Alcohol flows freely during the holidays. If you’re sober, there are some simple tips and tricks that can help you survive and thrive at Thanksgiving.

Celebrating Thanksgiving without alcohol can be a terrifying concept, especially for those who may be newly sober. You may find yourself with the following questions floating around your mind as you approach the holidays: How will I fill my free time? What will my family members think? What will I drink while everyone else consumes alcohol? How will I make it through without drinking?

With a little planning and some thought, the holidays don’t have to be a stress-inducing time for those of us who are sober. This will be my fourth sober holiday season, and I have found there are some tips and tricks that can be very helpful when it comes to making it through. Feel free to take them or leave them, but this is what has worked for me.

Make sure someone at Thanksgiving knows you have stopped drinking

Though you may not be comfortable telling everyone right away, it may help to have someone else to help hold you accountable. If you don’t tell anyone you’ve stopped drinking alcohol, then no one will think anything of it if you pick up a beer or pour a glass of wine. But if you have a trusted person present that knows about your choice, you may find yourself thinking twice before picking up a drink. And, if you do slip and pick one up, they may be able to remind you why you stopped in the first place.

Have a plan for your beverages

I tend to have a pity party when everyone around me is drinking alcohol, and I am the odd one out with my lame glass of water. So now, when I know this will likely be the case, I make sure to have something on hand that I will enjoy drinking. This may mean looking up a mocktail recipe (i.e. a cocktail with no alcohol) or simply making sure that someone is bringing soda or juice. I find that when I have something in my hand besides water, I feel more included and less envious of those around me.

Have your own transportation

If Thanksgiving turns into a boozefest, as it can at for some families,  you need to be able to safely leave when you want. This doesn’t mean you have to drive your own car. With ride-sharing apps and taxis, it can be very inexpensive to hail your own ride home. Feeling trapped can increase stress and could trigger a relapse.

If Thanksgiving includes traveling, look up meetings where you will be

Though 12-step meetings are not for everyone, it can be a comfort to know where a meeting will be held should you end up feeling like you need one. Unfamiliar places can be stressful, and having a plan ahead of time can help limit such stress. Simply Googling “Find a 12-step meeting in _______” will usually turn up some solid results. Attending a meeting can be a great way to take some time for yourself and to take a break.

Have a plan for dealing with cravings

If there is a family member you can talk to at your Thanksgiving celebration, that’s great. If not, have a plan for how you are going to cope should the cravings become strong. This may mean calling a sponsor, or a close friend who knows you are sober and can remind you why you made that choice. This plan may also include going to a 12-step meeting, taking a walk, getting some exercise or taking part in an activity that can help distract you from your cravings.

Keep inspiration at fingertips

One of my favorite ways to remind myself why I am sober is to visit my Pinterest board called “recovery.” This is where I have saved many quotes that remind me of the consequences I faced in active addiction, why I am on this journey, and why I need to keep going. I find that just reading these words alone calms me most of the time. If you find comfort in a book, like the AA big book, highlight and mark it up and bring it along to Thanksgiving.

Bring a journal

I find that one of the best ways to make sense of my feelings and to understand why I feel the way that I do is to write about it. Simply sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind is a very therapeutic activity, and can go a long way when it comes to maintaining sobriety. Bringing along a pen and a notebook is an easy task and can end up saving you a lot of headache during the holidays. If you need to, take 10 minutes, go to an empty room and just write. You’ll likely walk away feeling more at ease and sure of your choice to remain sober.

Remind yourself that sobriety happens one day at a time

If you are feeling particularly sorry for yourself over Thanksgiving, just remind yourself that, like every other day of your sobriety, you only have to make it through one day without a drink. That makes it seem like a much more manageable task.

Be thankful

Being grateful is a huge part of sustained sobriety. Getting sober and staying sober offers us so many opportunities that we missed out on when we were drinking. Remember what not drinking has given you, and embrace an attitude of gratitude going into the holidays.

With a plan in place, you can head into Thanksgiving feeling confident about your sobriety. In the past four years, I’ve learned that I can still enjoy the holidays without drinking alcohol. In fact, not including alcohol in the equation makes them even more enjoyable because you are able to be fully present and grateful for the day.

a woman in a black top smiling at the camera.
By – Beth Leipholtz
Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. She enjoys writing about her recovery and the realities of getting sober young on her blog, Life To Be Continued, and as a contributing author for The Recovery Village. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for updates. Read more
a woman wearing glasses and a black shirt.
Editor – Gretchen Koebbe
Gretchen Koebbe is a writing and reading specialist based out of Detroit. Read more
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