Thanksgiving in Recovery

When most of us think of Thanksgiving, we imagine a cheerful time shared with family and friends gathered around a table with food, smiles and amusing stories. However, when we have a family member who is struggling with addiction, the joyous state of thanksgiving becomes embroiled with shame, embarrassment, and even sorrow.

As we move forward into recovery, the Holidays still can be a sore subject, with past memories leaving family members feeling hesitant, confused and nervous about the upcoming date. However, these jaded expectations can be eliminated and renewed with new, positive memories, leaving previous Thanksgiving recollections a thing of the past. This is a story about the stark juxtaposition between two years of Thanksgiving’s shared with the Pesner family.


Last Year


The Pesners were celebrating Thanksgiving at their family friend’s home. Jeff, their son, was nowhere to be seen over an hour into the festivities. Worried about his whereabouts, Jeannie (Jeff’s Mother), sent the family friend’s son to go to Jeff’s place to get him; he finally arrived to the house an hour or so later. Jeff was high when he got there. He proceeded to mumble his words, nod in and out of consciousness and spill food all over himself.

Immediately after eating, Jeff fell asleep on the couch until the end of dinner. Jeannie was mortified. Her embarrassment and shame led her to make excuses for his behavior. “He’s tired; he’s been working a lot.” She just wanted Thanksgiving to be over. What Jeannie didn’t know was that while Jeff was sleeping on the couch, the family friend’s son told Jeff’s sister that Jeff had been using heroin, an announcement that was a newfound discovery to her, and left her feeling crushed. Finally, after Jeannie had enough, she had the family friend take Jeff home.


This Year


The start to Thanksgiving this year came with a fresh excitement for the holidays. Knowing Jeff was in a good spot; Jeannie could relax a little bit, and put thought into the rest of the family, as opposed to only Jeff. She was excited to come to New Life House because of the community atmosphere and Jeff’s new outlook on life. As soon as she walked in the door, she noticed how happy and thankful everyone was.

She pointed out that for the first time in a long time, Jeff was appreciative. He continuously thanked his mother for being there and helping organize the feast. Jeff approached his mother and stated, “Sit down, I’ve got this!” It was a whole different dynamic; Jeff went from selfishly taking to selflessly thinking of others. Thanksgiving became about gratitude once again. Jeannie made the comment, “This is the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.” Recovery can bring a new light to once dark memories!


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