In the early stages of recovery, you’re learning new ways to cope with everyday situations.
Developing healthy habits is a big task, especially during the holiday season. If this will be your first sober Thanksgiving, stay on the path to recovery with these 8 helpful tips.
1. Count Your Blessings
You may still feel like you have a long way to go towards getting your life back on track, but being in recovery is an amazing accomplishment. Since Thanksgiving is about expressing gratitude, consider taking the time to reflect on how your life has changed since you’ve gotten sober and how friends and family have helped with your journey.
Counting your blessings also means letting go of the shame and embarrassment you feel over past mistakes. You may have done things you’re not proud of, but the important thing to remember is that you’re working hard to turn your life around.
2. Remember It’s Okay to Say No
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to accept every invitation you receive during the busy holiday season. Setting boundaries that you feel comfortable with is an important part of building a happy and productive sober life for yourself.
If traveling stresses you out and you’d rather spend the holiday at home, it’s perfectly fine to gracefully decline to attend your aunt’s Thanksgiving feast six hours away from your home. The same rule applies to events hosted by people who aren’t 100% behind your sobriety. If someone isn’t supportive of your efforts to build a brighter future for yourself, they don’t deserve a place in your life.
3. Create Alcohol-Free Ways to Celebrate
Getting sober marks a new chapter in your life, which means it’s time to rethink old traditions that don’t fit your new lifestyle. If your Thanksgiving celebration normally includes alcohol, plan fun-filled sober activities to enjoy instead.
There’s no wrong way to celebrate Thanksgiving, so feel free to be creative as you’re deciding how to celebrate. You may want to spend the day duplicating some of your grandma’s special recipes, organizing a nature hike, completing a special craft project, volunteering to serve a holiday meal to the homeless, or making Black Friday plans to get a jump start on your Christmas shopping. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re focused on having fun and making memories with the people you love.
4. Keep Stress Levels in Check
Crowded holiday gatherings can be stressful, especially if you’re also dealing with depression or anxiety. Keep your stress levels in check by making time for self-care activities. Meditating, exercising, listening to soothing music or writing in a journal are just a few options to consider.
Don’t forget that lack of sleep is a major cause of stress for most adults. When you’re fatigued, it’s hard to think clearly and rationally. Even though this may feel like the busiest time of year, make it a priority to get the rest your body needs. Keep a consistent sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to help you unwind at the end of the day.
5. Indulge Wisely
Although Thanksgiving is often associated with eating until you’re completely stuffed, it’s smart to keep up the healthy eating habits that support your recovery. Begin your meal by enjoying a salad packed with fiber-rich veggies. This will keep your appetite in check so you’re satisfied with moderate portions of your favorite entrees, side dishes, and desserts. If you’re tempted to go back for seconds, wait at least 10 minutes. The brain doesn’t immediately register feelings of fullness after eating, so you need to give yourself time to decide if you really want that second slice of pumpkin pie.
If you’re celebrating away from home, it’s a good idea to bring your own non-alcoholic beverage option, such as flavored water or sparkling cider. Bring enough to share, and you may be surprised by how many people choose to spend the day sober.
6. Make an Emergency Plan
Protect your hard won sobriety by making a plan to get yourself back on track if your holiday celebration doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped. Keep the contact information for your sponsor and a few trusted friends nearby so you can easily reach someone if you start to feel overwhelmed.
It’s also smart to look up the information for meetings in the area where you’ll be traveling. Most 12-step programs host multiple meetings throughout the holidays to encourage those in recovery to stay on the right path.