Before: Before Addiction, Before Terror, Before Recovery, Before Healing
Who was I before addiction crept in to our lives and consumed my every thought?
I was arrogant- sure that I was doing the right things, saying the right things, thinking the right things, knowing the right things. I was confident we had an unobstructed path to happiness, because I was doing the “right” things.
Who was I before terror?
I was afraid. Before terror, I was afraid all the time. Afraid of what people thought, afraid of saying no, afraid of saying yes, afraid of living and afraid of dying. Before terror- I had no idea the things I was afraid of, didn’t matter at all.
Who was I before recovery?
Before recovery I was anxious, depressed, hyper focused, excessively critical and angry. I was controlling and out of control. Before recovery, I was impulsive and exhausted.
Who was I before healing?
Before healing, I was living in denial. I was carrying around every single trauma from my youth. Before healing, I could not move without fear. I was unsure of where I ended and they began. I was only a mother, I was only a wife. I was not my own person, I didn’t know who I was.
After addiction, after terror, after recovery and healing:
I am compassionate and open minded. I have learned what is important and what is reality. I know “right” and “wrong” are a matter of opinion and are highly individualized. I know I love my people unconditionally. I am less anxious, less depressed, less angry. I understand, I am responsible for my own happiness.
I am connected to my people on a deep level, but their journey belongs to them. I am a separate, whole person.
I am different now, I would never go back to who I was before…
From the moment I had that strange nauseated feeling, I knew my world was going to change.
The first time I felt a flutter in my stomach, I knew God had given me a special gift to grow a human.The first time I saw you on the screen, it took my breath away.
I was so afraid and in love at the same time.The moment I heard you cry, I felt my heart beat in a whole new way. I knew you were here and my whole life would be spent doing everything I could to make you feel loved.
The first time I had to spank your little butt, I cried privately probably harder than you did.
The first time you were physically injured, I could feel the pain as if it was my own. If I could have traded places with you, I would have done so without any hesitation at all.
The first time you had your heart broken, I silently wanted to throttle another child, but instead I hope I made you feel like you were loved in spite of the heart break.
The first time you broke my heart, I fell to pieces in my room. The first time I broke your heart, I wished I could take it all back and be perfect for you.
The first time I realized that this would be my last time rocking you, nursing you, holding your hand, I wish I would have held on just a little longer, because it all went by too fast.
You are loved, not because you are perfect, not because you behave a certain way, not because you are exactly the way I imagined you would turn out, but simply because you are.
You are human, you are alive, you are my child and no matter how life turns out for any of us, I have been so blessed to be your mom.
I was given so many good memories with each of you and I would not trade one moment of those for anything in this world.
What is kindness? Dictionary.com describes it as a kind act or favor.
My definition of kindness has changed many times over the years. All my life I was taught to turn the other cheek, love your neighbor as yourself, don’t judge and all the other things the good book tells us to do.
My issue with all of these things is that I don’t think I ever understood any of them. I come from a long line of passive people. We have a few passive-aggressive people in my family, but for the most part we are all passive. That makes us seem super nice to everyone. Being super nice is a blessing and a curse, but it is not exactly being kind in the way that I have come to understand kindness now.
When I was taught turn the other cheek, I believed it to mean for me to just let people hurt me, because it didn’t matter what others say anyway. However, it did matter what other people said to me. I never let it effect the way I live my life too much, but it did hurt a whole lot.
When I was taught to love my neighbor as myself, I thought that meant I always needed to put others ahead of myself. When I was taught not to judge others, I thought that meant I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion about things other people were doing.
As I have begun and continued deep internal work, I believe I interpreted all of those things wrong or maybe I was just more naive at a younger age. Now I believe turning the other cheek means that people may hurt you, but you shake it off and love them anyway. It doesn’t mean you have to allow anyone to walk all over you, but you also don’t have to choose to take what they say or do personally. 95% of the time, when someone is not kind to you, it’s because they are hurt or broken inside, so brush it off and go on- turn the other cheek.
Now about loving your neighbor as yourself. Does that mean what I thought it did? Should you forsake your needs because others need too. Should you drain all your energy, time, or money because your neighbor needs it? No, because it says love as you love yourself. This means except the fact that the other person you are dealing with is in fact another human being- flaws and all. So you love them, you pour in to them your love simply because they are human. You don’t sacrifice yourself or become a martyr for them, you love them and yourself.
Last but not least, we come to judging. Don’t judge others. There are so many ways that can be interpreted. I have always thought if I had an opinion, positive or negative about someone, it meant I was judging them. That led to years of me feeling terrible anytime I had an opinion and led me to say and do things I felt uncomfortable doing or being around because I didn’t want to be “judging” someone. That is a very stressful way to live life. I have come to understand I can have an opinion about a persons behavior and not be judging them. Because an opinion is just that, it’s an opinion about behavior. My job is not to like everything about every single person, that is not what I have been commanded to do. My job is to love not to like. My God commanded me to love others regardless of the opinion I may have about them. To me that now means, if you are a kind person, a mean person, an honest person, a dishonest person, a homosexual person, a straight person, someone with an addiction problem, an atheist, a rebel, a conformist, a jerk or an angel, my only job on this earth is to love you because you are a human. I do not have to like you, I do not have to like your actions, words, friends, job choice or anything else about you, but I do have to love you.
So now, at this time in my life, I realize to practice kindness, I must first be kind to myself. I must always view the person in front of me as a worthy human and I must love first and then help when I can. Practicing kindness doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice myself for others mentally, spiritually or physically. It does mean I have to think about what I say and how it effects the other person, think about how I act and if that is a reflection of love or something I felt obligated to do. It means I must try every single day to acknowledge my thoughts about other people and decide to love them no matter what I may believe to be true or untrue.
I sit on a plane next to friendly strangers. We make small talk. We exchange niceties and speak of our children and grandchildren. All smiles, all happy thoughts and exchanges as strangers do.
As the conversation falls quiet, I remember events from the last couple of days. The worry, the anxiety, the fears that pop in my mind like little burrowing moles digging their way from one hole to the next. As one pops up and I whack it in the head, the next one surfaces and the next and the next. What the heck? Why is this happening? To the best of my knowledge, everything is peaceful, well and taken care of.
Then, I take an inventory of my actions over the last couple of months. I’ve been talking the talk, but not walking the walk. I have done what I need to do, just to say I have done it. I have been coasting through, not doing much to dig deeper, heal more, find additional peace. I have only coasted through the moments.
Not being diligent can rob our loved ones of their progress, lead to a fast paced downward spiral, cost them their sobriety and even their lives. For family members, well….. family members usually relapse first.
What do I mean by this? Families can also get complacent, thinking everything is fine now. I don’t need to practice my peace because everything is peaceful. I don’t need to stay on top of my self care, everyone is fine. I’ll get to it later, I just want to relax.
When I get complacent, the anxiety creeps in and starts burrowing those holes. Then, I get tired, restless, more anxious. I am unable to stay in my own lane, I am less likely to be aware if someone else is struggling- because although I am in denial- I am beginning to struggle. Then I may start snapping at people and overcompensating because I have guilt. I may judge, accuse, or shame my loved one. I may simply start overstepping my boundaries to calm my own fears.
At that point, I am almost right back to square one. My mind is in chaos, my actions follow suit and I am unable to see the forest for the trees. I have relapsed. I have mentally relapsed first, by thinking my work is complete or that I can put it off until I feel like doing it. Then I have emotionally relapsed by ignoring and feeding in to these anxiety patterns. Long before my behavior changes and I start to become controlling or enabling- I have started the relapse. You see- in recovery they say, you are always either working on recovery or working on a relapse. That goes for loved ones with behavior or use disorders AND for the families who love them.
Now, as the plane is descending, my ears begin to pop, the turbulence can be felt as the air changes from the altitude. The niceties between strangers have stopped over an hour ago and people have been in their own worlds, thinking their own thoughts.
I have been thinking of a mom who lost her son this week. A mom who stayed in her values, practiced her peace and loved her son well. A mom who is certain her son knew he was loved whether he was in recovery or active use- because he was a beautiful person who was worthy of love, just because.
Although we are never promised tomorrow with anyone, when you have a loved one with use disorder- it is under the surface of every thought. If I am doing my work, I can love them. I can support them, I can honor them with dignity. If I am doing my work, I can have peace even if. I can rest assured knowing that my words and actions were a reflection of my love, even if.
That is my work- to practice my peace so that I may show that to those I love. To feel peace that surpasses all understanding because although I cannot do it alone, I am never alone. When I make it a priority to do this work that brings me closer to peace- I know I am honoring those I love. I know that they feel loved and valued because my actions, thoughts and feelings are full of peace toward them.
I will continue to fall back in to these patterns from time to time. Then I will remind myself that each day is a gift and I must continue to follow the path that leads me to peace. Because by doing my work, I am able to offer unconditional love to those who mean the most to me, for all the days we have together.
What if I told you preventative care saves billions of dollar per year and countless lives?
I think most of us could imagine that would be true. Of course, if you screen for something early and prevent it from happening or catch it early at a very treatable stage, the outcome will be better. It just makes good logical sense.
Some of you may be too young to remember. If you are, you may not participate in your health insurance’s free preventative care services. Most of us, when we are young, tend not to think about high blood pressure, cholesterol, colon cancer or breast cancer screenings for ourselves. However, for those of you who have reached the age to think about those things regularly- do you realize it’s only been 11 years that we have had this available to us without increased cost?
For all the years before that, we only were told we should have x test at x age. The cost for many of the tests were ridiculous if we weren’t having symptoms. When the system operated like that, many, many people lost their lives to diseases, which could have been prevented if caught early. When you think about it in that specific way, the cost to patients was great, they were losing their lives or their livelihood by get treated for advanced diseases way too late. The cost to insurance companies, well, they were losing money hand over fist by having to pay for medications, hospitalizations and losing customers who were no longer able to have private insurance, because they were either deceased or unable to work. It seems absurd with all the brilliant minds we have in medicine and financial positions that we waited until 2010 to add preventative medicine to the list of services provided by insurance.
Flash forward to 2021. We are addressing the preventable diseases for almost every body system, to prevent unnecessary deaths. Way to go people in charge!!!!! Almost. Every. Body. System. Annual screenings are the norm for cardiovascular, endocrine, urinary and respiratory systems. It is every 3-5 years for the digestive and reproductive systems. But what about the system that is in charge of it all? How often is this thorough screening done on our nervous system?
In 2021, we understand the brain is a complex organ. We understand that many functions of the brain are automatic, meaning we do not tell our brain to do things like breath, make our heart beat, blink our eyes, even chewing and swallowing are mostly automatic functions. We have researched and studied and reported many times about the brain’s amazing capacity to affect our heart, lungs, cellular structure, endocrine and digestive systems based on how it is functioning. We also know, generally mental illness symptoms begin between the ages of 14-24. What screening do we have for a brain disorder that is conducted regularly? Depression screening. That’s what we have, in the year 2021, with all the medical marvels and intelligence available to us, we have a depression screening.
A depression screening is done by your regular physician during your regular visit. Your teeth are screened by someone who is an expert on teeth, your eyes are screened by someone who is an expert on eyes, your reproductive system is mostly screened by someone specializing in that area, your digestive screening is done by a surgeon or GI specialist. But your brain, the organ that runs the whole shebang….. it is gifted to the providers who have a patient on their schedule every 15 minutes. The screening in my personal experience has went like this, “Have you felt depressed, anxious or suicidal recently?”. That’s it. Yes or no questions, not a lot of room for exploration and discovery there.
Since I am merely a nurse, a lowly citizen at the mercy of insurance companies and societal norms, I have no power to change this system. But, just for a moment, I would like you to imagine a world where “I need to make my annual mental health exam with my psychologist” is just as common as saying “I need to schedule my dental cleaning”. No eye rolls, no sideways glances happen, no judgement or gossip occurs. We just use our common sense to know an annual mental health screening is a necessary part of life, from the age of 10 up. Imagine the abusive situations that could be stopped. Imagine the suicides that could be prevented. Imagine for a moment that people don’t wait the average of 11 years to see a provider for symptoms, because their provider was able to spot them at the time of onset. Can you imagine the schizophrenic patient being treated at age 16 instead of 26, the bipolar patient receiving care at 15 instead of 35, the person with bpd or narcissistic personality disorder being treated at an early age, before their behaviors damage their lives or the lives of others. Imagine a world where many underlying mental health conditions were addressed and people did not self medicate to control the symptoms.
For a civilized country with many brilliant minds in it, we are missing a huge piece of the puzzle right now. For a country that is concerned with excellence and freedom and thriving, we are not doing a great job with a huge part of the population. It is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost our nation $113 billion per year. I may be oversimplifying things. It seems to me, including an annual mental health screening with someone who specializes in the brain, would be a top priority for insurance companies and public health officials.
Round and round and round we go. It is impossible to get off the ride, if the harness is still fastened and there is no exit in sight.
Hello there friends! So far 2020 has been the strangest, longest year of my life. I feel like I’ve had a lifetime of changes in one year.
I started out the year completely consumed by stressful things in my life. I knew I needed something to be different, but I had no idea how to change the circumstances or how I dealt with things. Enter the BALM….. I was researching daily for something to make me feel better. I was praying constantly for a change and peace.
I came across a family recovery website. I still don’t know how I came across it, but I think somehow God intervened. I called the number, listened about the program and immediately joined. There was just something about knowing I would have daily support that I needed.
I dug in and started following the principles. I learned how to care for myself, focus on myself, show other people love without conditions, let go of fear and trust in Gods plan. I learned how to set boundaries, not to control people or situations, but because I am also important and have needs. The most helpful thing I learned though is to just breathe.
Breathing has been so important over the course of the last 6 months. I have learned to take a breath when things are going well, so I can be in the moment and enjoy it. I have learned to breathe deeply when I feel anxiety starting to creep in, therefore calming by body and changing my mindset. Taking a breath when I begin to feel fearful, allows me to reset and look to the One who knows what the future holds.
This year has been full of change. Breathing and focusing on improving myself has allowed me to stay out of fear. Breathing and trusting God has allowed me to feel a freedom in a time I normally would have felt concern, depression, anxiety and hopelessness. Breathing deeply has allowed me to appreciate the small things and the day to day blessing I receive. Breathing and feeling before I talk has allowed me to respond instead of react, this has been a major growth in my mental health.
I just want to invite all of you to take some time each day when you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, happy or sad and just breathe. Breathe in and take a moment to appreciate that feeling. Because having the ability to stop, breathe and feel means you are fully alive. Alive in this moment of uncertainty- calming yourself to make a plan. Alive in this moment of change- breathing in to decide which way your life will go. Alive in this moment of joy- to soak it in and feel the blessing. Wherever you are in life, I invite you to take a moment and just breathe- don’t take this time for granted- take it in and feel it, because tomorrow isn’t promised and what we do have is today.
My beautiful child, from the moment you took your first breath, I knew my heart belonged to you.
As you learned to nurse, I saw your frustration when you couldn’t latch on right away, but I didn’t give up on you. You learned with practice and the determination of a hungry child.
When you learned to tie your shoes, you worked with the same intensity, even though you failed many times before you got it right. I didn’t give up on you, I gave you choices and you chose the wrap around method instead of the bunny ears. You repeated the action over and over until you were satisfied you got it right.
When you learned to ride a bike, I held on to the back and ran with you. You practiced and practiced with my help, until you were balanced and steady. I let the bike go and you fell down more than a time or two. But I didn’t give up on you. I watched from the window while you peddled through the soft grass and finally got brave enough to try the pavement. You fell and you got back up.
When you began to drive. I gritted my teeth and pressed my foot nearly through the passengers side floor board. I grabbed the wheel a time or two when we nearly hit the ditch, but I didn’t give up on you. My heart skipped a few beats the first time you drove off alone. You buckled your seat belt and drove away like you had been driving for years.
Now that your struggle is much harder, giving up seems like an easier option. It is what many people do. It’s what many “experts” instructed me to do. But, they don’t know me, that’s not the kind of mom I am or the kind of mom I wish to be.
No, my beautiful child in pain, I will not give in to the demands of your disorder. I will not give up on you. I will let go of the outcome. I will accept that I cannot choose recovery for you, but I can give you choices. I cannot prevent you from relapsing, but I can help you up when you fall. My heart still belongs to you, so I will not give up on you. I believe in you. I know you can get up every time you fall. I will love you, through relapse and in recovery. I will love you with boundaries and an open heart, because that is the mom I choose to be.
– This blog is based on BALM® Principle 3, It is important to let go without giving up or giving in. To learn more about the BALM® and how it can help families, send me a message. I would love to talk to you about it.
Today, I decided to write about something that happened in the past and how a negative experience taught me a postive lesson. Several years ago my oldest daughter had an accident that caused her to end up in the hospital having surgery.
My girls and I were getting ready to leave to go to a friends house. My daughter forgot something inside and asked to get it. If you knew me last year, you would laugh at the irony of that night. I was always complaining or frequently yelling when we were running late or the kids were not ready (still working on this, but I am so much better than I used to be). This particular night however, I was calm as a cucumber. She said “Time me, see how long it takes for me to get back”. I quickly agreed to set a timer.
She ran in to the house, grabbed her iPad and came back out the door. As she ran through the yard, she slipped. I thought she fell on her rear end. I waited a few seconds and she didn’t get up. I opened the door and she calmly said “I think I broke my ankle”. I said “Surely not”. She then screamed, “I THINK I BROKE MY ANKLE!”.
Something in her voice ignited a fire in me, I picked up my 12 year old, carried her up the stairs and placed her on the couch. As soon as I looked at her leg, I knew something was wrong. I grabbed the scissors and cut her sock off ( I heard about this for months- HER FAVORITE SOCKS).
When we arrived at the emergency room, the physician immediately told us it was broken. I called my son to let him know and then tried to comfort my daughter. Watching her cry was an awful experience. The doctor and nurses were fantastic. They medicated her and quickly had her in an ambulance.
My husband and I followed the ambulance to Rolla. My son stayed with my youngest and made sure she was taken care of. In Rolla we had to make a decision of whether to transfer to St. Louis or keep her there. The ER physician was so informative and sensitive to our emotions. She was wonderful. We opted to keep her in Rolla.
That was the longest night if my life. No matter how much pain medication they gave her, she was still hurting. There is nothing worse than not being able to help your child. She cried, I cried. The next morning the surgeon came in to talk to us. He was great, he addressed her like an adult. I really appreciated the way he talked to her as well as with us. Soon she was in the operating room.
My husband and I sat in the waiting room thinking about everything the surgeon had said. He informed us that is was a bad break, not only were both bones broken, one was in little pieces and her ankle was dislocated. He said he would do the best he could do. There were so many thoughts running through my mind. Did we make the right decision? Should we have transferred her? What if he could not piece the bones back together? What if she never healed correctly? It was a long couple of hours.
After what seemed like an eternity, the nurses came in and updated us. The surgery had went well and she would be up in her room soon. The next three days were spent trying to control her pain, get her up and moving and learning to use crutches. During this time she got presents and many well wishes. A lot of people wanted to visit, I was reluctant. I did not want her to get worn out, since the pain was so much worse when she was tired. She did have some visitors though. Her brother came to visit everyday, it touched my heart to see him hurting because she was hurting. My youngest came to visit also, it was moving to see how much concern they had for her (sometimes with all the bickering, you forget they actually love each other!).
She also had some brief visits from an aunt, a cousin, a grandma and her best friends. Although I was completely worried that she would be too tired, she was happy to see them. It was nice to see her smile. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for all the fantastic health care workers who care for her from beginning to end and for everyone who showed their love for her by calling, sending gifts and visiting.
She finally did make it home. Her other grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles came to check in on her frequently and let us borrow a wheelchair in case she got tired. We rearranged furniture, my husband installed a new shower head and gave up his bed for over a week so I could sleep next to her. Soon she was back at school and using those crutches like a champ. The teachers, principal and other staff at the school helped her figure out how to get where she needed to on time. Her friends helped her with her books, her brother and grandma were always available to give her a ride home when I could not.
After some time passed, the cast came off and she was able to walk with a boot. Finally the boot was able to come off too- this was only with gentle persuasion of the surgeon, because mom was scared to death! What if she fell on it again? What if her leg was not strong enough yet? What if it got rebroken? WHAT IF? Finally we took our final visit to the surgeons office and her leg was healed. She was cleared to resume sports and participate in any activities we were comfortable with.
It took me a long time to get over that experience (even though it was not my leg). In fact, at least once or twice a week you will still hear me say “Be careful, don’t hurt her leg”. Even though I am still “traumatized”, she seems to be just fine. Looking back, it is amazing the strength that comes from having your family and friends pull together when you need them. There is a certain calm that comes from knowing people care.
The point to this very long story is, we cannot prevent our children from getting hurt. Many times we must simply be there when they fall. We can only pick them up and try to help them heal. No amount of worry will change this. No amount of knowledge or information can keep us from second guessing our decisions. We can only make the best choices at that particular moment.
Our children are the most important things that ever happen to us. I believe that to be true whether you are the poorest or the richest, whether you are a single parent or married, whether you are a jail bird or a nobel peace prize winner. They will get hurt, they hopefully will heal. With the grace of God, they will remember the positives from their experiences. My most fond memory during those months was when my daughter looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said “Thank you mom, for everything you do for us”. Any time, baby girl, I would do it over and over again. Any time you need me, I am here.