• Aimee Spencer Tiemann

Ask Bree - November 2019

More than a month ago, I wrote about Bree Rowe, a young mother of four who has been in recovery for almost six years.

People have reached out – those in recovery and their families. They LOVED Rowe’s courage and commitment. However, it also brought up more questions they had about:

  • Staying sober

  • Forgiving the past

  • Learning more

So I went back to the source. I asked Bree if we could start a monthly blog called ASK BREE. Stigmas need to be shattered, recovery needs to be a continuous conversation, and well, we all need a friend who knows about these situations first-hand.

Thankfully, she agreed.

Welcome to Ask Bree. A safe space where no questions are off limits and Rowe will provide advice using her experiences to shed some light.


Finding a way to get through your first holiday sober

Dear Bree:

I read the blog that was featured here. Your story resonated with me. I’ve tried to get clean over the last decade, so many times. I finally have gone for my longest stretch clean, over nine months. I’m proud I’ve made it this far. Every day is still a struggle.

This Thanksgiving is my first holiday sober. My family has a huge gathering every year. All of my cousins, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and my mom and dad have a huge dinner at my parent’s house. I love going, but I’m already getting anxiety about going over there. Not because I don’t love my family, but because I feel like everyone walks on eggshells around me. Also, my family loves to have some beers and wine while they watch the football game. I’d like to think I’m strong enough to be around people drinking, but in all honesty, I haven’t hung out with people who have been drinking yet. I don’t feel that secure yet with my sobriety.

How was your first holiday sober? Should I go or sit this one out? I really don’t want too, I just

don’t know what to do. Any advice would be appreciated.

Amanda – Hartland, Michigan

Hi Amanda!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and trusting me with your own experience with addiction and alcoholism. Congratulations on nine months sober, that is a true accomplishment and I hope for many more happy, sober months for you.

I remember being in early recovery, feeling extremely vulnerable when entering situations I hadn’t been in without substances before, especially when people were going to be drinking around me.

This feeling is normal and to be expected. My sobriety date is Christmas of 2013, so I know all too well how uncomfortable your first sober holiday can be!

That said, don’t count yourself out of Thanksgiving just yet.

  1. Have an escape plan – Drive yourself. If you start to feel overwhelmed, you can leave.

  2. Go to a meeting or lean on your sober support group – Plan to go after dinner to decompress and vent about any emotions or triggers you may have experienced.

  3. Have a sober friend on speed dial – Be present with your family, but if you need some help in the moment, reach out, don’t wait.

  4. Don’t focus on what your family will be doing – Show them the progress your making! Nine months is a lot to be proud of!

Self- awareness is a great tool, especially when walking into situations that make staying sober more difficult. If you wake up on Thanksgiving Day and you are just not feeling it, not ready to be around alcohol, then don’t go. You have every right to sit this one out. There is NO SHAME admitting you are not ready to be around substances.

If you’re not ready by Thanksgiving, there are things you need to work on before Christmas. We don’t get sober to fear alcohol and miss out on life.

When I get scared to walk into different situations, I look inward and focus on what I can do to eliminate that fear from my life.

Sober holidays don’t exist in my family occasions. There is alcohol, drama, kids screaming everywhere, and people smoking cigarettes like it’s the last day they will ever have the chance to smoke. The holidays are HECTIC, for everyone, even those not going through recovery.

It was so awkward at first. I didn’t know how to be myself sober. And like you, my family was always hesitant to have me around – after all I spent YEARS making a mess out of everything! My family didn’t think I would stay sober for long and, well, there was still a lot of resentment and anger around my first sober holiday season.

I still showed up.

It was mostly for my children, to be honest. Regardless, I’m so glad I did it.


Because not only did I stay sober, but that was a great opportunity for everyone to see me in the beginning of my new life.

I use a 12-step program to stay sober. I use them around the holiday season even more. Stress levels are high. Family dynamics are overwhelming. Alcohol seems to be more abundant.

At the end of the day, do what feels right for you. I promise, if you can stay sober through holidays and other stressful family situations, life will become less frightening.

Life is beautiful when you experience it to the fullest!

Take care,


Continue to follow Bree Rowe's journey on Instagram @bree.rowe815 and her blog.

Disclaimer: Bree Rowe is not a licensed therapist or doctor. The advice she shares is from personal experience of addiction and recovery. If you feel that you need mental or medical attention, please find a local provider in your area.