Six years ago, my mother-in-law and I had our second Thanksgiving feud. She said some things, and for the first time ever, I said some things back. The argument escalated, I called her a name, and she slapped me. Back then, I had no recovery and no boundaries. Even though she’s no longer a threat in my life, simple fall traditions take me back to that night. Instead of comforting me with warm family memories, pumpkin pie and a slow roasted turkey are triggers, stabbing me with past pain. I remember the room, where she stood. Where I stood, and the phrase that started it all.
Triggers Turn Into Reactions
Unfortunately, these feuds with my mother-in-law weren’t isolated incidents; they were only two of many scenes from a 20-year manipulative and toxic relationship.
Researchers at the University of Iowa found that memories associated with acute stress and trauma get stored in the part of your brain responsible for survival where they serve as a defense mechanism against future trauma.
Ergo, some of these triggers have been hard-wired into my brain, and my first response is to react protectively even when the danger is no longer present. So, how do I come to terms with the holidays without eradicating fall related traditions? Fortunately, in the rooms of recovery, I found some tools to help handle my past hurts:
- The Serenity Prayer helps me find peace in accepting my past as something I cannot change.
- I’m aware of triggers like pumpkin pie and slow-roasted turkeys. I can accept that those items are things here in the present, and then take a healthy action – like reminding myself I am safe and she is gone.
- I am not my story. The things she did to me did nothing to change my eye color, my love for cheesecake, or my ability to solve quadratic equations. She didn’t change me.
- One day at a time – Living in these 12 hours of today let me focus on the good things in my life now, like my wonderful family.
Everyone in my house loves pumpkin pie, and we eat it year-round. I love that it’s actually a vegetable posing as dessert, and my son loves it for breakfast. I refuse to let it be a casualty of war.
The Co-dependent’s Crustless Pumpkin Pie
Pie Filling Ingredients:
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Oatmeal Crumble Topping:
- 2 cups quick-cooking oats (a.k.a. minute oats)
- 5 TBls butter
- 1/3 cup sugar
- A pinch of sea salt
Hand mix the pumpkin, eggs, honey, and flavorings in a large mixing bowl. (This recipe is so easy you don’t even have to drag out your mixer.) Add the coconut milk and stir until blended. Pour into greased pie pan.
Next, place the oats, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until blended. Batter will start to form small crumbles. Sprinkle crumbles on top of pie filling. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Check to see if the pie is done by inserting a knife near the center of pie. The pie is done if the knife comes out clean.