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Thanksgiving Traditions That Work For Me

17 November 2016 Written by 

The holidays are full of traditions and rituals. Often these give our lives a sense of peace and security, but sometimes they add to our stress and anxiety. For me that is true of having everyone eat at my home. If I host Thanksgiving  I can feel trapped by family members who may be affected by their substance use disorder that day. My anxiety and stress build up just worrying about how I am going to handle the situation if one of my sons shows up under the influence or become intoxicated while at my house. Seeing my children drunk triggers many unhappy memories of past Thanksgivings where my husband would become intoxicated and begin yelling at me for no reason.

 I have decided the best thing to do is to have a neutral place for our family get together so I can leave if needed. I am not judging my adult children I am only keeping myself safe because that is my responsibility.  

In the past before I learned about having choices I would simply grin and bear whatever occurred. I would grumble as I cooked and prepared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that everyone expected, being sure to cook everyone’s favorite dish. My codependency seemed to come out full force during the holiday season. Often there would be arguing as the alcohol would begin to be consumered and someone would inevitably leave in tears after an unkind word was said. I would end up washing the dishes alone and feeling resentful after serving so many people, only to feel trapped in my own house.

With many 24 hours of recovery behind me I have learned to enjoy Thanksgiving. It may look completely different from other families' traditions, but it works for me.  We still working out the details for this year's celebration. While I wait, I create my own recipe for a successful Thanksgiving using the slogans of recovery.:  

I Let go And Let God

My Higher Power knows the perfect place for my family to get together and give thanks this year. I simple let go and see what happens. This year my youngest daughter decided she wanted to host the family. Last year her sister hosted. I support them, but it is their show and I tell them often how much I appreciate them opening their home to the family. I remind myself I am a guest in their home and act accordingly. I let go of my sense of control and focus instead of how proud I am to see them putting together their own Thanksgiving. I tell myself everything is going according to plan, it just isn't my plan.

I Don’t Force A Solution

While it is tempting for me to make a reservation at a restaurant and control every aspect of my family's Thanksgiving I want to be able to leave if I need to escape bad behavior and keep myself safe. By not forcing a solution I am able to see what others can come up with. So often in the past I forced what I thought was best on everyone. This would simple add fuel to the already tense atmosphere. When I go with the flow by not forcing a solution I am able to stay out of the drama. My day stays serene and I am able to offer bits of ideas that the hostess may or may not use. I am good either way.

 I Keep It Simple

I only offer to bring dishes I am comfortable making. I try not to change the recipe either because my children like their food exactly as they remember it. I don’t make healthier versions of their favorite dishes. I don't stress over whether anyone will like what I made. By keeping it simple I allow myself room to breathe and enjoy what others bring.

I Do The Next Right Thing

On Thanksgiving Day there can be a little confusion about what is happening especially if we are in a new environment with new people. I keep my serenity by doing the next right things whether that is washing a dish or walking a dog. I keep myself focused on what the next right thing for me is. Perhaps I need to go for a walk to get away from the noise or share a happy memory about their father who passed away 7 years ago from the disease of alcohol use disorder (formerly alcoholism.) I am sure to stay present so I do what is the best thing for me.

Maybe this Thanksgiving will be a disaster with a burnt turkey and tears over hurt feelings again. Using my recovery tools I know it will be within my control to make it the best Thanksgiving ever for me.

A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By Madeline Schloop

Read 1107 times Last modified on Monday, 28 November 2016 16:42
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Madeline Schloop

Madeline is the widow of a man who died of alcoholism and the mother of 5 young adults whom she parents with the tools of Al-Anon. Her children continue to be affected by the disease of alcoholism. Her stories  deal with life's daily trials and what has and hasn't worked.
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