1998. I'm 22, living in New York City, a block away from my aunt's apartment on 86th Street. I go to the gym in the morning, to preemptively sweat out all the calories I plan to consume, and head over to my aunt's around noon. I start drinking as soon as a glass is given to me, and don't stop until I leave hours later. What a fantastic holiday, I think. Now that I'm legally old enough, it's socially acceptable - and seemingly, expected - to drink all day.
Thanksdrinking continues, with only one exception, for the next 16 years.
2014. I'm at my mom's townhouse in Massachusetts. It's just the two of us, so rather than fix an elaborate meal, we nosh in front of the TV. The Godfather I and II are marathoning on TBS, and I start drinking during I, continue through all of II, and finish sometime during my repeat viewing of I later that night. The next day, there is an Alfred Hitchcock marathon on the same channel. I resume my seat on the couch, and sip two glasses of Chardonnay before leaving to catch my flight in the early afternoon.
2015. Work is insane and I haven't taken a real vacation in five years, so I book myself a 5-day trip to the Red Mountain Resort, an all-inclusive adventure/spa experience in southern Utah. I spend Thursday morning on a hike in Snow Canyon, and have scheduled my Thanksgiving "dinner" for the 12 PM lunch seating, which seems early but I could care less about food. I have yoga scheduled that afternoon, so pass on wine without regret, but acknowledge what an oddity it is to spend Thanksgiving not drinking. I sit next to a handsome stranger who would later become my boyfriend, and instinctively turn on the charm, silently marveling to myself how naturally it comes without alcohol.
2016. My mom and I are invited to a family friend's house in Temecula. We've booked a hotel for Thursday evening, under the guise that I don't want to drive back to LA in the dark, but really, I just don't want to drive back drunk in the dark. Not drinking is not an option. I start drinking later than I normally would, and start slow, but by mealtime I am refilling my glass on the regular. Back at the hotel, there is a mini-mart that sells wine, so I buy a half bottle to help me fall asleep. It doesn't drown out my mom's snores or her TV and I'm filled with rage when I wake up from the sugar at 3 AM. I can't keep doing this, I think. I don't know if I mean drinking all day or sharing hotel rooms with my mother, but I suspect they're related.
2017. I'm 10 months sober and not exactly sure how I'll be spending Thanksgiving, but I know I won't be drinking. I have no desire to numb - not to soften the edges around any annoyances or amplify an already good time. It helps that I'll be staying in my own home - no guest rooms or shared hotel rooms to navigate - but I've drank just as much on Thanksgivings with friends as with family. I'm simply excited to fully connect and enjoy the day as it was meant, with gratitude.