5 Tips for Having a Fun, Sober Thanksgiving
The holidays are often synonymous with excess. We eat too much, we sleep too much, and some of us may overdo it with other indulgences.
Thanksgiving is, statistically speaking, the most dangerous time to be on the roads of the United States. Between the years 2012 and 2016, there were over 800 drunk driving fatalities during the days between Thanksgiving Eve and the following Monday.
But it’s not just dangerous from a vehicular standpoint; the holidays present temptations that lure us into old habits and new regrets. Addiction is a disease, and it must be treated with diligence and awareness in order to help us avoid the pitfalls of dangerous behavioral patterns.
By adopting new habits, we may be able to supplant unwelcome ones. The holidays should be a time for joyous celebration, so let’s count down five ways in which we can add merriment to the season without turning to drugs, alcohol, or other addictive crutches.
Preserving Tradition While Breaking with the Past
Thanksgiving is a time for heritage. We surround ourselves with loved ones, we rekindle rituals of years gone by, and we celebrate family traditions.
But sometimes, the concept of family itself can trigger substance use issues.
When a parent struggles with addiction, it has a ripple effect that resonates through subsequent generations. Their kids are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems as a way of coping with the situation at home, and this can lead to a sense of “inherited” addiction as a result. In fact, through a complex combination of nature and nurture, the children of alcoholic parents are four times as susceptible to becoming alcoholics themselves.
Unless, that is, the cycle is broken.
Just because it’s Thanksgiving, that doesn’t mean you are forced to subject yourself to abusive conditions. If your relatives make sobriety more difficult to sustain, then maybe you should avoid those relatives, at least in the scenarios that trigger your addictive behavior.
For example, if you traditionally follow Thanksgiving dinner by gathering in the living room and sharing a cocktail, you need to shift that paradigm. It’s possible to preserve the feeling of togetherness while ditching the alcoholic element of it. Solution: bring enough sparkling cider to serve everyone and toast to new beginnings. Congratulations, you have just started fresh, non-alcoholic ritual!
Dance the Calories Away
Now that dinner is over, you’re all fueled up for a great night! Shed those unwanted calories by grooving the night away. Not only is physical activity a great sober habit to develop, but dancing specifically offers many unique benefits:
- The rhythm of an extended dance session gets you out of your own rut and connects you to a shared experience.
- This has an anti-anxiety effect. When you are shedding your inhibitions on the floor, you breathe more regularly and focus on something other than the stressors that may drag you back to unwanted habits.
- Dancing releases endorphins, which produces a “natural high” – any time you can achieve a transcendent state of being without ingesting drugs or alcohol, it’s another reminder that sobriety is the right path for you (and no hangover – win-win)!
It’s All Fun & Games
Board games are a hallmark of many family gatherings. The camaraderie, the strategy, the taste of victory… nothing says Thanksgiving like a spirited spin on the wheel or roll of the dice.
But games are more than just a chance to avoid substance use; they provide an opportunity for team building and collaboration. When you work together for a common goal, you strengthen the bonds with others around the table. This sense of teamwork is essential when it comes to building the support system you need to continue down your road to recovery.
Get the Drop on Holiday Shopping
The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, so join the fun and get into the holiday spirit! By shifting your perspective away from your own personal cravings and toward the wishes of those on your shopping list, you gain an appreciation for their points of view. This is healthy in expanding your consciousness and considering how others cope with life without turning to substances for release.
Shopping is also a chance to peruse gifts that celebrate your newfound life path in funny, affirming, quirky ways. Congratulate others in your peer group for their achievements in recovery by sending out congratulatory cards. Or treat yourself to a sassy mug that exclaims just how empowered and independent you have become since you turned your back on addiction.
Give Back, Get Rewarded
The heart of Thanksgiving is spelled out in its very name. It is a chance to give thanks. We set aside this special holiday to articulate our appreciation for others, acknowledge their contributions to our lives, and ring in another chapter of togetherness and charity.
This last point bears repeating. Charity is the cornerstone of Thanksgiving, so harness your generosity and find a way to spread the proverbial love to those around you. In our Culver City community, for example, you could get involved with Project Chicken Soup, an organization that provides meals and hospitality to those living with cancer and HIV/AIDS. A bit closer to the shore, Westside Food Bank is proud to serve 4.5 million pounds of food every year to those in need.
These are just a few examples of great deeds happening all around you. Join a fun run, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or just coordinate a gathering of your friends for a good old fashioned gab session.
No matter how you choose to celebrate a sober Thanksgiving, it’s important to recognize your options. If you need help staying on track, our facilities are ready to welcome you with open arms, open hearts, and open ears. We’re ready to listen; all you need to do is give us a ring (but just don’t call us late for dinner)!
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.