I’d like to write on the topic of intentionality for a moment. I think my last blog post has got people thinking that I’m trying to paint this picture of a terrible upbringing…and I’d like to be the first person to address it; that’s not what my intention is at all. Furthermore, my upbringing was amazing. (Note: I didn’t say it was perfect. But from my perspective, flaws accounted for and all…my upbringing was nothing short of amazing.)
I had a mother who encouraged me to pursue my dreams relentlessly. And a Dad who was steadfast, faithful and surefooted. My Mom had her issues (doesn’t everyone?) but she always told me that I could do anything I ever wanted. Even when I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career she told me to “give nursing a whirl.” She always knew I’d be able to rise to the occasion of a challenge. She knew my heart before I did. She knew I was a nurturer, someone who could see someone for who they really are and not discredit them because of their health, struggles or their demons.
So that said let me tell you another true story about the woman who was lost to this atrocious disease…
I was eight years old and swimming at a local swimming pool. My family used to sit in this grassy area near the deep end. We’d set up a blanket and chairs and bring snacks for the day. As a kid growing up my biggest problem was “adult swim” because it meant that the kids had to stay out of the pool for a half hour. Truly, at the time, that was my biggest problem.
Until I fell of the diving board.
I had been recently learning how to jump off the diving board and by this age was a decent swimmer. On this particular day I stepped up onto the diving board and sprung up and mis-stepped. I fell off the side of it and on the way down scraped the inside of my arm and the outside of my leg and knocked the wind out of myself.
I remember being in the deep end trying to catch my breath, and stay afloat. Then over the waves of other kids splashing around in the pool, I spotted my mother as she ran from the grassy field and hopped the fence in one swift motion. Two quick steps and she dove into the pool head first and swam directly for me. When she got me to the side of the pool I realized she was much quicker than the lifeguard on duty. The lifeguard was just getting to the side of the pool deck and my Mom had already rescued me.
I had never seen my Mom move so swiftly and so athletically. I had never seen her dive into a pool until that day. Until that moment, I never knew she had that type of strength in her. In fact, I was startled by it. I was intimidated by that kind of strength. She was so fierce in that moment. She must have been so alert and so present to have reacted that fast. I was a scraped up little girl just trying to keep her head above the water, but when I watched her hop that fence I knew everything would be okay.
Her instincts as a mother were remarkable. In fact when I think about it, she was a downright awesome human being. I apologize if I painted a picture of some of my traumatic experiences that would make you think anything less. Please know, that was never my intention. She was brave. An incredibly hard worker. She was driven and smart. She was awesome. And those adjectives don’t even begin to describe the depth of who she was. In fact, they don’t even scratch the surface. It makes me wonder how many other remarkable people suffer from this disease. It makes me want to fight for them and advocate for them. To be a voice.
I’d like to be perfectly clear, I had to go back and examine some traumatic things in order to heal. But the best way I can honor my parent is to exemplify everything she was about. Having found faith in Jesus Christ during the past year of my life, I have been blessed with the ability to thoroughly separate who she was as a person from the disease she suffered from. That disease did not define her. I credit my faith to having found that clarity. And truth be told, anyone who suffers from an addiction, in my opinion, is not defined by the thing that afflicts them.
The fact is this country loses tremendous people to alcohol related liver failure each and every day. And my dream is to help people be freed from it. To be honest, I think she’d tell me to pursue that relentlessly. I know she’d tell me to help educate others about what this disease can do to the human body. I know she’d tell me to be a helping hand to others and try to effect positive change in people’s lives. She’d tell me to try and get a surgeon general warning on every bottle of alcohol in the United States if I felt called to do that. (Which would be an ideal goal that would at least alert millions to the perils of what alcohol can do. As of currently there is only a governmental warning.)
I think she’d want me to aid in liberating people from addiction and tell others that it is perfectly okay to admit when you need help, when you need to go to AA, or when you need a professional therapist. In fact, while we’re on the topic of liberation; I see a therapist myself. I have been doing a type of therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) for several months now and I am convinced that it is one of the best things I will ever do for myself.
So here’s my message to others reading this…if you find yourself in the patterns of addiction, you don’t have to stay there. You don’t have to be imprisoned by it. Not talking about it certainly doesn’t help bring about change. And making the mistake of thinking you’re the only person out there who suffers from it, is exactly how you don’t ever find the support you need. If you’re the child of an alcoholic parent, pick out the good things you want to keep for yourself that your parents engrained in you and cultivate them. Look into EMDR therapy and then pursue treatment for the bad things. You don’t have to stay a slave to patterns and behaviors that deep down you don’t want for yourself.
My mother was one of the most generous people I have ever known. She left me a great opportunity to shed a lot of light on an incredibly dark situation that affects millions of people in this nation. She also gave me one of the best gifts I will ever have; compassion.
I am choosing to continue to carry on that legacy of generosity by sharing my struggles and my journey so that other children and adults who have struggled with similar scenarios can know that they are not alone. This blog is not about me or my trauma or even my mother’s problem, its about the good that can come out of all of that. My hope for all of you reading this is that you have courage to know that in your weakness you can find strength you never knew you had.
“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”—2 Corinthians 12:10
“Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”—Philippians 4:8