Thanksgiving in Recovery
Thanksgiving can be an incredibly difficult holiday for anyone in recovery. A holiday that celebrates and glorifies food, it can feel almost impossible for anyone who struggles with their relationship with food and movement to face it without feeling a certain level of anxiety.
Thanksgiving rhetoric around food and movement can be incredibly triggering. Turkey Trots and morning workouts abound to “work off” the meal eaten later. A certain degree of binge eating and ignoring hunger and fullness cues is something that is normalized and even glorified. Those in recovery trying to focus on keeping food and mindful movement talk neutral may struggle when everyone around us seems to be doing the exact opposite.
Thanksgiving in 2020
This year, in all of its unprecedented glory, Thanksgiving may be even more of a challenge. Many of us are still questioning whether it is a good idea to see family because of the pandemic, and if so, figuring out the dicey logistics of doing so. Travel is complicated and can feel unsafe. Fresh off of an incredibly divisive election, much of the turmoil felt on a country-wide level can often be felt at the more micro family level as well. Grocery store trips are longer and more stressful. Generally, most of us are feeling different degrees of isolation. And to top off everything, we are headed into an unpredictable winter and flu season.
With so many things feeling so out of control, it can be easy to feel the tug of disordered eating, over-exercising, or any other harmful coping skill we might turn to in tough times that promises control.
Here are some tips for coping through Thanksgiving:
As much as is possible, keep talk about food neutral.
Even though talk glorifying food, binge eating, and compensatory exercise might abound, do your best to be in spaces that support your recovery. Maybe this looks like being around people who know your story and are actively supportive of your recovery. Maybe it looks like having a “recovery buddy” you can check in with throughout the day. Maybe it looks like setting strong boundaries throughout the day to protect your time and energy. Whatever your choice is, make choices that empower you and your recovery.
As much as I am sick of hearing the word unprecedented because it is starting to lose all meaning, we are still in a long, drawn out, unprecedented time. If we think about our human needs in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy, so many aspects of our sense of safety are not being taken care of right now. It makes sense that we are having stress reactions. Try to keep in mind that you are not alone, that times are hard, and that you are doing the best you can.
Everyone’s story and recovery are different but reflecting on potential triggers and pitfalls can be helpful with thinking through potential ways to cope before they happen. Visualize how your day is most likely to go, not in a catastrophizing way, but in a way that reflects on what may have happened consistently in the past and may be likely to happen again. Is there any way you can especially take care of yourself given the scenario you are picturing?
Seek social distance while maintaining connection.
Challenging thoughts and behaviors thrive in isolation, and while we want to stay physically socially distanced, it is also important to seek connection in a time that may be especially difficult.
Keep long-term perspective.
Know that this too will pass, and it is ultimately a day. Albeit at times an extraordinarily difficult day. But is a day. And the day after will be a new one.