was my style to stay just sober enough to pull the meal together and – my least favorite part to this day – divvy up the leftovers, which requires concentration and math.

Number of guests + lids that actually fit x who wants to take home sauerkraut anyway, hmm?   = I have to do this all over again with leftover pie?

After the last ill-fitting lid was mashed on, all bets were off.

This wasn’t just thanksgiving but any event where respectable, caring eyes were upon me.

There was the new year’s eve party where I stayed to help clean up and clanked my teeth against the heavy lip of a champagne bottle because it was well past the point of propriety and stemware.

(Only a select few got to see me really sloppy.)

There was the time I snuck off to drink in a quiet alcove in my grandmother’s basement after the crowd thinned from her 80th birthday party.

(Finally, I could catch up to my drunk sister-in-law who was already passed out upstairs.)

Or what about my wedding day, where there’s a picture of me (somewhere) gulping a beer away from fussy relatives and coworkers I barely knew, but not stealthy photographers.

(A young lady in a wedding dress shouldn’t need to pound beer like some college kid or desperate drunk.)

Much of my sneaking around was simply saving face, though there was also thrill in waiting to really get my drunk on. Delayed gratification, holding onto control and then letting go. In the later years, I waited less and less or not at all. Any illusion of control slipped away.

The thing about secretive drinking is it packs in the same amount of alcohol a more open drunk might spread out over five or six hours. It comes with the same wicked hangovers and a side of shame you can’t acknowledge, let alone purge. It is scary and weird is what I’m now realizing. I don’t miss it.

This will be my third sober thanksgiving and I welcome whatever it brings.

If this is your first sober holiday (or second or tenth), please read this excellent primer by Running on Sober. I picked up a couple new tips for this year.

Sober holidays get easier over time, but the first couple might sting a little, so go easy on yourself and shove pie down your gullet and wash it down with a boat of gravy if you need to. This is a kind of warm and fuzzy war.

This year I’m going to make sure I have plenty of Aunt Helen’s punch on hand because let’s be serious — drinking gravy is dangerous if it’s hot and disgusting if it’s not. Plus drinking all the gravy would make for dry leftovers and regrets, and we don’t have to live like that anymore.

Helen’s Punch

64 oz Cranberry Juice

12 oz  frozen lemonade

46 oz pineapple juice

1 liter bottle ginger ale

Lemon to garnish

Combine all ingredients well. Chill. Add extra ginger ale to serve. 

17 thoughts on “turkey

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  1. Thanks for the punch recipe…I need something to serve at a holiday party I’m hosting next month!

    Secretative drinking… That was so me and it does carry tons of shame guilt and of course big hangovers. I don’t want them anymore. I was a drunk bride too but that was ok in my eyes b/c so was the whole bridal party. If I get married again and one day I do hope too I will be the pretty bride who will remember everything and not be a hot mess.

    I’m looking forward to my first alcohol free holiday. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    Momma Bee


    1. Nothing sounds lovelier than a sober second wedding for you…and really any celebration or event sober feels much more full and rich these days. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving too MB!


  2. My secretive drinking was the definition of madness. I mostly drank beer (normally Guinness) in pubs. So how to keep it secret? Pick a pub most others you know (workmates, friends, family etc.) would never be seen in… the big book of AA describes these as “Sordid Places” – that description fits well. Be dressed up – I wore a suit and tie to work long after it became fashionable to dispense with the tie and most people wore tailored trousers and a collar shirt – not me the full suit and tie combination. So you walk in a dodgy boozer, the type with linoleum on the floor and those round tables that only stop rocking if you take all the beer mats off and shove them under one leg. The soles of your shoes stick to the floor as you head to the bar. You buy your pint and head to a lone table. Now – master stroke – you have a broadsheet newspaper you open and read… well pretend to read. You have another, if you’ve not attracted too much attention maybe another all in reasonably quick succession – if questioned you say something like “Well just had a bit of bad news actually…” and make up a story about a friend who is ill or whatever. Then…. you move on to another similar establishment and … you do it all again.

    All that energy just to drink and make it seem normal to people I probably would never meet again. Utterly crazy.

    LIke you say I don’t miss it at all!!


  3. Mmmm, the power of pie. I’m noting at 2.5 years my sweet tooth is a little bit more under control, but dessert remains my treat for good behaviour. Have a glass of punch for me tomorrow, and Happy Thanksgiving from all of Canada.


    1. Thank you! I am not quite at 2.5 years myself, and have noticed the sweet tooth dying down a bit. At least at certain times. Not at the moment, sadly, but I am enjoying it and maybe that takes some of its power away.


  4. When I think of all the energy it took to “moderate” during times like these I am EXHAUSTED. The thoughts about how much is enough and when and can I have another and the inevitable WTF attitude that left me ashamed and embarrassed the next day! Ugh!

    No thank you…I’ll take a sober, peaceful (in my head anyway) holiday every time.

    This will be my third sober Thanksgiving and I’m really excited!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving B3!



  5. Last year during Thanksgiving I was only a couple of months sober. Now the fog continues to lift and I am finally learning that holidays are not about myself. This Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of you. I am grateful for all of you involved in this miracle of the internet and its corner of the sober seeking world. I celebrate your willingness, your effort, your commitment, your sharing, your optimism, your patience, your joy of life. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving. Oh, and pie. Who knew it could be so good. I will think of you all with every bite. Wishing you the best.


  6. This is not my personal story, but it does cover certain of my family – father and several siblings. Thank you for this wonderfully written, clear-eyed view of how things can be.

    Happy Sober Thanksgiving!


  7. Looks like another successful Thanksgiving, though technically there are still four more hours on the clock here. So far, I still have pie and cookies left, so I haven’t blown through the entire tray (well, gallon sized Ziplock actually) *yet*.

    What is it about grandmothers’ cats and hallucinations? My grandmother had mischievous cats too — I swear those things got around and created all sorts of havoc, even though I guess I’m grateful that I never saw them.

    Speaking of cats, hope your two babies enjoyed their first Thanksgiving and that the rest of your family had a nice day together. Hopefully you had plenty of cookies, and sanity, to spare as well. 😉

    And thank you for the mention too!


    1. I’m glad to hear you had a successful Thanksgiving!! It was a good one.

      The cats hid until company left, so no turkey for them. I don’t think they’ll be hiding when we bring the tree home next weekend, so that will be a fun challenge. Thanks for your kind words and thoughts.


  8. Thanks for this peek into the dearness that is you! As someone who was a little more flagrant about getting his drunk on, i got a vicarious thrill reading these. Congrats on your sobriety…and all the perks that go with it!


  9. Well this was written with a bit of humor – and I like how your writing does that – you are succinct in describing a situation and then add some comic relief before it all gets too heavy – but this post still brought tears to my eyes – but smiled again at your clever verbiage when you said this is “a warm and fuzzy war” – but what a zinger of a line – because WAR it is – and I have shared in an ROS comment about this, but my father-n-law is fighting hard for his sobriety – and while helping him this past few months, others have surfaced for support as well – blogs like this are potent resources!
    I am still laughing to think of you smashing down those lids for the take home containers.


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