Navigating Your First Sober Thanksgiving


For many people, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and indulge with loved ones. However, if this year will mark your first sober Thanksgiving, you may be anxious about getting through the upcoming holiday without compromising everything you’ve achieved up to this point. 

The association between drinking and special occasions can be challenging to break, especially if you typically used alcohol as a coping mechanism to escape from family tension. Here are some tips for navigating your first sober Thanksgiving while staying on track with your goals and avoiding a relapse.

1. Have an Exit Plan

While you shouldn’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy that something triggering will happen, you also don’t want to head into the gathering unprepared for what you might do if you start feeling overwhelmed. Drive yourself to the host’s home, and make sure no other cars are blocking you in. That way, if you need to leave early, nothing is preventing you from doing so. Or, if you only need a temporary break to collect yourself, you can go for a walk around the block or find a quiet room to sit and meditate for a few minutes

2. Pitch in and Help

Hosting Thanksgiving can be exhausting, and most people will gratefully accept any offer of help. Staying busy will give you something to do and keep your mind off the fact that you’re not drinking. Whether you’re preparing food, washing dishes, setting the table or babysitting young kids, you can keep yourself occupied before and after Thanksgiving dinner. Going above and beyond to help can also be part of your process of making amends to people you hurt while you were in the grip of your substance use disorder and demonstrating how much you have changed.

3. Go to 12-Step Meetings

Don’t let the holiday season become an excuse for skipping your regularly scheduled sobriety group meetings. The holidays can be uniquely stressful for many people, so you may find you need the support more than ever – especially if this year is your first sober Thanksgiving. You can benefit from drawing on others’ experiences and learning from people who have gone through similar struggles. If you’re traveling out of town, do your research beforehand and find a group that meets in your destination city.

4. Know Your Triggers

Some family members and friends might pose a threat to your recovery. Being around people who don’t understand your goals or pressure you to drink can jeopardize everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Even during the holiday season, your health should still take top priority. If you have any misgivings about attending a gathering where you know some attendees could bring you undue stress, do not feel guilty about politely declining the invitation.

5. Be Grateful

Thanksgiving is an annual tradition of counting your blessings, but in addiction recovery, you should work to cultivate a year-round attitude of gratitude. Looking back on how you felt a year or two ago and how much progress you have made since then can give you a much-needed sense of perspective and accomplishment. Consider keeping a gratitude journal where you write down one thing you are thankful for every day. 

Addiction Treatment at Pine Grove

Struggling with substance abuse does not make you an immoral or inherently flawed person. At Pine Grove, we know addiction is a disease requiring compassionate treatment and evidence-based strategies. As one of the nation’s leading centers for treating substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues, we are here for you when you are ready to change your life for the better. Reach out today to learn more and verify your insurance coverage.

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