Thanksgiving: Filling not Stuffing

by Sandy Swenson
November 16, 2020

When my children were little, they hovered around the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning, eager to get started with stuffing the turkey. We tied on aprons, pushed step stools to the kitchen counter, and discussed who, exactly, would touch the pale and pimply flesh, before popping the bird into the oven. Our home was full of pleasant aromas and things to be thankful for.

Everything changed once my son became an addict. Thanksgiving became a day stuffed with unspoken disappointment, anger, and fear as I waited for my son to show up—and as I sat down to a table across from his very empty place.

Thankful I was not.

I’ve had time to adjust to Thanksgiving the way it is. To stop wishing for the way it should be. But time hasn’t taken away the hurt—or filled the hole in my life where my child should be.

I suspect it never will.

Instead, I’ve grown stronger.

I’m facing the hurt rather than stuffing it away (usually), and filling the hole with things that make the day better, not worse. That means facing reality, not trying to re-create what can’t be re-created, starting new traditions, and spending quality time with some happy old memories, family, and good friends—the things I am thankful for.

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate.
When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” ~Shauna Niequist

Excerpt from Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children by Sandy Swenson

Dandelion STRONG

“We may often feel fragile, but we are strong. And we are many.
We have the power to overpower the destruction that addiction spreads.”

Sandra Swenson is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction (Central Recovery Press 2014), Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children (Hazelden 2017), the Readings for Moms of Addicts app (Hazelden 2018), Just Dandy: Living with Heartache and Wishes (Halzelden 2020), and her blog.

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  1. How can I be okay when my son isn’t. His addiction has put in prison 4 times and I dont know how to face the future of him being locked up the rest of his life. I try to face my fears but they over power me. I love him so much and it hearts my heart so bad.

    • Denise, I’m sorry you know this pain. It’s taken a long time for me to figure out that I can only change my side of things, and once I did, that’s when things started to change. It has been very empowering, even though it looks different than how I thought it should look when I started this journey. But happiness is possible, even while we still hurt for our loved one. Please check out the CONNECT page on There are many support groups and coaches (mostly virtual during these Covid-19 times)– hopefully something there will be a good fit for you. This is too big to go through alone. Together we are stronger Sending hugs and hope to you!

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