Giving thanks for a place where residents are wanted, valued and accepted

Thoughts from Jeanie Gschweng, General Manager of Clean & Sober Transitional Living

When I first arrived at Clean & Sober Transitional Living in 2004, I had been totally ostracized by my entire family. I had little contact with my son, and his father wouldn’t permit him to come here to spend time with me. The holidays were especially tough: days or even weeks often passed by before I was permitted to celebrate any holiday with my children. I didn’t have anybody, but I certainly wasn’t alone in that experience.

Those early years, many CSTL residents didn’t have somewhere else to go on the holidays. Maybe they weren’t invited to join their families. Perhaps there were trust issues that still needed repair. Maybe it wasn’t safe for them to go home. But they – and I – weren’t alone on Thanksgiving. We were part of the CSTL family, and we hosted a huge meal every Thanksgiving. Residents and their families and friends were – and are- welcome, as we continue this tradition today.

Thanksgiving is the Big Kahuna at CSTL. (We celebrate Christmas on a smaller scale.) We have an abundance of turkeys and hams, endless side dishes and desserts, beautiful tablecloths and table settings and, of course, football. Most of all, we offer a place where residents and their families feel wanted, valued and accepted. That’s fellowship at its finest.

For me, Thanksgiving at CSTL offered a place without animosity or hurt feelings. I had a safe place to call home where I could begin to mend the fallout of my drinking, without the triggers or layers of stress. There was laughter and an opportunity for people to spend family time with their children, even if they were on Blackout after a relapse. My heart didn’t hurt so badly.

This marks my fifteenth year at Clean & Sober Transitional Living, and this will be the very first year where my husband and I host Thanksgiving in our own home. Up to this point, we chose to be at CSTL because this is where we got our start. It was a safe place for us and our children. The kids didn’t have to get pulled apart by having to choose which parent to spend the holiday with. It was easy for them to join us here if they wanted. And the holiday meals have given us an opportunity to give back to the recovery community where we found new life. It’s bittersweet for me to start a new chapter, but I now have six grandchildren who need room to run and a big family that needs flexibility. So, we’re launching our own new tradition this year.

God has showered me with blessings, and for that I am grateful. Fourteen years after my first CSTL Thanksgiving, I ‘ll be hosting the celebration in my beautiful home full of children and grandchildren. We would have had none of that without what we found at CSTL.

I wish you and your family the bounty of recovery all year long.

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