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!
Hey guys! Although Maddie joined our team in August, I wanted to officially introduce her to all of you and share about her background and experience.
Maddie and I went to graduate school together at La Salle University. We met in 2012 in the same ethics class. Since we are both a little awkward and are introverted, it wasn't until we. actually ran into each other at the same yoga class that we hit it off! Since then we have attended and co-lead multiple yoga and therapy trainings together. We both went on to work in the addiction field at separate treatment facilities and reunited after Maddie completed her requirements for licensure.
Besides having a lot in common in terms of our background, experience and philosophies, one thing that I love about Maddie as a therapist is she has a different perspective on addiction. While I was the "identified patient" in my household, the one with the addiction and eating disorder in my family, Maddie grew up as the sibling of a child with addiction. She knows first hand the tole addiction and mental health issues can take on the entire family, even those not afflicted.
She is such an asset and I'm so excited for you guys to get to know her and work with her. She specializes in working with women with anxiety, depression and substance use disorders as well as their families. She also is our official online video counseling therapist! So if you don't live in the Philadelphia area, cannot make it into the office, or generally just have anxiety about in-person therapy, she is your girl! Don't know about you, but doesn't having a therapy session in the comfort in your home, wearing pjs sounds awesome?!
Maddie is a master at making you feel comfortable in video sessions. We promise you, your online sessions with be just as effective and not awkward at all! We have a HIPPA compliant video counseling platform, and all you need to get started is your email. You can even conduct them from your phone or iPad. Email Maddie for more questions and information.
A few words from Maddie
"As a therapist my philosophy is to 'meet you where you are' and I practice implementing change and providing insight at a pace that you are comfortable with. My goal is to assist you in identifying and letting go of limiting beliefs you have about yourself and the world that no longer serve you. I utilize a variety of therapeutic approaches including motivational interviewing, solution focused therapy, gestalt therapy, and body-based approaches such as yoga and mindfulness. I believe that therapy is a collaborative process and a journey we are in together.
As Ram Dass says, 'we are all just walking each other home'
In addition to therapy I am also a certified yoga instructor and reiki practitioner. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection and I feel that true change comes from holistic healing and addressing all parts of the self- mind, body, and spirit. I am passionate about empowering other women as I believe that stronger, healthier women create a better world for everyone. In my free time I enjoy yoga, weightlifting, cooking, reading, traveling and watching movies with my cat and husband!"
Amanda & Maddie
Whether we are talking about relationships with friends, parents or significant others, there is a disturbing communication trend I've been seeing in my office and in the world lately. I call it...."taking away people's pain"
This trend typically starts when we are young. Our parents unknowingly interact with us this way and we learn to be afraid of our feelings and pain from a young age. For example, the most common responses to a child when they scrape their knee or fall on the playground are "Shhhh, you're okay, don't cry." Although the parent has the best motives and is simply trying to calm the child down and assure her, the subliminal message is don't express your emotions. This is further reinforced in our society as we praise people for "being strong" when going through hardships and are a culture obsessed with positivity and looking at the bright side. Feeling sad is now looked at as self-indulgent.
I see this all the time in my office. Not only in sessions with families and couples, where people are so uncomfortable with other people's pain, they switch subjects, offer solutions or shift uncomfortably in their seats but also in individual therapy. Women on my couch shush themselves and are ashamed at their own emotions. Somewhere along the way, our society has begun to teach people that emotions and tears are shameful. What's the result? We disconnect from our emotions, hide from them or engage in other activities to cover them up, which leads to many addictions and eating disorders. In addition, we experience reactions to our reactions, such as being angry or disgusted by our emotions.
This reaction to our emotions is a phenomenon known as secondary emotions. It's one of the most important things I teach my clients, within in the first 1-2 sessions of meeting me. Primary emotions are our primal reaction to an event or situation. There are 8 primary emotions: Anger, Sadness, Fear, Joy, Interest, Surprise, Disgust and Shame. These primary emotions are hardwired into our brain upon birth. These emotions cause your body to react in a certain way and for you to feel a certain urge upon feeling this emotion.
All other emotions are secondary emotions, and they are created out our own emotional response to a primary emotion. Unsurprisingly, most people's problems and issues they come to discuss in counseling are not primary emotions. They are secondary emotions. For example, a woman comes to my office and is angry at herself about how sad she is about her boyfriend cheating on her. We cannot even begin to process the pain of her boyfriend's betrayal until we process and release her own anger at herself.
Since many people are unable to be present with their own emotions and often suppress them, its not surprise that people are equally intolerable of other people's emotions. This leads us to "take away other people's pain" and its one of the most costly things you can do in any relationship, whether it is with your child, your partner or yourself.
Common examples of this are:
In closing, emotions are normal, natural responses in human beings and it is important to treat them as such. The more we try to hide from, cover up or pretend over our emotions, the more emotionally unhealthy we will feel and the more difficult it will be to support others in our life. It's time we stop shaming ourselves for our natural human experience because to be human is to have the capacity to feel emotions.
The holidays can be a stressful time, especially for those of us who struggle with our mental health. With all the focus on alcohol and food, and the holidays and gifts can bring about negative habits and added stress.
This year, instead of buying someone another gift card, take the time to give someone a gift that will really take care of them and actually boost their mental health. These gifts are great for everyone, regardless of whether the receiver has anxiety, depression or not! Also BONUS for you, all these gifts are available on Amazon or online, to boost your mental health too by not waiting in line. These are all products I actually use and love (and I don't get any commission off these products, I just wanted to share them with you).
1. Scented Therapy Putty
Recently, I have become very into
aromatherapy, and notice how different scents
can affect and calm my clients’ anxiety. One
of the most effective grounding techniques
involve using the 5 senses and scent is known to
be the most powerful sense we have as it
directly affects the brain. I love this putty
because it combines two grounding tools in
one! Scent and physical touch! Not only does
this putty come in different scents (my favorite
is lavender), but will calm your anxiety and
keep you focused through the tactile movement.
2. Great Books
I love giving people excellent books for the holidays, especially books that I have read and love. It gives us a deeper reason to connect and depending on the book can support emotional growth. Some of my favorite books I’m giving this year include:
3. Massage Gift Certificate
One of my favorite gifts to give are massages. Massages are one of those things that are so good for us, but are rarely a luxury that people will buy for themselves. Humans are hardwired to connect with one another and studies have demonstrated that physical touch can boost mental health. I typically choose to give a gift card to Massage Envy or Hand and Stone because you can order them online and they have numerous locations that are likely close to where your loved one lives. Find them at : https://www.massageenvy.com/ or http://www.handandstone.com
4. Down Blanket
There are few things that I love more than
being wrapped in a down comforter in my
bed. Sometimes when I’m reaching for
something sugary and comforting to eat, I
realize what I’m really craving is the
ultimate comfort…being wrapped in blankets
in my bed. Since its annoying and too big to drag
my comforter all over my house, I love this
down blanket. It feels like a comforter but with
less bulk and all the softness. I also love that
this style has a satin trim for extra softness
5. Aromatherapy Diffuser
Recently, I’ve gotten really into aromatherapy and the positive affects it can have on my mental health. I love having a diffuser running and picking different scents depending on my or my clients’ needs that day. I love the grain wood of this diffuser. I have this one in my office and it blends right in with the decor. It turns different colors and has 1, 3 and 6 hour settings so you can diffuse all day long!
Two months ago, I wrote an incredibly vulnerable and important blog about my experience of being raped. It was simultaneously was one of the best things I’ve done but also one of the scariest by far. Today I want to talk to you about an equally important conversation, and one that is somehow even more vulnerable because of the reaction it may garner. I want to talk to you about the opposite side of “me too.” I want to talk about the perpetrators.
First let me say, obviously I was a victim of rape myself, so I know this is an especially icky thing to talk about and I don’t want it to be misinterpreted. Therefore I want to be very clear that I am in no way condoning any illegal, predatory or rape behavior. I believe there are consequences to everything we do and we all make choices. I believe that if people break the law, there are consequences. However, I also think that it is important to not simply demonize and write off the perpetrators as "bad or evil" people. If we resort to casting people off, we are doing the same thing that was done to us.
As Brene Brown says in her book Braving the Wilderness
"There is a line. It's etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and the left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization- the primary instrument in violence that has been used in ever genocide recorded throughout history."
It may make us feel good temporarily, to write people off...we think, "these are bad men, they will pay for their mistakes and never hurt anyone again," but ultimately, it fuels the issue because this provides no solution to the systemic problem.
You may want to snap your laptop shut or click out of this article right now...I feel you. When I first heard the news about Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer, my initial response was honestly "this can't be true," followed by anger and hatred. As I went about my days I was hit by the question, what would I do if this person were my CLIENT? What if this was my boyfriend or father? How would I cultivate empathy? As a therapist, I am clear that empathy and understanding are the most important tools we have. People do not get well when they are ridiculed and de-humanized. People get well when they are seen, heard and given an opportunity for healing and forgiveness.
I talked to one of my good friends who is a social worker about this topic and she said something so insightful, "Do we let a behavior define someone for the rest of their lives or do we teach them how to be better so that they can set an example for future generations?" I believe this is the ultimate question, how we respond right now is important because it will set the precedents for how we deal with such issues. The first part of that standard is being set. It is clear, no longer can men abuse their power in the workplace and get away with it. However, now we have a new standard to set. How do we create a culture where men don't do that in the first place?
From what I’ve seen, the few brave men that have come forward and admitted faults have been scrutinized and shamed, even threatened, rather than acknowledged and appreciated. This only leads to more hiding, denial and shame, which equals less healing for everyone. What I do think so that everyone deserves compassion and understanding. “Hurt people hurt people” as the saying goes, and publicly crucifying people, even rapists, doesn’t diminish the rape culture epidemic. In fact, I would argue it fuels it.
In grad school, I was taught that it is possible to cultivate compassion and empathy for anyone by getting curious and putting ourselves in someone else's shoes. It's definitely not easy, especially with a subject matter like this. It takes true COURAGE and VULNERABILITY to lean into the messiness, the discomfort and the unknown. We need to be sensitive to each other and seek to understand, rather than fall back into what is familiar and safe, like anger and frustration.
Maybe it’s just because I am a therapist, but I really make it my mission in life to look for the WHY behind someone’s behavior. I invite you to take on these questions...
What is the person going through?
What pain are they in?
Why do they feel like this is the best way to act?
What are they getting out of acting in this manner?
Imagine if a young guy, felt safe enough to go to someone and say, “hey I messed up, I think I did something bad and I need to talk to someone.” That could put an end to many more people being hurt, raped, taken advantage etc. We all make mistakes, of course some of them are much more extreme, harmful and dire than others. Of course there are also consequences to every mistake we make. However, as a person in recovery, I can tell you I have made many mistakes. I lied, cheated and stole during my active addiction.
I was able to heal and transform through being given the opportunity to hold myself accountable for my mistakes, forgive myself, as others for forgiveness and do whatever it took to make things right.
I see the transformation that happens on a daily basis, when people are seen, heard and given the space to forgive themselves. We can't just talk about what is wrong, but we need to talk about what these men can do to make it right and how we can create a societal shift to prevent these situations from happening again.
I would love to hear your thoughts.
Sources: Brown, Brene. (2017). Braving the Wilderness. The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.New York, NY: Penguin Random House LLC.