Participating in any holiday during a recovery journey to sobriety can require some complex navigation. If you’re feeling nervous when it comes to planning your Thanksgiving this year, know that you’re not alone. Many people recovering from substance abuse disorder report feeling overwhelmed and triggered when the holidays roll around.
Attending family parties, planning large meals, giving gifts, seeing old friends and loved ones…while many would say these activities foster connection and positivity, it’s completely normal to feel like they’ll bring you to the brink of your sober sanity.
This post offers five guilt-free tips for staying sober this Thanksgiving season:
Consciously Approach Thanksgiving
It’s a great habit to reflect on annual experiences before entering them again. You might try journaling about what happened during past holidays before entering into them once again. Sometimes we’re not aware of what sets us off, or what specifically goes wrong for us during these interactions—so identifying those aspects can be the secret to unlocking better holiday experiences.
Perhaps a specific family member or friend has an overwhelming presence or annoying habit. Maybe a family home or location can cause anxiety because of difficult memories. Knowing what it is that’s causing the anxiety can be extremely helpful in remaining emotionally regulated, as well as explaining to others why you might not be able to attend a Thanksgiving function.
Plan B: Escape Mode
Even when well-prepared for a sober holiday, sometimes gathering in one place where there’s a lot of family and friends can still feel anxiety-provoking, highly triggering, and negative. It’s an awesome idea to have an excuse to blast off and away in the event that you’re feeling so triggered that you start to desire the substance that you’re trying to eliminate from your life. Escape stories can include:
- Feeling sick or explaining that you may have been exposed to Covid-19 before the party begins
- Saying that you have an early morning work or family engagement the next day that you need to rest for or travel to
- Being completely honest and explaining that as a recovering person, you realize your limits have been reached and need to excuse yourself from the environment
- Communicating that a friend or family member is experiencing an emergency that you need to be present for
Create New Traditions
Thanksgiving falls amid pure fall glory. This timing can create a lot of strategic opportunities for new holiday traditions that don’t occur indoors, seated around alcohol. Try visiting a pumpkin patch, participating in a corn maze, going to a fall festival, or organizing a sober friendsgiving. If you’ve experienced holiday events that feel unhealthy, know that you can leave those dynamics behind along with your substance abuse and create a new business-as-usual holiday event.
Have Your Support System on Speed Dial
Alert your support system or mentors about the approaching holiday and any negative feelings you may have. They may be able to offer advice or their company to keep you feeling supported and stable during a potentially rocky holiday environment.
Have Non-Alcoholic Drinks on Tap
There are several, delicious brands of water, juice, and alcohol-free drinks that are branded to look like beer or other hard beverages. Having a drink like this in hand can help you avoid those “Why aren’t you drinking?” questions that can be hard to navigate in a social setting.
For good measure, you can also communicate to your host (or other guests if you feel comfortable doing so) that you will not be drinking and that you’d prefer not to talk about it during the gathering.
Thanksgiving Tips from St. Gregory Recovery Center in Iowa
Perhaps one of the most important tips to keep in mind this Thanksgiving is that peace and tranquility go a long way, and we should be thankful for those feelings and create spaces where they abound. Whatever that looks like for you and yours this holiday season is what’s right for you. At. St. Gregory, we love engaging in the following activities to find peace and soothing emotional stability:
- Equine Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sessions
- Recovery Coaching and Life Skill Management and Building
Don’t hesitate to contact St. Gregory Recovery Center online or visit us personally at our Bayard or Des Moines, Iowa locations at any time with questions, concerns, or more sober Thanksgiving pointers!