Sober Holidays: 10 Tips for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving marks the start of the holidays — a time for family, happiness, and celebration. It’s also an occasion where you’ll likely find yourself around a bunch of people drinking to excess. With how much work you’ve done and how healthy you’ve become, you may or may not be concerned about this, but it is always good to live at cause and be prepared. Here are 10 time-tested tips from the staff at Tree House that you can use to strengthen your sobriety and enjoy Thanksgiving. 

  •  Perspective:

Remember that your perspective determines your reality. Look at Thanksgiving as a chance to flex your sober muscles and prove to yourself that you can enjoy and thrive in situations where other people are drinking. 

  •  Practice Self-Care Before & After the Feast:

Get in a workout beforehand. A thanksgiving feast is always amazing but becomes even more so when you earn it. And training before the big day and after is an amazing way to get those gains in the gym. 

At its heart, sobriety is an intentional act of self-care just like exercise. So remind yourself when you’re working out that you are doing it because you love yourself, do the same when you down all those amazing calories, and again when you train the day after the big meal. Intentional actions of self-love will help to keep you healthy and sober. 

  • Celebrate What You Have:

When we are stressed it becomes so easy to get hypnotized by the noise inside our head and lose focus on what we have. Try painting, drawing, or writing out what you’ve achieved since you’ve become sober, what you have that you lacked before, or the infinite possibilities ahead. Then treat yourself to something you’d enjoy and appreciate your life. Take a bike ride, go to a movie, get a massage, etc. 

  • Be Grateful For Others: 

Consider for a moment how lucky you are to have this great food and people who have supported you. Look around you and focus on the people around you. Tell one of these people that you appreciate them — pay them a genuine compliment. If you aren’t physically there with them, then pick up the phone or write them a letter. 

“Think of thanksgiving for what it is, a time to remember what you’re grateful for. Gratitude is a state of being, a readiness to show thanks. By staying in this state of being I find myself elated, filled with love and with no desire to escape or run away from my reality. Gratitude pulls others closer to us, reminds us of the simple beauty in life and ultimately leads to a sense of peace. Stay in a state of gratitude, tell everyone you know how much you appreciate them, be sincere, and watch how easy it is to stay healthy, clear-headed, and ultimately sober.” — Justin McMillen (Tree House Recovery Founder).

  • Bring Your Sober Pride:

There is no shame in being sober, or in not drinking. You’re making a healthy choice for your body and your mind so be proud of your decision. That doesn’t mean you need to make a big announcement about your sobriety when you arrive or make it the first thing you tell anyone you meet. It means that you should never feel embarrassed. You are not your addiction. 

  • Volunteer:

We have all been helped by someone in life. Now that you are healthy and strong, you can do the same thing for someone else. So spend this Thanksgiving being that person for someone who needs it. Not only is helping those in need a very rewarding feeling, but it provides a temptation-free environment. Try:

    • Volunteering at a detox center like Charle Street in Orange County.   
    • Delivering food with Meals on Wheels. 
    • Serving food or helping out at a local church.
    • Helping others with the Salvation Army.
    • Stopping by a local veteran’s association, homeless shelter, senior center, or hospital to spend time with others.  
    • Making some food for people who have to work on Thanksgiving (police, firefighters, paramedics, or animal-shelter staff).  
    • Going to volunteermatch.org for other volunteer opportunities. It can match you to events based on your interests and location. 
  • Bring Your Favorite Non-Alcoholic Beverage:

If you’re not hosting then you’re likely planning to celebrate Thanksgiving at your friend’s or family’s house, where there will be alcohol. So stop by the supermarket and pick up a non-alcoholic drink for yourself to enjoy at the party. You might be surprised by how many other people will choose this over alcohol as well. 

  • Arrive Fashionably Late and Help Cook/Clean:

Most Thanksgiving celebrations have a lot of idle “drinking” time while the host finishes preparing the food or after everybody has eaten. If you have a few sober thanksgivings under your belt (pun intended) this may not bother you. But if it does, you can always arrive late (cook some food of your own at home and bring it) or help tidy up after dinner. You can help out, talk with the host, and avoid temptation. 

  • Host Your Own Thanksgiving:

If you’re nervous about being the only person not drinking then don’t be the only one. Host your own thanksgiving and invite some sober friends or people you’ve met in recovery. Cut down the stress by having guests bring some food to share family style. 

  • Prepare Ways to Turn Down Drinks:

It’s okay if you don’t feel ready to tell everyone you’re with on Thanksgiving that you’re sober. Especially if it’s your first sober Thanksgiving. But think of some replies in case people offer you alcohol, make you a drink, or ask why you’re drinking water.  For instance, you could say “I’m training and don’t want to drink” or “I’m pretty health conscious so I don’t drink” which shuts the door on the offer with an honest response. 

No matter what you decide to do, the most important thing to remember is to do whatever helps you stay sober and enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday.


Tree House Recovery is an innovative treatment center in Orange County. Our holistic approach is designed to optimize you physically, mentally, and socially so that you feel better than ever. Our clients leave with little to no cravings, healthy social networks, a positive perspective, and are in the best physical shape of their lives. To learn more call 855-202-2138, email [email protected], or click the black icon below. 

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