How to Survive Thanksgiving When You’re Sober

What you should focus on instead.

It’s that time of year, folks! It’s the most stressful time of the year and it’s also during a pandemic. Whether you’re able to visit family, or you’ve decided to quarantine yourself for the holidays, it can still be a time where your sobriety is the most vulnerable. We tend to associate celebrations and holidays with alcohol, so the absence of that is prevalent.

Here are some tips so that you can survive this Thanksgiving both stress free and sober.

Be selfish

One of the biggest triggers for drinking is the holiday season. You’re having to deal with a lot of stress in planning travel, seeing your extended family, and everything that has to still get done around all of that.

The only way I’d get through family holidays would be to be tispy throughout most of it so it was the first trigger I needed to remove from my life. It felt selfish to me to me at first to cancel but sobriety is hard enough on its own without introducing more stress. And it worked, I did not see family last year and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. I stayed sober, I drank mocktails, and I was significantly less stressed.

So be selfish. Your sobriety is about you, so it makes sense to think only about yourself. With the pandemic, it’s easy mode for canceling this year so you don’t have to deal with all of the explanations. Especially if you’re in the US, we’re still dealing with a lot of Covid-19 cases so it makes sense to keep things to your normal household for now.

Make fancy mocktails

Ads everywhere from Podcasts to TV are talking about what kind of alcohol you need to pair with your Thanksgiving meal. The advertisements are making it even seem like it’d be a faux pas to not have different types for the different milestones of the meal like the appetizers or the dessert.

It can feel a little out of place to be the only one sipping on water while everyone is enjoying a glass of wine but don’t worry! Just because you’re sober doesn’t mean that you can’t have a fancy drink yourself.

For the appetizers/before meal:

Lighter drinks would be preferable before a meal as Thanksgiving is a doozy and you can always make a mix that people who drink can just add alcohol to.

Some examples I’ve tried that are actually really great are: this apple moscow mule and a cranberry mocktail from Total Wine and More’s website.

During the meal:

Total Wine and More is my go-to for non-alcoholic beer and wine because they have a huge variety.

You can find a list of their non-alcoholic options here and I’d recommend the Rondel sparkling wine.

After the meal/dessert:

These do end up being almost like desserts themselves but this non-alcoholic mulled wine and this apple cider are two drinks that you’ll want to simmer on the stove while eating and you can enjoy them during dessert or just dealing with the bloat of Thanksgiving.

Write down what you’re grateful for

This is a great time to take a step back and focus on what you’re grateful for and what this holiday has evolved to be about — family, giving thanks, and connection. It’s not about drinking, talking politics, or free food.

Take some time to write down a few things that you’re grateful for and maybe even make it a tradition to go around the table, saying what everyone’s glad to have in their lives.

Some examples from me would be:


-I have a job in this pandemic

-My pets

You don’t have to do a traditional Thanksgiving

This one is hard for me because I genuinely love all of the food served during Thanksgiving and it’s one of my favorite meals but you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.

No one is forcing you to do it and if you don’t even like the traditional foods, it’s easier now more than ever to have something else. You could easily just take a rest day and spend the day doing anything- anything other than cooking in the kitchen for hours on what might be your only day off.

Or, you could make new traditions with food and have something completely different. Maybe you want to make a feast from another culture, or maybe you want to have pizza and wings while watching TV. No one is going to come check out your house to confirm you’re eating the more “traditional” foods, you can easily order out even. You can use your sobriety as a way to start new traditions.

We can get stuck in the idea that whatever we have been doing for Thanksgiving before is the norm but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of accepting that the holidays are stressful, take a step back and use this opportunity to relax with friends and family (socially distanced of course). I know it’s easier said than done, but the holidays don’t have to be a trigger. We can change the narrative, one less drink at a time.

Austin,Texas sober girl. Lover of horror movies, cats, and fitness. Occasional bad poet.

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