Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for family and friends to gather and share delicious food and happy memories. However, it’s also a time where alcohol consumption runs higher than usual. It has become so rampant that states like Pennsylvania are cracking down on reducing alcohol-related accidents, with the years 2016 to 2020 seeing 138 DUI-related (driving under the influence) accidents due to alcohol intoxication. 

This can make Thanksgiving sound scary for those recovering from alcohol abuse. On the contrary, Thanksgiving shouldn’t be intimidating but exciting for those in recovery. 

Here’s how: 

What is Thanksgiving? 

Thanksgiving is a holiday that is dedicated to celebrating a good harvest for the year. People usually celebrate the event by preparing meals like turkey, fruits, vegetables, and grain-based foods. 

Like many other holidays, Thanksgiving is seen by many people as an opportunity to drink alcohol. For those recovering from alcohol dependence, this can make Thanksgiving pretty intimidating. 

They may be afraid of accidentally drinking a beverage that turns out to have traces of alcohol. Plus, it can discourage them from going to social gatherings and parties out of fear of missing out when everyone else is drinking alcohol. 

Thus, instead of being a wholesome holiday, Thanksgiving can become a challenging time for recovering alcohol abuse patients. However, this shouldn’t be so – the essence of Thanksgiving is not about drinking alcohol. It’s about being grateful for what we have and expressing our hopes for fortune in the future. 

In fact, Thanksgiving is an incredible opportunity to help recover from co-occurring alcohol and mental health issues. It’s just a matter of perspective and surrounding yourself with the right people to celebrate it with. 

How can Thanksgiving help with your mental health? 

Gratitude, unity, and hope are some of the values that we’re reminded of as we celebrate Thanksgiving. The best example of how these values manifest is the fact that we’re always with our loved ones during the holiday. 

One of the most common images that come to mind when thinking about Thanksgiving is a family on a table eating a roasted turkey together. It may seem like a simplistic reduction of what Thanksgiving is about. Yet, it also accurately represents part of what Thanksgiving is about: sharing happiness with each other. 

Altogether, this happiness comes in three ways: 

  • Eating the delicious food on the table 
  • Spending time with your friends and family 
  • Recalling the happy memories that you have together 

These make up the experience of celebrating Thanksgiving — no alcohol necessary.  

Seeing it this way, Thanksgiving sounds like an incredible time for those recovering from alcohol dependence. 

One of the key aspects of recovery is to eliminate the unhealthy positive association that your brain perceives with alcohol. Rather than seeing alcohol as the only way to achieve happiness, you’ll eventually see ways to be happy that are also healthy at the same time. 

Thanksgiving helps tremendously in this by giving you opportunities to: 

  • Strengthen relationships. Acknowledging the people that appreciate your existence is a massive step towards sobriety. 
  • Remember the positive aspects of life. The good people, food, and laughs you share on the table will show you that happiness without alcohol is possible (and better). 
  • Be more hopeful of the future. Alcohol wasn’t there when you were born, but your family and friends were, and you made wonderful memories with them. Besides reminiscing on the past, this makes you realize that a happy future is possible beyond alcohol. 

Tips for celebrating Thanksgiving in recovery 

With all that said, the challenge still remains: how can you celebrate Thanksgiving while recovering from alcohol dependence? 

There are actually numerous ways to celebrate Thanksgiving, and these all entail participating actively in the celebration. Of course, these are also all while avoiding alcohol. 

Here are some tips for celebrating Thanksgiving in recovery: 

  • Stay with family and friends who support your recovery. These people are the key to helping you make the most out of Thanksgiving. Their support means that they value your well-being, which makes their presence valuable not only during the holiday but for life. 
  • Maintain your distance from people who are otherwise unsupportive. Admittedly, some of your loved ones may be indifferent to your recovery. Whatever their reason may be, it may be best to celebrate Thanksgiving without them. Express what you feel about their lack of support, that you want to retain a good relationship with them still and that you would prefer to celebrate Thanksgiving with the right people. 
  • Join in the cooking. With a lot of food comes a lot of preparation. Even if you’re not quite skilled in cooking, you can do simple tasks like cutting up the ingredients or even washing the dishes. This establishes a sense of unity with your loved ones, because you’re all acting towards the same goal. 
  • Plan fun group activities. Play games, watch a movie, have a road trip — these are some of the ways you can express gratitude for your loved ones sticking with you until the end. 
  • Take pictures and videos of the celebration. Thanksgiving isn’t an annual holiday, but a reminder to be thankful. And what better way to remember the good memories of celebrating Thanksgiving than memorializing them through videos and pictures? 

What about Black Friday? 

For many people, one of the most exciting aspects of Thanksgiving is Black Friday. The massive product deals that stores and malls put up can make nearly everyone want to wait in line. 

At first, this may seem like a good time for recovering alcohol patients. After all, the feeling of getting what you want at a huge discount feels extremely rewarding. 

However, it’s a different experience for everyone, as Black Friday usually experiences a lot of physical injuries due to the rush of other people getting to the items that they want. 

It is still possible to make the most out of the sales, though it’s best to do it safely. Here are two ways you can celebrate Black Friday while in recovery: 

  1. Go online shopping. Some ecommerce platforms and online stores offer massive discounts during Black Friday. While there’s still a chance that you won’t get what you want, at least you’ll still be in the safety of your home. 
  2. Ask a loved one to get your desired products for you. This only works if you do have a family member or friend who will actively participate in the sales. 

Celebrate Thanksgiving in recovery with California Recovery Center on speed dial 

Thanksgiving is an excellent opportunity for recovering substance abuse patients to reinforce relationships, recall happy memories, and speed up their recovery. However, it still poses risks and challenges that you need to anticipate ahead of time to avoid curbing your recovery or falling into relapse. 

No matter the holiday, it’s always best to keep a recovery center on speed dial in case you accidentally consume alcohol. Here at California Recovery Center, we firmly believe in the power of holidays in substance abuse recovery. At the same time, we also acknowledge its risks. If you feel that you’re at risk of consuming alcohol or any other substance while recovering in Thanksgiving, feel free to reach out to us at (866) 864-1986. 

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