For many of us, the holidays are a time of joyful celebration, spending time with family, and good food. But, if you don’t have that, holidays like Thanksgiving can leave you feeling lonely, bored, and sad. This is, in turn, a natural trigger for addiction, even if you’re in recovery.
You’ve probably heard terms like HALT, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired – four primary emotional triggers that make it more difficult to resist cravings. Being alone on Thanksgiving can trigger more than one of those, so it’s important that you take steps and preventive measures to protect your sobriety and ensure that you have things to do and reasons to say no when the chance to drink comes up.
The first and most important thing is that as a holiday, there will likely be alcohol everywhere. People will be drinking, and if you go out to a party or to a bar, you will likely end up drinking. Instead, consider some of these other steps which can help you to have a great holiday, while staying sober over Thanksgiving.
Go to Group Meetings
Whether you attend AA, SMART, or any of a number of other recover groups, holidays like Thanksgiving are a great time to attend. AA attendance gives you an outlet, people to talk to, and possibly even a Thanksgiving dinner with other sober people in recovery. Check with your local group, even if you’re not a member. You may be able to invite yourself as a guest, to experience what it’s like to participate in a sober meeting. In most cases, you can very easily check the roster, and fit yourself in. Most 12 step groups have more meetings and options on holidays, when people struggle more with addiction, so you can spend most or even all of the holidays in group.
Most importantly, you can participate in a social event, be part of something, and give yourself extra motivation to avoid relapse.
Giving back is an easy and rewarding way to motivate yourself to stay sober, and will keep you far away from the temptation to drink. Most importantly, there are a lot of options. You can choose to donate your time to soup and food kitchens, homeless shelters, sober events, your local 12-step group, and a plethora of other options. However, you should choose your options carefully. For example, some homeless kitchen staff will have alcohol, which may be too tempting, especially if you are tired after volunteering all night. If you do volunteer at a non-sober event, make sure you discuss your sobriety with management or peers before beginning work, so that you or they don’t slip up.
Attend a Sober Event
Most areas have some form of sober event, where sober individuals get together to enjoy Thanksgiving food and company without alcohol. If there isn’t one in your area, you may be able to organize one yourself. Apps like Meetup make it easy to find local sober events and meetups, which you can use to not only ensure that you’re spending your holiday without alcohol, but will also help you to meet new people and make friends.
Go Somewhere with Friends
Planning events and activities with sober friends is a great way to fill your Thanksgiving and ensure that you have fun without drinking. Most people enjoy hiking, fishing, having a dinner party, or playing games, and these kinds of events are easy and affordable to organize. Try asking around with your friends or at your 12-step group to see if anyone you know wants to do something over Thanksgiving.
Find a Sober Buddy
Whether a friend or sponsor from AA or a sober person, or just someone you trust, finding a sober buddy to talk to when you get cravings can be immensely helpful. For example, if you find yourself in the process of convincing yourself you need a drink, even just once, you can call your sober buddy and talk to them. Because most cravings only last an average of 15 minutes, chances are that by the time you’re done talking to them, you’ll be able to deal with the craving a lot more easily.
Create a Plan
No matter where you are, it’s important to have a plan to ensure that you can do something other than drink if you’re put into an uncomfortable solution. This means:
- Someone you can call to talk to
- A ride or a car you can leave with if you get uncomfortable
- The fact that if you’re uncomfortable or if there is alcohol, you can and should leave
- A list of triggers (Such as places, people, things) that make you want to drink
- People to spend time with
- Something to do
Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry, Tired, or Lonely
HALT and other emotional triggers are real, and they do make you more susceptible to triggers and cravings. It’s important that you pay attention to your body, your mood, and your energy levels to keep yourself in good condition, so that you don’t experience these triggers. This means eating regularly throughout the day, getting some exercise but not too much (hiking or walking is great), moving, spending time with friends or family, and going to social events.
When you get home, your plan should be to shower and go to bed, because if you stay up, you will likely get lonely which will make it more difficult to avoid triggers.
Spending the holidays by yourself can be difficult, especially if you’re accustomed to spending time with family, a spouse, or a partner. However, by planning your day, going to social events, and making time to help others and give back, your Thanksgiving can be rewarding and enjoyable – even if it’s your first without alcohol.
However, it might not be easy. Even if you’ve planned the whole day, you might still have to deal with feelings of resentment and loneliness. You might still feel like it’s a holiday and you’re not really enjoying it unless you’re drinking. And you might feel like you’re missing out. But, by maintaining your sobriety, you are working to protect your health, your friends, and everything you’ve fought for since getting sober and that’s worth a lot more than drinking.
If you or your loved one is struggling with alcohol or drugs, you can talk to us about addiction treatment programs at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs, contact us today. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.