Who doesn’t love the holiday season — with holiday tunes, the smell of pine needles and cinnamon wafting through the chilled air during the holiday seasons?
It sounds so fun and fabulous, I know. But if we were really honest, I wonder how many of us can step into the discomfort and acknowledge that the cheer can also come with a few challenges.
There can be a lot of pressure related to the holiday season. From parties, what to wear, gift selections, and oh, did I mention food? So much of the holidays revolves around food.
As the loved ones of people who are struggling with eating disorders, we may also feel that it’s our responsibility to help protect their recovery. Although it is very true that recovery has better outcomes with family involvement, we need to also look after ourselves, then we can better support our loved ones and feel the holiday cheer together.
Here are my three tips to help families get through the holidays:
1. Focus on the C’s. Al-Anon Family Group’s mantra when referring to a loved one’s illness is “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, and I can’t control it.” However, I prefer Beverly Buncher’s adaptation of this because it empowers families and offers a tangible solution. To the three C’s, she adds four others: You don’t have to contribute to it. You are connected to your struggling loved one on a level that’s deeper than the illness. You can learn to communicate effectively, and you always have the choice. Reminding ourselves of the things we do have control over takes us from feeling helpless to feeling empowered.
2. Create space for yourself. Amidst the excitement, fear, and perhaps, sheer overwhelm, make sure you allow yourself time to get in touch with your breathing. You’ll find that this will immediately lower your blood pressure. Find a quiet and safe place to gather your thoughts. Once you feel calm again, rejoin the celebration fully refreshed. This could be an early gift to yourself. The app store has a lot of resources for this kind of exercise.
3. Have backup. Get a piece of paper that is small enough to fit in your wallet, and write down three to five “safe” phone numbers of people who support your family recovery process. They may even strive for a recovering lifestyle themselves. The first number can be that of a parent who also has another loved one in early recovery.
We can feel helpless when trying to figure out what to say or do for a loved one in times of stress. Be patient with yourself and your loved ones, remember recovery is not a straight line, and be sure to celebrate the recovery you have all been working so hard for — whatever stage of recovery your loved one is in.
Happy holidays to my Eating Recovery Center family, I wish you the gift of family recovery.
Robyn Cruze, MA is National Recovery Advocate and the online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.