When Those We Wish We Could Guide Into Recovery Most Of All Are Those We Cannot

Much of my time and energy in life goes toward creating opportunities for and supporting others around finding recovery from a substance use disorder.  It is by far the thing I am most passionate about, and that passion is most certainly driven by my own personal lived experiences of loss and life surrounding addiction and recovery.

Regardless of how many people I may have touched over the years – whether though macro level advocacy, writing and professional work or micro level direct service work and community-based volunteer efforts – it has always remained painfully the same that those I wish to be of service to most of all are often the ones I cannot seem to reach.

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

I would identify myself as neither prophet nor Christian, however this saying from the Bible has always rang true for me when it comes to what I am speaking of here.  When it comes to my ability to support those closest to me in finding recovery, my experience has been that those individuals are pretty much the ones I am least able to effectively support.  One would think that with my knowledge, connections, expertise and experience, I would surely be able to serve as an instrument of service to those closest to me in this world.  Sadly, that just has not been the case, or at least not to the extent that I wish I could be of service.  And while it pains me deeply when any human being is suffering, it of course brings a whole different type of pain when it is somebody I am closely connected to and have had the gift of more intimately experiencing their humanity.

For those of us share the same passion and same work around supporting others with finding recovery, chances are high that we will all encounter this difficult situation.  I wish I could write that it gets easier, however that has unfortunately not been my experience.  It hurts me tremendously each and every time.

For those of us who have dedicated our lives to making wellness and recovery possible for all, chances are high that there is somebody who can be drawn to mind when pondering if there is a ‘the one’ we wish we could have guided into recovery almost more than anybody.  I wish I could write that the pain of not having been able to do so subsides, or that ‘the one’ will always make into recovery eventually.  Sadly, this too has also not been my experience.

What has been my experience is the following: it downright sucks when those we are deeply connected to are struggling and we are pretty much powerless in doing a whole lot to change that.  It downright sucks even more when we are deeply connected to that particular struggle based on our own lived experiences of it.  For me, if there are two things more than anything that have aided me in navigating successfully through these painful occurrences, it is self-awareness and self-care.

Self-awareness is key to my understanding what emotional attachments are present that have nothing to do with the particular individual I am wishing I could support.  Asking myself questions such as “what is this bringing up for me about my experience of losing my Mom to addiction?” and “what am I attaching from my experiences of my own struggle with addiction and finding recovery?” are both personally helpful in raising self-awareness.  Typically, there are a number of emotional attachments from my own past experiences that are at play and something about becoming self-aware of them is neutralizing and allows those feelings to subside.

Self-care is also key in that it is important I take care of myself when experiencing pain – both the pain of the present situation of powerlessness and the pain held in the emotional attachments that got triggered by it.  For me, spending time by a body of water, reading or listening to something I find inspirational, participating in therapy and spending time with people who lift me up are just some of the strategies that are part of my self-care package.  It is important that we all have our own individualized package of self-care strategies to help us get through the pain of not being able to serve those we most wish we could serve.

At the end of the day, all we can do is our best – whether it is with those we are closest to in the world or those whom we just met or may not even know personally.  We can still demonstrate compassion and concern, we can still reach out and try, we can still be a safe space and source of comfort when needed, we can still hold out hope if that person is alive and we can still find ways to transform our pain into a light for the world when that person is no longer with us.  While not being able to effectively guide everybody into recovery can be excruciatingly painful, most especially when it is somebody we are deeply connected to, self-awareness and self-care can go a long way in preserving our passion and keeping us around for the long haul.  If anything, these experiences can most certainly serve as a reminder that we are in fact desperately needed to be around for the long haul.

Trauma, Trust and Healing The Broken Little Girl Inside Me

The last time I saw my Mom was when I was around four years old, and for as far back as I can remember, I always waited and wanted for my her to come back for me.  I thought about her often in a world where I was confronted with reminders of how moms and daughters are supposed to be together, how moms and daughters are supposed to do all kinds of stuff together. I thought about her often in a household where I felt very much like an outsider, hoping that she would come back at any moment and rescue me from what was an increasingly bleak existence. I waited and I waited and I waited. By the time I was 13 years old, I could wait no more.

After a short-lived running away from home escapade one night, I demanded that my father give me my mother’s address so I could go to her rather than waiting any longer for her to come to me. My plan was to ask my Mom if I could live with her. The hope was that my life would then get better.

My father pulled the car over almost immediately, turned around and looked at me and said “I’m sorry to have to tell you this Brooke, your mother died last year.”

Instantly, something deep inside of me broke. Almost as traumatic as the news of my Mom’s death due to a drug overdose was the realization that I had spent the past year believing in the possibility of her coming back for me when that hadn’t even been remotely possible.

Almost as devastating as learning that my mom had died was the fact that nobody bothered to tell me, that if I hadn’t asked, I never would have found out.

I was upset that I had been robbed of the choice to go to her funeral, angry that this information had been wrongly kept from me and shattered from having been so caught off guard.

This painful experience is one that has gone on to impact my life and my relationships in multiple ways. While I have spent more hours in therapy than I can count focused on healing from this trauma, I still have much work to do.

As a result of the trauma I experienced, I have a high expectation of trust in my intimate relationships.  In order to allow myself to be open and vulnerable, I have to feel safe in that my partner will not lie about or withhold information from me that could take away my power of choice, catch me off guard or leave me open to getting badly hurt.  Although I will be continuing the journey of my healing process for many years to come, I imagine that this need for safety in the area of trust in my relationships will always be higher than most. It is part of who I am, and I have grown in accepting and loving that broken little girl inside of me who so desperately needs to feel safe.

I have had my trust betrayed in intimate relationships. I have found myself with partners who, due to their own limitations, just weren’t capable of the level of honesty I needed in order to feel safe. It has been both devastating and a great catalyst for deeper healing when this has occurred.

These days, I continue to address and work through the trauma I’ve experienced as I strive to provide for myself the safety that the broken little girl inside of me needs. Some days, I wonder if I will ever find myself in an intimate relationship where the level of trust and safety I need is present. Other days, I believe that somewhere out there is a person who is capable of the level of honesty and authenticity I so desire.

At the end of the day and most importantly, I continue to work on loving and showing up for that broken little girl inside of me whose world was rocked so many years ago. I continue to nurture her, take care of her and discover new strategies for helping her feel safe in the world. I also continue to grow in taking the risk of believing in possibilities, the risk of believing in things I cannot see.  The act of putting this blog out into the world is in itself one of those risks: the act of believing in the possibility that my sharing this deeply personal experience of mine will somehow touch and help heal someone else.  I very much hope it does just that.  I know the act of writing it and putting it out there has at least helped heal and touch me.