Taking Charge of Your Sober Thanksgiving

November 18, 2022

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time of celebration and camaraderie, with families and friends coming together to celebrate their holiday traditions. For those navigating their recovery and sobriety, it can also be a time of great stress. This is especially true if it is one’s first sober Thanksgiving, and one may have to distance themselves from previous holiday expectations to prioritize one’s sober efforts. However, despite the challenges the holiday presents, it is always possible to take charge of one’s own Thanksgiving and create new traditions while continuing to thrive in one’s sobriety and prevent relapse

The Challenges of the Thanksgiving Holiday

Thanksgiving can be a tumultuous time, especially as one is still navigating a plethora of changes in their pursuit of a sober lifestyle. For some, the use of drugs or alcohol may be intimately tied to the holiday or time of year, and such traditions can be embedded in one’s mind. The holiday may feel synonymous with the use of these addictive substances or romanticize their use. Others may feel forced to spend time with friends or family members that do not necessarily understand or support one’s sober efforts, introducing many unnecessary and dangerous stresses throughout the holiday. 

Even if one is committed to a sober holiday, the traditions tied to the time of year can still be difficult to navigate, even while drugs or alcohol are not present. If one is used to using these addictive substances alongside one’s Thanksgiving feast, while watching the parade, or as the family gathers to watch football on the holiday, continuing to engage in these activities can bring urges and cravings as one’s body expects their use. Ensuring that one’s holiday remains focused on one’s personal recovery goals means creating a sober atmosphere and amending the holiday and the connotations it presents to create a new plan for sobriety. 

Making Sober Thanksgiving Your Own

There are many ways to approach the holiday in sobriety, and one should never feel like they have to exclude themselves from festivities to prioritize their sobriety. Rather, surrounding oneself with caring support and creating new expectations for Thanksgiving can create a new culture surrounding the holiday. While making these changes can be difficult at first, it is necessary for effectively celebrating the holiday while maintaining one’s sobriety. 

Continue Outpatient Care

Attending outpatient meetings or a 12-Step meeting is important around this time of year. The holidays can present a number of personal challenges, and simply having peers around who are navigating the same stresses can ensure that one never feels alone in their challenges. Working alongside peers to break through feelings of isolation and adopt new strategies can be crucial for continuing to focus on one’s sober efforts at any time of year. 

Have a Transportation Plan

If one is attending Thanksgiving festivities at another location, having one’s own transport is crucial, whether this be one’s own vehicle or alongside dedicated support who is understanding of one’s recovery needs. It can be difficult to predict exactly which stressors may be present throughout the holidays, from tense social situations to the unexpected presence of drugs or alcohol. Having one’s own transportation plan can allow those in recovery to have an active escape strategy in the event of any unforeseen stresses, removing oneself from high-risk scenarios that may compromise one’s sober efforts. 

Find an Active Role in Celebration

Staying active throughout the Thanksgiving holiday is crucial for one’s continued sobriety. Not only can taking on additional responsibilities provide structure and direction to one’s day, but it also distracts an individual from any prevalent urges or cravings that may plague the holiday. These acts of service, such as cleaning, collecting trash, helping cook or set the table, and more, help reinforce one’s newfound sober identity, helping to repair or deepen key relationships with family and friends during the holidays.

Embrace Gratitude

Gratitude is a core part of the recovery journey for many, and focusing on the spirit of Thanksgiving and embracing the essence of gratitude can create a new atmosphere surrounding the holiday. Using this time to give thanks for specific actions of support or care and championing those who have supported one through the difficult times of one’s recovery journey can help an individual distance themselves from previous traditions. Dedicated exercises or gifts can all make Thanksgiving into something new in one’s sobriety. 

Hosting Sober Thanksgiving Yourself

Playing the host of a holiday celebration can be stressful on its own, but for those in recovery, it also comes with a number of advantages. Hosting one’s own sober Thanksgiving gathering can allow an individual to establish a genuinely safe environment devoid of alcohol or drugs that may otherwise be present and help reduce any pervasive stigmas. Coupled with the ability to curate the guest list to only those who are understanding and supportive of one’s sobriety, an individual can rest easy in the knowledge that they are maintaining a sober environment and still enjoying the holidays. 

This approach also allows each individual to set new traditions, with new activities, games, and expectations assigned to the holiday to make it feel wholly different than any past connotations or expectations. Working alongside others to plan a new experience, atmosphere, or tradition in sobriety is a powerful act of agency that can redefine Thanksgiving in a new, sober light.

There is nothing easy about navigating the holidays in sobriety, and we at Buena Vista Recovery are prepared to help you overcome the challenges of the holiday season while prioritizing your hard-earned sobriety. Whether you are looking to begin your journey to sobriety or continue to develop personalized skills and strategies, we are committed to helping you continue your healing journey all throughout the year. From dedicated medical detox and residential care to ongoing intensive outpatient support, we can help you navigate Thanksgiving at any stage of your recovery with personalized strategies and care each step of the way. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call to speak to us today at (480) 741-9414.