Thanksgiving: Having Fun and Staying Sober


Thursday marks the beginning of the holiday season with Thanksgiving: A time for families to come together to spend quality time over a plethora of food, football and in most cases alcohol. The holidays can be a tricky time for people in recovery, especially those who are new to the program. The typical experience for people during Thanksgiving may not be the same for those in recovery, whose addiction in many cases has driven a wedge between them and their families.

It can take years to heal the wounds created by one’s addiction, but it is possible with time and the motivation to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. It is important for those in recovery to stay positive over the holidays, to not become discouraged by what you don’t have and be grateful for that which you do. Sadly, the holidays can be a catalyst for some to relapse, but relapse can be avoided if you stick to your program – remembering to live life one day at a time.

Thanksgiving, just like every other day of the year for people in recovery, requires eternal vigilance when it comes to sobriety. 12-step meetings will be held all throughout the day and it is recommended that people in recovery attend as many meetings as they need to refrain from picking up a drink or drug. It is impossible to attend too many meetings during times that are rife with emotions, the kind of feelings that typically arise during the holiday season.

It is important for people in recovery to keep in close contact with their support network. Your sponsor and friends in recovery are ever important during the holidays, keep your phone charged and by your side all throughout the day. If you find yourself in an unsafe situation, pick up the phone and call for help. It is a lot easier to call for help before a relapse, than after one; there is no shame in needing to rely on one’s recovery peers during a holiday.

Having fun in recovery is highly encouraged, and in most places recovery events are held during the major holidays. Recovery dinners and dances can be a lot of fun, and a unique opportunity to meet others in recovery who may not be members of your home group. Staying active over a holiday will help keep you out of your head, which is often an unsafe place for those in recovery. Being idle can be a slippery slope, so it should be avoided as much as possible.

If you plan to attend family gatherings where alcohol will be present, here are a several tips to help you navigate through it without picking up:

  • Have a Plan – Attend the dinner, but make plans for afterward. As the day progresses more and more alcohol is consumed, which can be difficult for those in recovery to be around.
  • Create New Holiday Rituals – Spend time creating new holiday traditions that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. Spend time with your recovery friends, making new holiday memories.
  • Limit Family Time – Spending too much time around the family can become stressful. Being overexposed to family drama can lead to a relapse. Be cognizant of your limits, if you find yourself becoming stressed out – excuse yourself.
  • Keep to Your Routine – Take care of your recovery before all else. Keeping to your routine is crucial. Call your sponsor, attend your home group. If you exercise or do yoga, remember to keep to the routine over the holiday. Addicts don’t do well with change, keep the holiday schedule as close to your normal schedule for any other day of the year.

We at Cottonwood Tucson would like to wish everyone a safe and sober Thanksgiving.

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