How do you change family traditions when you grow up with abuse?

Just so you know, there will be a brief discussion of abusive threats below

Rituals, I think, are a very important thing for a family. It gives structure and meaning and allows for that sense of cohesion that is so essential for identity and affiliation. I was thinking a lot about how they've shaped my life in positive and negative ways. I was thinking recently about what certain rituals mean and how hard entrenched patters are to manage as you grow up.

For much of my childhood, I had a stepfather who was abusive and alcoholic and very unpredictable. He'd sit and drink at the table and if we looked at each other, smiled or talked, he'd threaten to bash our heads against the wall, b/c he was paranoid. It made every dinner with him a stressful event, including holidays because he'd sit there in his underwear talking about dumb shit but we were supposed to be absolutely silent and not interact at all. I was the youngest and at some point, I snapped at him and we'd go a few rounds of arguing. For some reason, my mom said that he'd back down when I got really furious at him—which is fine but it definitely leaves you in a place where you always feel like you have to defend yourself. But suffice it to say, we hated meal times and would eat very fast and leave as soon as possible.


So when they divorced (I was 13 or 14), I remember we didn't sit and eat as a family for years. One of my siblings ended up with an eating disorder for a long time. Food has been a weird subject for us all though we all developed this foody tendencies when we got older. And like most people, we also developed other traditions with people that we got to know as adults, be it partners or friends or whatever. While I think we have nice holidays, there is always a little edge around every family meal and I just think that it's hard to deal with things as an adult, when there is such a powerful early associative memory.

I wonder what it's like for other people who might have grown up in circumstances that weren't the easiest? How did you overcome or not overcome it to feel like you can participate in these types of family rituals?