Emotional HealthFamily 4 minutes to read

Wow, where do I start? Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

The holidays are full of so many different emotions, memories, and traditions. While there are some people who spend the holidays alone, there are others who are surrounded by friends and family. 

It can be very triggering to be alone during a time when everyone talks about being together. But, those who may be dealing with family drama, might wish they could be alone during the holiday season. In short, there are pros and cons to both. 

There are many of you living in a limbic-response mode as you rush through these few months—an emotional, fight-or-flight mode. You are just trying to survive without making any big waves and in turn, you are stretched so thin. Not to mention, this is Christmas in 2020. We are all trying to celebrate during a pandemic. 

The Family Factor

Whether you like it or not, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one holiday special or Christmas movie. Almost every Christmas movie goes a little something like this…

All of the family gets together, there’s lots of fighting and chaos, something crazy happens, and now everyone loves each other and comes together. 

Has this ever happened to you? Unfortunately, the reality isn’t as close to what the movies portray and we don’t always get the happy ending we want. 

If you’re reading this, you are probably working toward healing and recovery. Congratulations to you! This is a very difficult but rewarding thing to do! 

The further we get into recovery the more we realize how important it is to have boundaries because, I don’t know about you, but my family is on the crazy side. If you are like me, know that you’re not alone. 

Working toward healing while the rest of the family continues on their own path can often make us feel like we are on our own and trapped. We have the holidays and family on one side and our journey through recovery on the other side. 

But how do we choose? Could we have our cake and eat it too? 

Personally, I have had a tough time trying to balance plans with my husband’s family and my own, while also setting those much-needed boundaries. For many years, I chose to say nothing and would just show up. I wouldn’t have a plan in place. I wasn’t able to identify what was upsetting me. By the end of the evening, I was dealing with so many triggers—as my husband and I drove home, I cried the entire ride. Each year, I tried to figure out a better way but always gave in and would end up repeating my same mistakes. Ending with even more tears.

Setting Boundaries

Thankfully, I was introduced to Pure Desire Ministries and began working on my past trauma. I started connecting dots and using the tools Pure Desire offered. Doing this gave me a whole new perspective and allowed me to see what was causing me so much pain each year. 

Last year, I decided I needed to make some changes and the holiday season was definitely different. I chose to do nothing with any family. I pulled completely away and my husband, our kids, and I stayed home. While on one hand, as I’m sure you can imagine, this hurt my family; my mom specifically. But on the other hand, it was the most relaxing holiday we’ve had in a long time. (Just typing this makes a daughter feel pretty awful though.)

From the outside looking in, you can see how I went from one extreme to the other. I was all in or completely out. In both scenarios, no boundaries were set. I either gave in to everything, even when it wasn’t healthy for me, or I stepped back and built a wall. 

Let’s say it together…“Setting boundaries is hard!” 

A Better Way

There is no cookie-cutter way to set boundaries and we don’t always get it right the first time. Or the second time. Or even the third time. But the best thing to do is to start setting boundaries and then assess and reassess. 

So what have I learned and how are things going to be different this year?

Well, we chose to do most of the holidays at our place—in an environment we can control. I talked with my family and let them know why I pulled back last year. I let them know what made me feel uncomfortable and what I would need to do if I felt triggered (like leave early or step into a different room for a little while). 

It was scary to have this conversation but ultimately, our boundaries are always going to be stronger and more effective if others know what they are. 

With Christmas right around the corner, I highly suggest sitting with your spouse and coming up with a game plan. The Pure Desire Escape Plan is a wonderful tool to help guide this process! Then take time to talk with loved ones about the boundaries you’ve set. 

This has been a year of isolation and that’s dangerous! It might take some brainstorming—two minds are better than one—but what’s going to keep you out of isolation and help you stay in a healthy state of mind? 

This is going to look different for each person but talking with your spouse, a trusted friend, or counselor is a great place to start. 

The end goal isn’t to figure out all the things you’ll need to stay away from. Instead, it’s learning what you can do to equip yourself so you can stay out of survival mode, be present, and enjoy the holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Sarah Peters

Sarah is the International Groups Coordinator Assistant for Pure Desire and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). She has a heart for helping women and students who struggle with trauma and addiction—passionate about bringing Pure Desire to women’s prisons and juvenile detention centers. Sarah is a group leader and speaker, working toward her DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster).

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