10 Ways to Have a Sober Thanksgiving & Holidays

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Facing life’s everyday stressors can sometimes make it challenging to cultivate a sense of gratitude. This difficulty becomes particularly pronounced during Thanksgiving, which carries an inherent expectation of feeling thankful.

For individuals in early recovery from alcohol addiction, the concept of sober Thanksgiving holiday can bring added stress due to these expectations. Beyond this, it can trigger memories and temptations associated with their past addiction.

This guide highlights the following issues:

  • How to make the most of Thanksgiving in recovery.
  • How to stay sober during the holidays.
  • Recovery during the holidays: how to get help if you relapse.

10 Sober Holiday Tips

Staying sober during the holidays can be demanding – especially for those in the early stages of recovery – but with careful planning and self-care, it is entirely possible. Here are ten workable tips for staying sober during the holidays:

  1. Set clear boundaries: Establish boundaries for yourself and communicate them to friends and family if you struggle with addiction and the holidays. Let them know that you are committed to staying sober for the holidays, and kindly request their support.
  2. Plan sober activities: Enjoy sobriety during the holidays by organizing alcohol-free holiday activities and outings. Engaging in sober events can be enjoyable and fulfilling. Consider hosting a sober Thanksgiving dinner or a dry Thanksgiving party for those who share similar goals.
  3. Create a relapse prevention plan: Develop a relapse prevention plan with a therapist or counselor. Identify triggers and coping strategies to address challenging situations.
  4. Stay connected to support groups: Attend your regular support group meetings and consider increasing your attendance during the holidays for added encouragement.
  5. Bring a sober support buddy: Invite a sober friend to holiday gatherings. Having a supportive companion can provide strength and accountability.
  6. Avoid high-risk environments: Be cautious about attending parties or events where alcohol or drugs are prevalent. Prioritize your well-being over social obligations.
  7. Focus on self-care: Make time for self-care routines, including exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques, to manage stress effectively.
  8. Create new traditions: Establish new holiday traditions that do not revolve around addictive substances. Engage in activities that bring joy and meaning.
  9. Stay mindful of emotional triggers: Be aware of emotional triggers that can arise during the holidays. Reach out to a therapist or support network if needed.
  10. Gratitude and reflection: Embrace the spirit of gratitude and reflect on the positive changes that sobriety has brought to your life. Focus on the blessings of the season.

Remember that sobriety is a precious gift to yourself, and you have the strength to enjoy a fulfilling and sober holiday season. Prioritize your well-being, lean on your support network, and celebrate the holidays with a clear and sober mind.

image representing sober thanksgiving

Understanding Addiction Triggers During the Holidays

The holiday season can be rife with potential triggers for those in recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism. Recognizing these triggers can help you safeguard your sobriety. Here’s an overview of common addiction triggers during the holidays and how to manage them:

Stress and expectations

The pressure to create a perfect holiday experience can be overwhelming. Stress and unmet expectations can trigger the urge to use substances as a coping mechanism.

  • Management: Practice stress-reduction techniques, set realistic expectations, and remember that perfection is not the goal. Prioritize self-care to manage stress effectively.

Social pressure

Social gatherings often involve alcohol and other substances, making it tough to resist temptation when everyone around you is indulging.

  • Management: Communicate your sobriety boundaries to friends and family. Have a non-alcoholic drink in hand to deter offers of alcohol, and seek out sober-friendly events or gatherings.

Emotional triggers

The holiday season can bring up complex emotions, including loneliness, grief, or past traumas, which may trigger a desire to use substances as a way to cope.

  • Management: Reach out to a therapist or counselor to address underlying emotional triggers. Lean on your support network for emotional support and consider journaling to process your feelings.

Nostalgia and memories

The holidays often evoke nostalgia and memories, both positive and negative, which can intensify cravings for substances linked to past celebrations.

  • Management: Focus on creating new, sober holiday memories. Engage in activities that hold personal meaning and allow you to build positive associations with the season.

Accessibility of substances

The prevalence of alcohol and drugs at holiday events increases the accessibility of these substances, making it easier to relapse.

  • Management: Choose events wisely, attend sober gatherings when possible, and have a plan to exit situations where substances are readily available.

Seasonal triggers

The cold weather, reduced daylight hours, and changes in routine that accompany the holiday season can impact mood and contribute to cravings.

  • Management: Combat seasonal triggers with a consistent daily routine, regular exercise, exposure to natural light, and practicing mindfulness to stay grounded.

Financial stress

The financial strain of holiday expenses can create anxiety and pressure, potentially triggering the desire to self-soothe with substances.

  • Management: Create a budget and stick to it. Focus on non-material aspects of the season, such as spending quality time with loved ones.

Understanding these common triggers and implementing proactive coping strategies can empower you to navigate the holidays with resilience and maintain your hard-earned sobriety. Don’t hesitate to seek professional support if you find yourself struggling with these triggers or feeling overwhelmed during this time of year.

Recipes for Holiday Mocktails

Stuck for non-alcoholic drink ideas? Browse these Thanksgiving-themed and alcohol-free holiday mocktails for some immediate inspiration:

  1. Sparkling Ginger Cranberry Mocktail
  2. Grapefruit Evergreen Mocktail
  3. Sparkling Citrus Mocktail
  4. Cinnamon Apple Cider Spritzer
  5. Non-Alcoholic Chocolate Martini
A woman sits looking out at a sunset to represent staying sober during the holidays treatment in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Get Help with Staying Sober During the Holidays at Ohio Recovery Centers

If you or someone that you love requires help with sober living during the holidays, place your trust in Ohio Recovery Centers. We specialize in treating all types of addictions in an outpatient setting, allowing you to kickstart your recovery while fulfilling your daily commitments.

Choose from one of the following programs at our Cincinnati rehab:

  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Outpatient program

All Ohio Recovery Centers treatment programs utilize holistic, behavioral, and pharmacological therapies for a whole-body approach to addiction recovery. All programs include a comprehensive aftercare component to maximize your chances of achieving sustained sober living throughout the holidays and beyond.

When you are ready to live unconstrained by substance use disorder, call admissions at 877-679-2132 for immediate assistance.

Table of Contents

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn