As Thanksgiving arrives, along with all the other winter celebrations, individuals in recovery may experience additional stress. Family gatherings, the availability of alcohol at parties and re-connecting with people who may be associated with substance use can present challenges for someone celebrating Thanksgiving in recovery. However, holidays also bring the opportunity to appreciate how much you have changed and how lucky you are to have a support system to help restore your life.
Thanksgiving in Recovery: What Are You Grateful for?
People sometimes fail to appreciate the progress they have made since their days of addiction. Even if your progress has not been perfect, individuals can take pride in sticking with their programs, implementing the new strategies they have learned and relying on others who can support their recovery. Even the smallest steps can be celebrated and be a cause for profound gratitude on the road to sobriety.
Individuals who have succeeded in overcoming addiction understand that nothing can be taken for granted. Their daily efforts have a cumulative effect that moves them continuously toward success.
Addiction Recovery and the Holidays
During the holidays, individuals may be flooded with memories of the past, old associations and feelings that can make them feel discouraged with their present efforts. But holidays are also times that are special for families, and those in recovery can be grateful for having the chance to give their loved ones the gift of their recovery.
Thanksgiving can be particularly meaningful to families who are getting another chance to be together. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving in recovery, be grateful for this second chance, not only on your own behalf, but also understand its importance to the people that love you. Be open with family members about what you’re doing and be ready to accept the help and special accommodation you may need to feel comfortable.1
Self-Care and the Holidays
Individuals in recovery can benefit from making this period a special time for self-care. They should actively follow the recommended strategies for ensuring good physical and mental health in recovery:
- Maintain a healthy diet – Resist the urge to overindulge in food and sweets that are available.
- Don’t get too busy to exercise – Physical workouts can help you maintain a good frame of mind during stressful holiday events.
- Avoid triggers for substance use – If certain people trigger negative emotions and increase the potential for a relapse, avoid interacting.
- Let go of resentments – Negative feelings can arise, even in the best of circumstances. Utilize your spiritual understanding and positive thinking to let go of old resentments and work toward looking at life in a different way.2
- Focus on others – Offer to help your host. Spend some time with elderly family members or entertain the children. Make the holiday about other people, not about you.
- Attend support group meetings – Don’t overlook the need for a supportive structure that can help you withstand the strong emotions that come with holiday celebrations.
It’s easy to become discouraged in recovery when plans you’ve made for rebuilding your life take longer than expected or when you feel you will never be free of cravings that have dominated your life. If you maintain a sense of gratitude for even the smallest improvements, you will be better able to build on your success with a sense of hope and a positive frame of mind.