Thanksgiving provides a good chance to catch up with family and friends, but it can also be a stressful time of year.
This is especially true for people who are recovering from alcohol use disorder and are used to spending time on Thanksgiving with other people who drink alcohol.
However, there are many new traditions you can start in your life by being sober, including celebrating your first sober Thanksgiving.
First, let’s look at some common alcohol addiction triggers that people in recovery can prepare for during Thanksgiving.
Top Relapse Triggers Over Thanksgiving
Relapse triggers involve anything that makes a person start craving a substance of abuse.
These triggers are different for everyone. Some are easy to identify, while others are more hidden.
However, there are some common triggers that many people experience during the holidays.
Common addiction triggers on Thanksgiving include:
- the smell of alcohol
- the presence of family members who drink
- the presence of a former drinking buddy
- feelings of sadness, anger, or stress
For triggers that catch you by surprise, you can use coping skills, such as deep breathing or thinking of all the reasons you quit alcohol. You can also call or text a sober friend for support.
If you get too overwhelmed, take a break in a quiet room, go for a walk, or leave the event.
Ideas For Celebrating Your First Sober Thanksgiving
1. Host A Sober Thanksgiving Dinner
One of the best ways to avoid triggers is to host your own Thanksgiving dinner. Your sober friends will appreciate this stress-free way to celebrate.
Put up decorations, play some music, and plan alcohol-free activities like playing board games or watching movies.
Also, get plenty of non-alcoholic seasonal beverages, such as hot chocolate, apple cider, and eggnog. You could also prepare festive mocktails like virgin apple cider sangria.
However, some people find mocktails triggering, so check with your guests first. In addition, make sure any non-sober guests know the event is alcohol-free.
2. Enjoy Fall Activities
Early in addiction recovery, some people get triggered by all celebratory meals, even if there’s no alcohol involved.
If you feel this way, skip the festive feasts and celebrate with a fall-related activity instead. For example, you could:
- pick apples
- go horseback riding
While these activities help you commemorate the season, they also take your mind off drinking. To stay extra safe, only invite loved ones who don’t drink (or who agree to not drink during the activity).
3. Reminisce And Reenact
Think back to before you ever drank alcohol. This might be your childhood, adolescence, teen, or early adult years.
What did you enjoy doing this time of year? What did you get the most excited about?
This might involve fall-themed events, like exploring a corn maze or going on a hayride, or it could involve more individual activities, like coloring in a coloring book or making a scarecrow.
Some people are in full Christmas spirit by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. You might make a gingerbread house, set up your tree early, or check out a festive light display.
Engaging in activities you enjoyed pre-addiction can help you reconnect to a part of yourself that still exists within you.
4. Try A Laughter Yoga Class
Laughter yoga is pretty much what you would guess it is, which is a yoga class focused on laughing.
Research shows that simulated laughter has all the same health benefits as spontaneous laughter does, including a strengthened immune system, increased positive feelings, and decreased blood pressure.
Of course, this is in addition to all of the health benefits of quitting drinking that you’re already experiencing.
For those who aren’t ready to laugh with strangers at a local yoga studio, there are many options for online classes or free YouTube sessions.
Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose and helps you feel more grateful for what you have.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, you could help serve food at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or nursing home. You could also gather old toys or shop for new ones and donate them to a charity that provides holiday presents to families in need.
Although you can volunteer alone, lots of people prefer to invite friends and family members. In fact, some families volunteer as an annual Thanksgiving tradition.
6. Go For A Turkey Trot
A Turkey Trot is a footrace held on Thanksgiving Day. Hosted in numerous cities, these casual races welcome running, jogging, or walking.
Most Turkey Trots last about 3 miles, though some are shorter or longer. No matter the length, the race will benefit both your physical and mental health.
Exercise boosts endorphins, which are brain chemicals that reduce stress and promote pleasure. In general, the better you feel, the less likely you are to crave alcohol.
As with volunteering, you can invite your loved ones to the Turkey Trot and make it a special tradition.
7. Attend A Support Group
While you navigate your first sober Thanksgiving, you might feel like no one understands you. That’s where support groups come in.
The most popular alcohol addiction support group is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Other options include SMART Recovery, LifeRing, and Women For Sobriety. All of these groups hold meetings where you can discuss challenges, triumphs, and coping skills.
On Thanksgiving, many groups hold meetings all day long. A morning meeting can motivate you to stay sober throughout the day, while a night meeting can help you process any triggering events that occurred.
8. Treat Yourself To A New Look
Is there a haircut you’ve been wanting to try? Or maybe just a new jacket or pair of jeans?
Celebrate being sober by treating yourself to an updated look. It’s OK if you’re not ready to show it off at a party yet. It can be something just for you.
Many people spend money this time of year on new clothes or other updates to their looks. Plus, think of all the money you’re saving by not buying alcohol anymore.
9. Take A Dog On A Walk
If you enjoy spending time with dogs and spending time outside but don’t have a dog of your own to walk, consider offering to walk a neighbor’s, family member’s, or friend’s dog.
Even if all the dogs you know get plenty of walks, they’ll probably happily go on one more.
Many animal shelters are in need of volunteers to walk the dogs in their care. This simple act of kindness is a great opportunity to show gratitude to your friends, community, or loved ones.
10. Cook (Or Order) A Favorite Meal
This can end up being a little involved if you’re not a regular cook, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun.
If there’s a particular meal you’ve always loved but don’t get to eat very often, consider making it yourself. Whether it’s lasagna or chicken and rice, make sure that you have all of the cooking utensils you’ll need along with all of the ingredients before getting started.
Another option is to order your favorite meal from a restaurant. Whatever the case, set the table nicely, put on some relaxing music, light a candle, and enjoy celebrating your success in recovery thus far.
11. Focus On Gratitude
Although your first sober Thanksgiving brings challenges, it’s an amazing accomplishment. Take time to feel grateful for your recovery journey and the people who’ve supported you.
According to the National Institutes of Health, feeling grateful can help you cope with stress, which is a common cause of relapse.
That’s why many people in recovery practice gratitude every day. Some express their gratitude while praying or meditating. Others simply list the things they’re grateful for in a journal. These practices can help you stay calm and sober all year long.
Get Help For Addiction This Thanksgiving
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol, please contact a Recovering Champions specialist. Our substance abuse and addiction treatment programs offer a variety of evidence-based treatments, including mental health counseling and support groups.