For people new to recovery who may be experiencing their first sober Thanksgiving, staying sober can be an intimidating prospect. The Thanksgiving Holiday can be an emotionally difficult event to navigate for anyone. However, many of us in recovery now have spent the holiday in previous years alone and drunk, or high – or both.
The good news is that some advance planning with supportive friends or a sponsor can greatly increase your enjoyment. It is possible to have a safe, happy and joyful Thanksgiving in recovery, at a family gathering or sober event, sometimes both.
Yes – sober Thanksgiving is possible, with a little help from our friends!
Prepare for Your Sobriety
Because we generally have expectations, either positive or negative, with regard to The Thanksgiving Holiday, quitting drinking or stopping any other addiction, such as substance abuse or perhaps coping with an eating disorder, is doubly difficult during this time.
Staying sober is always your first priority. Stay alcohol free prepare your day with a plan to maximize your day.
To stay sober and connected to your support network during the Thanksgiving Holiday is more important than ever. Being a sober friend or having a sober friend or family member you can trust to talk to during this time may just save the day.
Addiction recovery is not an easy road and requires us to plan in advance and pay attention to warning signs that we may be in need of some self care. Remember the acronym HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Experiencing any one of these, or a combination, can mean it’s time to take a break, and take care of you.
Of course, you may experience some relapse triggers during the holidays. From feeling pressured to join in and drink with others, to not really feeling the joy, (you’re supposed to be joyful all the time, aren’t you?).
Additionally, dealing with other people in general, such as the crowds at the store or mall, can be stressful. For anyone in recovery, the desire to isolate and avoid this type of emotional disturbance can be great.
Sober Friends Help Create a New Tradition for the Holiday Seasons
Don’t forget that the alcoholic or addict is not the only sick person in the family. Addiction of any kind damages everyone involved. Our disease has contributed to resentment and uncomfortable situations for all members of the family.
Have Your Support Group on Speed Dial
This is where your sober friends come in. Having a support group during the holiday season is vital. One of the many ways to be of service to others is to offer your support to them and vice versa.
There are many ways to be of service to others during the holidays. Again, service to others is a great way to get out of yourself.
This is your new norm. No alcohol. No drinking. Enjoy this tradition with others.
Thanksgiving Gathering with Family Members
A family member can be the family you grew up with or the new family your have found in your recovery.
You may get an invite to join your traditional family members for Thanksgiving dinner AND an invite from an AA member. Imagine having two Thanksgiving dinners.
It is possible to have Thanksgiving dinner with family or friends and not have to drink alcohol. And it is possible to enjoy yourself, too. It just takes a little planning and forethought before heading out.
If you are having Thanksgiving dinner with family, try to remember that the experience can be loaded with emotional baggage for everyone. Try to stay in touch with how you are feeling during this time and remember, it’s ok to excuse yourself and make a phone call, or just talk a walk, if needed.
Remember, many AA clubhouses have so called alco-thons during the holiday season, where meetings are being held 24 hours on Thanksgiving. It is important to not let up on our recovery during this time. A support group can be a vital part of having a happy sober Thanksgiving.
5 Helpful Tips to Stay Sober on Thanksgiving
Spending time at Thanksgiving and the holidays with others in recovery is one of the best things you can do to help yourself to feel connected. Connection is the opposite of addiction. Because many of us have spent Thanksgiving in isolation, the idea that Thanksgiving can be a time of connection with others, of forgiveness, understanding and even some joy, should be great news.
And, of course, your first Thanksgiving sober can be a real opportunity for growth!
Here are some things to consider in order to stay safe and stay sober during Thanksgiving:
1. Avoid Triggers –
Know and avoid your triggers. A trigger can be anything a person, place, food, smell, etc. Knowing what a trigger is and being prepared if you get triggered, especially if this is your first sober Thanksgiving in a while, will help you from feeling caught off-guard.
2. Have an Exit Plan –
Have an exit plan vs an escape plan. The difference is simple, one you have planned out and the other is a reaction. You might arrive to the party early or need to leave early, make it easy on yourself, think about this ahead of time.
If you have your own transportation or need a ride home or to a meeting, have this planned out to the best of your ability.
Don’t forget, as a sober alcoholic or addict, your sobriety must come first. If you find your mental health and stress levels too high and your feeling like you want to drink or use, don’t try to tough it out. It’s OK to leave early.
Talk to a supportive friend and establish some boundaries for yourself in advance. This may help you recognize any emotional warning signs that might crop up.
3. Know How to Answer if Someone Offers you a Drink –
Take your own beverage to Thanksgiving celebrations just in case someone offers you a drink. Usually, as long as you have a glass in your hand, no one will care what it is you are actually drinking.
Remember, if someone presses you to take a drink-the word ” NO” is a complete sentence!
For some a non alcoholic drink is not good for their sobriety, no judgement either way, just know drinking is not good for you. Others may indulge in drinking alcohol throughout the day or at the Thanksgiving meal. This does not need to be a stressful time, you stay true to you and decline all alcohol. Stay sober and enjoy your meal and life sober.
4. Use Your Support System –
Recognize that the holiday season is difficult for many people. Being part of a support system during this time can help people in recovery survive the stress. Many groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and others have sober celebrations either before or after their regular meeting time.
These occasions can be a great way to meet other sober fiends and to be part of something. Keep in mind that being of service to others is a fabulous way to get out of yourself. There are many opportunities during Thanksgiving to be of service by contributing your money or your time.
5. Celebrate not Drinking –
Staying sober is a great way to celebrate, feel connected and enjoy yourself, all at the same time. Service can allow us to experience gratitude, and no matter your circumstances this Thanksgiving, there is always something to be grateful for.
If your invite came from the host or a friend of the host – you might consider sharing a bit about your life with them. Spend time with the people at the event, knowing if you get uncomfortable, there are other options.
If you are newly sober this Thanksgiving, don’t forget, you may be also dealing with other people who are sick, too.
Many people whether sober or not can feel overwhelmed on Thanksgiving Day. Try to stay focused. Even if you feel nervous, you can help to reduce stress not only in yourself, but also help others to feel comfortable by going to gatherings with friends and family in a spirit of service.
Coping Skills Without Alcohol
Recovery forces us to change and develop new coping skills in order to grow. These new skills are one of the rewards we get for the work we do. Try to remember while you celebrate this season, that you are learning and developing new skills for living sober, and celebrate that.
Turning Point of Tampa
Turning Point of Tampa offers a full continuum of addiction treatment care with Detox, Residential and Day Treatment, and Intensive Outpatient Treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, as well as treatment for eating disorders and dual diagnosis. Turning Point of Tampa welcomes Veterans to the program and has dedicated some specific support groups and therapy styles for their related needs.
Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual therapy and group therapy. We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department.