Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Life is flat when you are in survival mode. Muting the negative emotions wipes out awareness of positive emotions as well. In recovery, learning to celebrate is a challenge and an exciting step forward.

Celebrations mark an occasion in our memory. To celebrate is to honor. Our society honors historical incidents and people with holidays focused on remembering. Worldwide, people celebrate births and weddings.

When abuse saturates a home, communal celebrations are often tainted or ruined. Some people have such horrific holiday memories that it causes depression and flashbacks each year until they have processed the memories and feelings enough that they are able to start building new traditions and celebrations.

So wouldn’t it be easiest to ignore celebrations?

Easier, maybe. But if you desire full healing from abuse, you need to learn how to celebrate small and big turning points, anniversaries, achievements, and blessings. Giving it a try might feel strange at first, you might feel stupid or sad or angry or stunted—but it will improve with practice. Celebration is a skill that can be learned.

Have you ever celebrated your decision to pursue healthy living, abuse-free living? If not, then I challenge you to do so before the week is over. How? Any way that marks the occasion and engenders positive feelings. You can celebrate privately or invite one or more people to participate.

There are so many ways to celebrate. You could buy flowers or helium balloons, and put them on your coffee table, kitchen table, or nightstand—each time you look at the flowers think to yourself, I am healing from abuse one step at a time, I am building a healthier and happier life for myself. You can eat ice cream or cake with friends and tell them what you are celebrating. You can make a certificate on the computer and hang it up where you can read it frequently. You can dance, twirl, run, or skip. You can sing or hum a happy tune. You can fix a special meal and share it with a loved one. You can create or purchase a piece of art that reminds you of what you are celebrating.

Many adults like to include alcohol or food when they are in a celebration mood. Use prudence and common sense with this. If your abuser misused alcohol or drugs, I urge you to keep your celebrations substance-free. If you have a tendency to want to use mind-altering substances to numb yourself, to forget, then work on learning simple ways to celebrate your current life without any liquor or drugs. If you struggle with eating issues (excessive eating to hide from emotions, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or purging), learn to celebrate without making food the central ingredient. Make healthy choices when you honor some happening in your life. Be respectful to yourself.

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Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft