Blackout Wednesday (noun)

The night before Thanksgiving in the US; typically reserved for getting shitfaced with high school friends at a local bar.

Synonym: Drunksgiving

Possible scenario: It’s the night before Thanksgiving, you’re back in your hometown, and it’s your first holiday substance-free. All day long, you’re getting texts from high school friends—including people you definitely don’t remember—to “get the crew back together” at a local bar or in some random classmate’s basement. You know the drill. It’s Blackout Wednesday, folks: a nostalgia-porn-booze-fest celebrated in towns across America.

It’s also one of the deadliest nights of the year in terms of drunk driving, with 800 people killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes between 2012 and 2016 on that night alone. This season has also been designated as “the red zone,” by some colleges and universities who have identified the time between the start of classes and Thanksgiving break when students are statistically more likely to experience sexual assault. Suffice it to say, this can be a tricky time for anyone, but especially if you’re newly sober.

If you do decide to go out there are ways to hang with the old crew, keep safe, and keep your substance-free wits about you. Here’s some advice from pros on how to spend Blackout Wednesday, well, not blacked out.

Here’s some advice from pros on how to spend Blackout Wednesday, well, not blacked out.

1. Get Support Before You Go Out

That might mean going to a recovery meeting, calling up a few sober friends, or making an appointment with your therapist before you head home for the holiday. Furthermore, determining if going out is the right choice for you is probably the first thing you want to consider.

“Sometimes venting to those who understand the struggle of remaining sober during the holidays can be a great resource for a strong recovery,” says family therapist Patrice Douglas. Those who are supporting your journey on both a personal or professional level can help you figure out whether it’s a good idea to go out that day. Be honest with yourself and the people you trust about your concerns or stressors.

Ultimately, you just want to make sure you’re in the right mental and emotional place to handle a party situation that is centered around getting wasted. And if you don’t think that you can be around booze and not drink, opt out. There’s nothing wrong with a night at home with Netflix and popcorn.

2. Talk Openly About Being Substance-Free. It Can Help You Keep Accountable.

How much you want to share about your sobriety will always, always be up to you. But I have found, personally, that when I tell people I’m sober in a social setting or at a bar, it helps me feel safe and comfortable. Seriously, I even tell the bartender that I’m sober when I’m ordering a seltzer, even though they never ask. But for me, if people know I don’t drink, there’s a lower chance of being offered booze, and I’m less likely to go through with ordering a beer if I suddenly feel inclined.  

“Talking about your sobriety is not a bad idea. It keeps you accountable and [is a way of] saying your sobriety and your life come first no matter where you are,” says Douglas. And yes, often even if you’d rather keep it on the DL, the question as to whether or not you drink and why will often come up if you aren’t drinking in a party setting. But usually, people don’t mean harm by it. They’re just curious.

Douglas gives a few examples of what you can say—anything from “I’m not into that stuff anymore,” or “Partying doesn’t really fit into my life,” or even flat out saying “I’m sober,” or “I’m in recovery,” if that’s how you identify.  

If people know I don’t drink, there’s a lower chance of being offered booze, and I’m less likely to go through with ordering a beer if I suddenly feel inclined.  

3 .Make A Plan For Yourself (That Includes A Safe Way To Leave).

My family lives in Vermont, so Uber or public transportation is not an option for me. Which means I either need my own car, a sober buddy, or to have someone pick me up. If I can’t ensure safe travel and a way out whenever I may need one––I don’t go. So, make a plan.

As Douglas says, not only should you work out your transportation, you want to set a reasonable schedule for yourself, and really consider what the environment is going to be like when you get there.

“For most, staying out late night is not a good idea. So maybe arriving around 6 pm and leaving around 8 pm will keep you in the safe zone,” she says. “And if you ever feel uncomfortable, don’t pressure yourself to hang in there.” It’s always, I repeat, always okay to leave.

4. Bring Your Own Drinks And Snacks. Heck, Bring Whatever You Need To Make You Feel More Comfortable

This is just a personal pro tip: If you’re going to a party, bring your own drinks, preferably in cans. (Or better yet, those mini bottles of Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider, which are basically the reason for the season.)

This way you won’t accidentally pick up someone else’s cup filled with spiked punch. Similarly, if you’re worried that the brownies are going to be edibles and the chocolate party treats filled with rum, then bring some snacks along, too.

5. Know That Friends Who Don’t Support Your Substance-Free Life Aren’t Friends

Okay, maybe that sounds corny. But it’s the truth. If you have people who are bothering you about not drinking or using, excuse my French, but fuck that noise.

“If your friends won’t accept that you don’t drink, then they’re probably not friends you should be spending your time with,” says Carolee Paruta, the Regional Director of Outpatient Services at Mountainside treatment center. “It might be difficult to hear that, but you have to remember that doing what’s best for your recovery is what is most important. Being sober isn’t all that you are, but it is a big part of you. You need friends in your life who don’t just accept that fact but support you.”

She wisely points out that you should pay attention to what you feel, and ask yourself what’s best for you and your lifestyle. Don’t worry about what someone else thinks if you don’t drink.

Douglas also adds that if there are certain people who might trigger you or make you feel pressure to drink then maybe duck out around the time they arrive.

Pay attention to what you feel, and ask yourself what’s best for you and your lifestyle. Don’t worry about what someone else thinks if you don’t drink.

6. Know That You Can Also Make Other Plans, With Or Without Other People

Just because it’s one of the biggest party nights of the year, does not mean you have to go out. If you really want to see your friends, Paruta also points out that, you can explain to them, very clearly, that you want to see them but you can’t drink, and you don’t want to hang out in a bar or at a party this year.

“Maybe you all can go to an early dinner or catch a movie,” she says. “Establishing these new boundaries will help your friends know what to expect and prevent you from being put in uncomfortable situations that could derail your progress,” says Paruta.

You can also just stay home and make pies, too. Just sayin’.