For many people, the weeks and days leading up to the fourth Thursday in November are filled with anticipation and excitement for all that Thanksgiving day will bring. From delicious food to wholesome family time, what’s not to love?
However, Thanksgiving can also be an extremely stressful time for people in recovery. Some who are newly sober may be headed home to a strained family situation, while others are preparing to host a dinner party for friends and family. Those who don’t yet have any plans may also find Thanksgiving to be stressful for other reasons. When it’s all said and done, Thanksgiving can cause a lot of stress and anxiety that can make staying sober even more difficult.
Although Thanksgiving can often be a cause for stress, there are also many ways to reduce the negative feelings and emotions associated with it. If you’re new to sobriety, here are five ways you can safeguard your sobriety this Thanksgiving instead of feeling stressed out.
1. Plan wisely.
It’s all too easy to overcommit on Thanksgiving, but doing so can lead to a lot of additional stress. Instead of saying “yes” to every invitation you receive, perhaps you can plan to see a few people or attend one Thanksgiving gathering and save the rest for another time. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for friends or loved ones, grocery shopping a few days ahead of time and sticking to simple dishes can make a huge difference. You may also want to enlist the help of a few friends or family members to help you prepare all the food and clean up after everyone goes home. Or, you may also want to try a potluck-style meal.
2. Stick to your normal routine.
Treating Thanksgiving like any other day can help you ward off cravings and combat feelings of stress and anxiety. For example, if you normally meditate or work out in the mornings, there’s no reason not to continue the trend on Thanksgiving. Or, if you attend recovery meetings a few times a week, Thanksgiving is not a good excuse not to go. In fact, you might find that attending a recovery meeting on Thanksgiving day is a helpful way to prioritize your recovery.
3. Avoid overindulging.
It can be very tempting to binge on pumpkin pie and sugar-coated sweet potatoes while filling up on all the typical Thanksgiving fare, but overindulging can leave you feeling yucky and tired. It can also contribute to an unhealthy emotional and mental state. Not to mention, it’s a fast and slippery slide right back into bad eating habits that can derail a healthy lifestyle in recovery. Instead, treat yourself in moderation and enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal like you would any other. Fighting off cravings for drugs and alcohol is more difficult when you’re not at your best, so maintaining a healthy mindset about your food (even on Thanksgiving) is ideal.
4. Talk to your sponsor.
If you’re feeling especially stressed this Thanksgiving, make it a point to talk to your sponsor, sober coach, or peer recovery support specialist and share what you’re going through. Maybe Thanksgiving brings up bad memories of past mistakes you made when you were still addicted Or, maybe you’re filled with anxiety at the thought of sitting down to dinner with your family members who all still doubt your commitment to sobriety. These things are completely understandable and there’s no reason to feel ashamed to talk about it. Sharing your thoughts may help you process them and begin to work through some underlying issues related to your Thanksgiving stress. Your sponsor may even have some stories from his or her first sober Thanksgiving that can help to put things in perspective.
5. Skip this year’s festivities.
Nothing is worth risking your sobriety, so if the stress is too much to handle, there’s no shame in bowing out of this year’s Thanksgiving festivities completely. High levels of stress can trigger cravings for drugs and alcohol but taking some time for yourself can help you feel more balanced and calm. A night in dedicated to self-care or even just a day going about your daily routine might be just what you need to reset your emotional health.
Stress is one of the main contributing factors of relapse but effective stress management can help prevent it. Adjusting the way you deal with Thanksgiving-related stress can go a long way to fortify your sobriety, especially in the early stages of recovery.