Despite it being "the most wonderful time of the year", the holidays can be tough, especially for those of us with Substance Use Disorders or Eating Disorders. After making it through quite a few sober and eating disorder symptom free holiday meals, and supporting hundreds of women through them, I've compiled a list of my best tips that I myself have used as well as my clients. Enjoy and happy holidays!
5 Tips for Sober Thanksgiving
1. 📝Create a plan! If you aren’t hosting, see if you can drive by yourself or with someone who knows your situation. That way, if you get triggered or things get tricky, you can make a getaway! ⠀
2. 📚If you find support at 12 step meetings, see if you can go to a meeting at some point during the day. Or some people find “bookending” helpful. Go to one before and after the meal to enhance your plan! Many 12 step fellowships have meetings every hour on holidays.⠀ .
3. 🙋♀️Tell someone! Even if you don’t want to tell your whole family you aren’t drinking, see if you can tell one person who is coming with you so they can support you, whether that’s leaving with you or pulling you away from a dunk uncle asking questions! ⠀
4. 🥤Bring something fun to drink! People ask less questions if you are super excited about the new flavor of La Croix you brought with you! Or if you feel inspired you could make a fun mocktail for yourself so you feel less like you are missing out. ⠀
Note- with this one, having mocktails can be tricky if you are trying to pretend you’re drinking or making it similar to a cocktails. It’s also risky to have a mocktail that looks like a drink everyone else is having bc you could pick up the wrong drink! Check yo’self and check your motives!
5. 🙋♀️Safety first! For some of us, if our family drinks an unhealthy amount, or there is significant family strain, thanksgiving with may be straight up unsafe in early sobriety. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, say no, and create/ attend your own thanksgiving with your own people! There’s no shame in protecting yourself and your sobriety, even if it some people don’t understand it.
5 Tips to stay Eating Disorder Free on Thanksgiving
1. Reduce overwhelm! ⠀
For my ED friends, the sheer volume of food can be overwhelming. See if you can have a friend make a plate for you rather than serving yourself to avoid obsessing or analyzing 🤯about food and what to eat. ⠀
2. Try a buffet!⠀
Okay normally, buffets are overwhelming for those of us with EDs, but at family dinners, encouraging your family to setup a buffet rather than eating family style can actually be helpful! This way, you won’t have to stare at the food the whole meal.⠀
3. Say grace!⠀
No need for it to be religious, no need to even have your family to do it with you, but taking a moment to pause before the meal 🥘 reduces #anxiety and encourage you to eat more mindfully!⠀
4. Eat normal meals on Thursday ⠀
This is a big one! I’m sure you’ve heard it before, starving yourself the day of a big meal or the day before only sets yourself up for disaster! Also if possible, see if your family can have a the meal at lunch or dinner time versus 2-4pm which can put you in a gray area for meals! ⠀
5. Plan something to do after the meal⠀
When I was in early #edrecovery my family had a ritual of going to the movies after dinner! It was a great thing to do to distract me after a hard meal and also get out of the house and remind us that thanksgiving is just a meal rather than an entire overwhelming event. Go for a walk, head to a friends house, play a board game! Take the focus off the food and get connected with loved ones! ⠀
Hope you enjoy this list and feel free to comment below with your best tips!
I've been typing and deleting and trying to muster up the courage to write this post for the last 24 hours. Its so clear to me how important it is to write this post, and yet, like everyone, I hate vulnerability and recoil from it like a hot flame. Must look good, must not embarrass oneself or others, must not cause a commotion, what if people identify who it is? are just a few sentences that run through my head in attempts to not post.
But screw it. Here we go. Nine years ago I was raped. I was at a party and was very drunk and high during my active addiction. I knew the guy and he was older than me and really cool. I desperately wanted him to like me. I hazily remember him inviting me back over to his place and I accepted. I had only had sex with 2 people at that point in my life and both were serious boyfriends. This had been a value of mine, and it was a big part of who I was. Soon after going over to his place, things began to move quickly and I asked him to stop. He ripped my dress and pushed me on the bed. He refused to use protection despite my protests. I remember at some point, he left and other people came into the room. I was lying naked and helpless on the bed, I was too intoxicated to speak or move.
I woke up the next morning covered in bruises. I walked back to my dorm the next morning in my ripped dress I had to hold together, feeling so ashamed. I was so angry at myself for getting so wasted. I thought it was my fault. I rationalized and made sense of the situation by saying that I must have wanted to have sex with him.
Soon after, my drinking and drugging spiraled out of control. I stopped caring about myself or my values. I became very promiscuous.
Years later, while studying to be a therapist in school, I learned that promscuity is actually a response to sexual trauma. If a child is physically abused, a common way a child's brain will reprocess the trauma is through re-enacting the same behavior with toys (or other children). The child will do the same behaviors and often mimic the same words that were said to him or her. This is the reason that so many female strippers or prostitutes have a history of sexual trauma, they learn (unfortunately for many at a young age) how to survive, and that survival includes using their body for sex often so that somebody else doesn't use it for themselves instead. Learning this dramatically impacted my life. For the first time since iI was clear that I wasn't a bad person or a slut. I didn't "want this" just because of my sexual history that followed. And it is the reason I'm so passionate about working with young women.
If we can convince ourselves that it was our idea, it gives us a sense of control. We feel as though it won't happen again, or in the very least, it will be our choice and thus less painful.
There are many therapists who choose not to disclose to their clients. I have lots of respect for them. I know what I'm doing is risky. They believe that it is better to be a mirror and be as plain and objective as possible in order to bring healing to their clients. I have a different opinion. I find that there is so much power in sharing, in a client both seeing me and being seen. For me , this type of one-sided therapeutic relationship did not work. I needed a clinician who I trusted, who I knew had gone through a similar experience to me, who I believed would understand me. This is why I share. This is why I self disclose.
Because if its one thing I've learned from being in therapy and also facilitating tons of it over the years, its that there is so much power in speaking our truth. In sharing our stories with each other, in shining light on the darkness. And ultimately, saying, ME TOO!
P.S. Disclaimer: please note that the #metoo campaign is a spectrum. It doesn't necessarily look just like rape. Many women have been groped, assaulted, name called etc. and absolutely fit into this category. This is simply my experience. Abuse is a spectrum and is up to the individual to choose and classify for his or herself is she falls into that category. It is never our right to label someone else's experience.
I was sitting in an AA big book meeting roughly a year ago. I opened the cover and scribbled on the first page read "willingness without action is fantasy." The quote hit me in the stomach. Sometimes we need that in recovery...a wake up call. The quote found me at exactly the right time. Since grad school I had been saying that I wanted to start my own private practice but somewhere along the way I found comfort and security in my job at a drug and alcohol rehab center. I had steady pay, plenty of support and the comfort of knowing that I would always have a steady stream of clients. Being in private practice is...vulnerable. People cancel, they relapse, they no-show, they get angry, and you don't have a larger institution to support and protect you when things get messy. I've learned vulnerability is messy, as is anything worth having in life.
So there I am sitting at a meeting on a Friday night with truth staring me right in the face. It begged the question, the dream of opening a private practice would remain, just that, a fantasy, without action. The very next day I created a plan for how my private practice could become a reality in one year. I set a date and I began sharing this with other people and began to learn what it would actually take. The truth is, it doesn't matter how willing we are, if we put it on a dream board or meditate about it if we are not taking action. Don't get me wrong, I'm a proponent of all such things, its just that wanting it is not sufficient for actually making it happen. The entire point of manifestation is to put us in a space where we are willing to take action and new opportunities to act open up for us.
While I may be talking about something that is more of a luxury, I am clear that this quote applies to all parts of our life. When we are struggling, its easy to be willing. We say we will do anything to get better, to feel better, to not keep repeating our destructive patterns. Then, we take action. And guess what? Things get better. But somewhere along the way we lose our willingness. Saying that we are willing or "being" willing makes no difference. It is only through ACTION that things can move forward. So my invitation to you today is, whether you are struggling with something such as depression, anxiety, or an addiction, or you are simply looking to take the next step in your life, as yourself... what actions am I taking? If the answer is none, get real with yourself...I ask you, what is it going to take?
So here's the truth- as I reflect on the completion of my latest trip around the sun, it's amazing how different I expected my life to be and even more amazing how much BETTER it turned out. Nothing in my life turned out as planned and now I'm so grateful for that.
By this time in my life, I expected to be engaged to an investment banker who sipped dry martinis, played football in college and summered in the Hamptons. I was obsessed with having a life that looked perfect. Until recently, I was convinced that if I had all the external trappings of a happy and successful life, I would be happy. However, I also knew it wasn't exactly cool to be outwardly desperate for a perfect life, so I pretended to be coy about it. That not only made me a slave to social media but also never satisfied as I was never present for my life. Instead I lived in a perpetual fantasy.. "when I have, fill in the blank- a boyfriend, more friends, a thinner body, a nicer wardrobe- THEN I will be happy."
Thankfully my life fell apart rapidly by the end of college, which landed me in a position to get sober and find recovery from my eating disorder. At the time, this was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. My life was over as I knew it and I had many moments where I couldn't imagine living without drinking nor was I interested in living that life. I remember having to actually grieve the loss that I would never be able to meet a cool handsome guy over drinks at the Plaza or go wine tasting at a picturesque vineyard in Napa with my beautiful girlfriends. The truth is, having my life fall apart, having everything I knew and wanted stripped away from me was the best thing that ever happened to me. To be the epitome of a cliche of my generation, I'm going to quote J.K Rowling: "rock bottom became the solid foundation from which I rebuilt my life." So that's what I did. Stone by stone and brick by brick.
The last few years have not been easy or simple (more on that in other blog posts to come). There were honestly many days where I wanted to give up, probably did on some level, or even made things worse. Self sabotage is a huge part of my story and something that still comes back to haunt me sometimes. However, when I look back now, I wouldn't trade any struggle, stumble or misstep. They all led me here....exactly where I'm supposed to be. And the life I have now, the one where I'm a therapist and yoga teacher who spends her free time reading self help/ spiritual books, talking to my parents on the phone and attending personal development programs (all very UNCOOl), I wouldn't trade for ANYTHING. I never imagined I could be so fulfilled and my life being so meaningful. The greates gift of my recovery today is not my boyfriend, job, or vacations I take, the greatest gift is that I can sit outside on a beautiful day and smile at a stranger. I can look my barista in the eye and feel connected rather than wanting not to crawl out of my skin. I have peace today, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.
So here's my wisdom this week for you...life will DEFINITELY throw you obstacles. Things will absolutely NOT go as planned. I'm sure my life will keep not going as planned too (don't you worry I have not and will never arrive). At the time it may feel as though the world is against you... and in those moments all you can do is surrender and keep the faith. You don't need to understand what's happened or why. Lean into the discomfort and trust that the universe has your back. Not just that, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the universe has a better plan for your life than you do!