The holiday season tends to bring up the issue of
leftovers. After all, how many “day- after” Thanksgiving
turkey sandwiches have already been made and consumed?
I’ve even heard of recipes in which the entire
holiday meal is put together in a sandwich. I mean,
we’re talking turkey, stuffing mashed potatoes AND the
cranberry sauce- all shoved in between two slices of
Yes, this time of year, with food at every turn, leftovers
can be an especially overwhelming prospect.
Leftovers… Excess… Too much…
Is it any wonder why relapse happens during the holidays?
Scripture, however, addresses the leftover concept,
without, of course, the notorious day after turkey sandwich…
“When they were filled, he said unto his disciples,
‘Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be
lost.’” John 6:12
Easier said than it is done.
For in this “special time of year” minefield, our fragments
can feel like piercing shards. Issues stemming
from our disorders and addiction, family rifts and
numerous other triggers can pop up without warning.
How, exactly, do we navigate this season when these
leftovers are everywhere?
Based on my own personal experience, I’ve come up
with a few tips.
1. Pray. God knows you completely and understands
every weakness and trigger. Ask Him for His help,
no matter what the situation.
“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.
Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is
anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of
the church to pray over them and anoint them with
oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered
in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord
will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be
forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other
and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and
effective.” James 5:13-16
2. Give yourself permission to be in recovery. This is
a unique process, one which may be triggered by
certain people, events and yes, temptations. Don’t
apologize for that reality; everyone struggles with
something. This is your issue. And, as you navigate
the holiday events, allow yourself to be honest with
your comfort level. If things are too overwhelming,
give yourself permission to politely say “no” and/or
to excuse yourself.
“But let your word ‘yes be ‘yes,’ and your word ‘no
be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil
one.” Matthew 5:37
3. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Even if
you “fall off the wagon.” Berating yourself helps
nothing. God isn’t surprised; go to Him with whatever
state you’re in. He can work with- or even in
spite of- anything we experience.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of
God;” Romans 3:23
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there
anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27
4. Be honest with yourself and your feelings. Yes, this
is a special time of year but that does not cancel
many difficult issues, feelings and memories. Be
honest about that reality.
“And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for
thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’”
2 Corinthians 12:9
Indeed, it’s good to keep in mind, no matter what our
struggles are, we can arm ourselves with coping strategies.
The holiday season is about excess; therefore, we
need to know how to maneuver through it in a healthy
manner. So what do we do when our complicated
leftovers, like our unresolved personal or family issues,
accompany us to each and every holiday event?
The National Eating Disorder Information Centre
(NEDIC) has further help and support for these high
trigger situations. I frequently reference it because each
holiday season, it bears repeating. It doesn’t just cover
food issues; it’s good for most triggering situations, no
matter what vice or substance is involved.
“Predict high stress times and places; decide which
events you will and won’t attend, and plan to have
some time to yourself to restore yourself and take care
of your own needs.
Predict which people might make you most uncomfortable
and plan appropriate ways of excusing yourself
from their company.
Predict what people might say that would lead you to
feel uncomfortable. Plan and practice responses.
Predict negative thoughts that you might have during
the holidays, and practice thinking differently.
Carry with you a list of phone numbers of friends and
crisis lines, and a list of self-soothing activities.
It may be helpful to realize that the ‘picture-book’ holiday
sense is not a reality for many people. Some cannot
afford it, there are many single people who are not
close to their families or do not have a family, and there
are many families that do not fit into the dominant cultural
model of ‘family.’ Do not blame yourself for family
or friendship conflicts. People are not different during
the holidays than any other time of the year.”
For more info:
NEDIC Bulletin: Vol. 7, Coping With the Holidays ; National
Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) Used
Leftovers are a holiday reality. These representations
of excess or personal issue loose ends are something
we need to face and manage. Our approach to them is
critical to our recovery.
It’s not about suppressing or shoving everything into
one overstuffed post-Thanksgiving sandwich. It’s the
cliché recovery advice: taking it one step, one day, even
one holiday, at a time.
God bless your every holiday, one by one, one at a
time! Be happy, be healthy and be in recovery!