Thank You SUD and LTC
It seems odd to me to be thanking a disease. A disease that is associated with so much stigma that many people won’t even consider it a disease. A disease that robbed me of my confidence to parent and had me constantly waiting by the phone for the possibly unthinkable, unimaginable awful news of my loved one. It is a disease that, for years, transformed my beautiful little girl into someone that I did not recognize. Substance Use Disorder (SUD) brings up a host of emotions; sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety and fear among a few. Why in hell would I be thankful for something that causes all of this chaos and upheaval? I am thankful because SUD was and still is a teacher for me. My lessons would include chapters on resilience, control and the art of being present. However, before I could begin to understand the lessons that SUD had to teach me, I needed some extra help. That help came in the form of an organization called Learn to Cope. I arrived at LTC feeling isolated, broken, powerless, out of control and very much alone. What I found were people with experiences that were similar to mine. I WASN’T ALONE. That simple acknowledgement was so very powerful. It was within these meetings, through members stories and individual stories of recovery, that I learned my first important lesson. I was no longer alone and isolated. I was, admittedly, a little beat up, but not broken. I had found my people. I began to get my feet back under me. I rediscovered my inner power and I found the control I needed for me. I was ready to take on this ruthless teacher called substance use disorder.
Lesson number one.
I am resilient and resilience can be learned. I began to understand that “s**t happens” and suffering is part of human existence. It was okay to admit what I’m experiencing right now sucks. My attention had to be on actions and thoughts that were within my control. I learned to tune into the good and I began to ask myself, “Is what I am doing or thinking helping me or harming me?” Through these questions and honest answers, I started to be kind to myself. This shift in thinking allowed me to become ready for what was to come next.
Lesson number two.
This class was all about control. I will freely admit that I was failing this lesson miserably until I went to my LTC study group. My first few meetings I was front and center, pen in hand, ready to learn how to control my loved one and this dreadful disease that had her in its clutches. What I found out was, I was NOT in control of this disease, my loved one, OR how my loved one approached her recovery. I thought “Fabulous…. Okay crappy teacher SUD…educate me…” Turns out, I am in control of me, just me, and that in itself is plenty enough to handle. I began to grasp the idea that I was in control of my mindset, my wellness, my attitude, and my actions. SUD taught me that I needed to set boundaries that kept all of those things healthy and safe. This education led me to one of my favorite quotes by Victor Frankel
I love this quote because he speaks of freedom and power and choice and growth and happiness…. And these are some amazing things I do have control over within myself.
Lesson one and two were pre-requisites for the third class which was learning how to be present. I have discovered that this lesson had to begin with giving myself permission to take care of me. Again, it was my LTC family that helped me understand this. There wasn’t a meeting that I attended that we were not reminded to practice self-care. I am grateful for those members that kept reminding us of this, I truly needed someone else to tell me repeatedly that it was OK for me to be good to myself. When you love someone with SUD you can become consumed with taking care of them and forget yourself. I have learned that I am far more effective in supporting my daughter if I am healthy. I began with practicing being in the moment on my walks with my dogs. I worked at recognizing the blue sky and the green grass and the pure joy of a golden retriever running pell-mell, tongue hanging out and ears flopping back. Eventually I began to apply this technique to my workouts, my job, tough moments with my loved ones and times when I would find myself feeling lonely, sad and overwhelmed. My workouts became more effective. My job became more rewarding (most days… it’s a work in progress) and my feelings became feelings of the moment. This is by far the hardest lesson and I am constantly working at it. When you get it right, nature is absolutely stunningly beautiful, a deadlift can feel so amazingly powerful and love can consume and overwhelm you.
I grudgingly thank you, crappy teacher SUD, for teaching me that I am one resilient woman, who is in control of her choices, her growth and her happiness. Most of all I am eternally grateful for my LTC family, for if it wasn’t for them, I would have failed miserably.