Life would be considerably easier if our feelings, emotions, thoughts, pasts, futures, and any other potentially disruptive issues in our minds adhered to a schedule of our own dictation. Unfortunately, life doesn’t take holiday breaks, even though holiday breaks are a big part of our lives. Though we get the day off from work, school, and other outside obligations, we don’t get the day off from our internal obligations to our sanity, serenity, and recovery. Living in recovery can mean that our internal obligations make particular demands which arise in the form of particular challenges, even on holidays.
Thanksgiving Can Be Triggering
Through recovery, we gain an ever growing set of skills to help us prepare to cope with our feelings by identifying, understanding, and learning how to cope with all kinds of triggers. For a variety of reasons, the holidays at the end of the year can be especially triggering, starting with Thanksgiving.
On the surface, there “shouldn’t” be anything triggering about a holiday which is supposed to celebrate coming together, family, gratitude, and thankfulness. However, the traditions of Thanksgiving have been usurped overtime by a “Hallmark” perception- that everything should look perfect, taste perfect, be perfect, and go perfectly. Everyone in attendance to a Thanksgiving dinner should act perfect. Every conversation among Thanksgiving attendees should go perfectly- like a picture perfect “Hallmark” card.
Perfection, as we come to understand through recovery, is a delusional ideal which tends to cause little but pain, suffering, and grave disappointment. When our expectations are set too high on ourselves and on others, we can take every little threat to perfection as a grave disaster, causing ourselves tremendous tension and anxiety, even depression or cravings to engage in harmful behaviors to cope with the pressure.
The hope of a perfect, uneventful Thanksgiving dinner is just one of many triggers which come with the holiday. Depending on who we are, what we have been through, and what exactly we are in recovery from, Thanksgiving can be triggering to our:
- Eating Disorders: With the “cornucopia” flowing, Thanksgiving is usually associated with binge eating behaviors. The courses of a Thanksgiving dinner differ from one family to the next, but can include copious amounts of potentially “triggering” foods for those who are recovering from eating disorders. Because of the stigma and stereotype associated with disordered eating issues, we can feel pressured to eat too much, or feel ridiculed for not eating enough. As people around the table comment on weight, their eating, and how they’ll have to cope with their eating, it is easy to feel uncomfortable. Unless our family has a rich understanding of our eating disorder issue, we might feel alone in our discomfort and have little support.
- Anxiety Disorders: From the pressure of a perfect holiday to the stress of social interactions with many different people, familiar family, or unfamiliar strangers, it is easy for anxiety to spike during Thanksgiving.
- Depression Disorders: Feeling depressed on a holiday “meant” to be filled with gratitude and joy can be upsetting and cause someone recovering from depression to sink even more deeply into their depression symptoms.
- PTSD or related Trauma issues: Trauma is often kept a secret for many years. Toxic family dynamics which are unknown to others can be traumatizing in and of themselves. Specific traumas may have occurred between ourselves and family members or ourselves and family friends which have been kept a secret. Having to be around people who have caused us harm is understandably triggering.
- Alcohol Use Disorder/Substance Use Disorder: Wine, beer, and liquor are common accompaniments to the Thanksgiving celebration. In a world where substance use is becoming increasingly common, we might find family members under the influence, offering us drugs, or urging us to have “just one” of something. Despite our solid foundation of recovery and our desire to stay sober, it can still be uncomfortable and frustrating to deal with other people’s substance abuse on a holiday.
Living In Recovery Means Living In Self-Care
Living in recovery gives us the tools we need to take care of ourselves in all situations. We might think that having to “survive” Thanksgiving sounds a bit drastic, but when our “fight or flight” response is being activated because someone or something is triggering us, survival mode is exactly where we find ourselves.
Surviving holidays like Thanksgiving means picking up and using the tools of our recovery. We make sure we:
- Get enough sleep
- Practice our meditation
- Take breaks away from the hustle and bustle
- Stick to our normal recovery routine as much as possible, including exercise, support meetings, talking to a therapist, sponsor, or mentor
- Talk to our friends in recovery and stay accountable to one another
- Show up for our families and friends the best we can, get involved, help with dinner, and participate in plans
- Know that we have the right to excuse ourselves and leave if need be
We Don’t Have To Do It Alone
Humility is one of our greatest lessons in recovery because it teaches to remember that we’re only human and we can’t do it all on our own. More importantly, we’re reminded to be teachable- meaning, that the guidance and support of someone else can help us get through. A Thanksgiving season might be too much for us in too many different ways, that’s okay for us to admit. If we think we might be at risk for relapsing, acting out, or harming our recovery in any way, we can turn to professionals like the dynamic team at Hired Power who offer recovery services designed to support us and ensure that we never stand alone in the face of life’s challenges.
- If we don’t think we can safely travel to or from our Thanksgiving destination, we can enlist the accountability and solidarity of a Safe Passage Transport in which a certified Personal Recovery Assistant or a Sober Escort will accompany us on our travels, talk us through our concerns, and help us stick to our path of recovery.
- As someone in recovery, its easy to feel isolated at the Thanksgiving table, even with friends and family around. Having someone there to stand by us, who understands recovery and understands the pressure of Thanksgiving is priceless. A Hired Power Professional Recovery Assistant or a certified Sober Companion can help us feel more comfortable during the holiday.
- If we’re in our first year of recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, it helps us to know we are staying accountable to someone other than our friends and family on Thanksgiving. By signing up with the Monitoring Services program, we can know we’ll be in close contact with our Care Manager, be required to provide a breathalyzer test which will give real-time results, and can even schedule a drug test at a nearby lab.
Hired Power knows what it takes to stay sober and maintain recovery. Our recovery services are designed with two key goals in mind: to help you stay on the path of recovery and make sure that you can bring recovery home. With a team of experienced professionals with unmatched passions, you can feel secure knowing you’re never alone. We’re here to stand by you.