Recovery Strategies: Establishing a Tradition

  • The recovery strategy of establishing a tradition connects in a formal way to establishing a routine.  The benefit of a weekly monthly or yearly celebration is that it is a way to anchor ourselves in a positive way in the world around us.


    I've written before about culture and recovery.  One tradition that my Italian American family has celebrated easily since I was 10 years old is the Night of the Seven Fishes. 


    My Nonna was Neapolitan: her family was from Naples: and this city on the water featured its own seafood bounty.  Christmas Eve is traditionally the Night of the Seven Fishes.  For our purposes the fishes are: clams, shrimp, mussels, calamari, scungilli, crab and lobster.

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    This tradition has been going on for 38 years and counting.  I might even recommend that you have your own Seven Fishes Night even if you're not Italian.  Or maybe Sunday is roast beef.


    The role of our families in our recovery is of prime importance because without their support it is harder to recover especially if we live at home.  The goal in my estimation is to live independently where you can unless you cannot afford to.  Those of us who live on our own owe it to ourselves to connect with our families.


    The reason traditions occupy the mantel of recovery is that feeling connected to other people relieves the sense of loneliness or isolation a person can feeling having an illness like schizophrenia.  You don't feel different when you have a family or a tribe that welcomes you: you feel like you fit in.


    Ethan Watters wrote the book Urban Tribes about how in the modern world young people's friendships stand in for family relations.  Whether you're connected by blood or by another bond doesn't matter: it's the connection of kindred spirits that can improve the outcome in your recovery.


    Brene Brown, PhD, the author of Daring Greatly, a book on vulnerability, suggests that "love and belonging are the irreducible needs of men, women and children."


    Any kind of tribal tradition can reinforce  that you're OK just the way you are among others in the world.  As the stigma against people with schizophrenia is ever-great, it makes sense that our mood can improve on The Night of the Seven Fishes or Superbowl Sunday or any other time we gather together with others in ritual recreation.


    A corollary is any solo activity that gets you out in the world.  I used to perform at the annual all-day open reading of poets in New York City.  The marathon event took place every year.  It wasn't like I had anything in common with the rabid revolutionaries in the crowd yet it was the chance to be creative and mingle with other creative people.


    You can see then that traditions can be found close to home or farther away. 


    I will always maintain that a successful recovery hinges on getting out in the world and doing things rather than staying at home watching TV because you fear interacting with others.  It's true people can be cruel and not kind.  It's true a person with schizophrenia might have to work twice as hard to get what he or she wants in life.


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    Yet the alternative: giving in or giving up: is not an option. 


    Thus I champion establishing traditions.  Find your tribe.  Find kindred souls you can connect to.  Find out the things you like to do that rock your world.  Do these things.  Do them with other people for maximum effect.


    Every year Christmas Eve rolls around and my Aunts dutifully go to the lobster dock to buy the seafood. 


    We resurrect the nutcrackers and plastic bibs.  We jockey for the clams and place the empty shells in another person's plate so it doesn't look like we went over our limit.


    I will celebrate Seven Fishes after my family is gone too.


    What's not to love about establishing a tradition?  I'm interested in hearing about community members own traditions.


    What rocks your world?




Published On: November 27, 2013