by: Marilyn L. Davis
Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? Trigger Alert
“This is the moment I realize that our traumas never really go away. They live inside of us, in the deepest darkest pits of our own tiny hells. Cocked and loaded, waiting for someone to come along and pull the trigger.”― A. Zavarelli, Crow
Okay, you’ve decided to go to the family function and only hours before the feast, you get a text from your mom and find out:
- Your cousin you used with is also coming. You haven’t seen each other since you got into recovery, and you’re anxious.
- The aunt and uncle who bad-mouthed you in your use are now coming. You haven’t seen them since you got into recovery, and you still resent them.
- Perfect sister is now coming. Growing up, she was the role model you never could match.
- Your mother texts and says, “Your dad is drinking again. Will that bother you?”
Now you’ve got a choice – go, stay home, or leave if you get uncomfortable?
If You Go?
Do you even know if your cousin is still using? You know you haven’t asked about him, so maybe a call to your mom could let you know if your cousin is safe. Most of us didn’t participate in extended family functions if we were still using, so maybe he’s safe. Better to ask than show up, and he’s high, which might trigger you.
The aunt and uncle? Are they the parents of that same cousin who used? This one gets tricky. Sometimes, we bad-mouth people, so we look good. Perhaps that’s what your aunt and uncle have done. They couldn’t accept that their son was using, so focused on you. Your choice now is, do you go and show them how you’ve changed? Sometimes it takes people seeing us in recovery to realize that we are not the same person. Your choice.
Perfect siblings are something I understand. My sister is an accomplished artist, business owner, and all-around extremely remarkable woman, and I never felt equal growing up. But that’s changed, as I changed. Her skill set is different than mine, and spending time comparing was eroding my self-esteem. Now, I don’t compare, and it’s made a considerable difference in our relationship. She is the one who designed the cover of my memoir, Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate. How’s that for combining our talents – art, and writing?
Any family member who chooses to drink, knowing you’re an addict or alcoholic, is suspect. Granted, not everyone has a substance abuse problem and is entitled to drink at family functions. But I find it disrespectful, at the least. Do you need to ask your father not to drink? Have you been in recovery long enough that someone else drinking won’t bother you? These are personal decisions you have to make if you go.
Family Members Who are Plain Toxic and Trigger You
Some of our family members are just toxic. Being around them reminds you of the ill-treatment, the spiteful things they said, or the abuse they inflicted. It prompts anxiety, fear, and sadness.
These relationships give you nothing and drain all of your energy. Sometimes, crazy-making games are played at your expense.
My suggestion? Take out turkey with some recovering friends who also have toxic relationships.
When You Are Aware of the Triggers
I remember going to a party in my early recovery. It was at the home of the president of the college that sent me to treatment. He personally invited me and said, “If you get uncomfortable, let me know.”
The faculty, staff, and his family were there with a catered buffet and an open bar. I drank with many of the faculty, and some staff, so I simply stayed clear of them. I waved across the room and considered that an adequate greeting. There were enough people who didn’t drink to socialize with, and I stayed about two hours. After I left, I immediately went to a 12-Step meeting.
Choosing to Stay Home
I’ve decided not to attend certain functions because I knew I’d be uncomfortable. I used over anxiety in the past and don’t like to set myself up to have that feeling. I try to be honest in declining an invitation. Most of the time, my explanation is accepted. I also try to make arrangements to see the person separate from their function. It lessens the guilt or questions they may have about me “not liking them.” It really is the old, “It’s me, not you.”
You Can Always Leave
Recovery gives me choices I didn’t have in my use. I was trapped in a vicious cycle. In my recovery, I wasn’t trapped. Neither are you.
If you find that you’re uncomfortable, leave. While that my sound like a command, it’s about supporting your recovery
Whatever You Do, Give Thanks for Your Recovery
Whatever you choose to do, it’s a day to reflect and be thankful. Recovery gives us many blessings, and especially on this day, it’s good to remember them.
Oh, and where ever the food comes from, enjoy it.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.