In the past couple of months two people from the rooms of recovery have stopped me and given me the same message. “ I didn’t think you were going to make it”, they said “ you were one of the most broken people that I ever met. You have grown and changed so much.”
I had to reflect on what their words meant.
I was told that when I was little, I was developing normally and suddenly at 18 months old, I developed a high fever and a seizure condition. The seizures were so significant that they wiped out my ability to walk, talk or move with coordination. (There has never been a diagnosis, but the effects of the seizures, though lessened, still linger today.) The doctors told my parents that it would be more kind to put me in a “home” and go on to have other “normal” children. My father was horrified and called me defective and not of his genes as he left. My mother did the best she could as a suddenly single parent with her own demons.
I remember the pain of the seizures and found that if I felt one coming on, all I had to do was ask for medication and the pain would go away. Then I figured out (with the help of a lazy babysitter) that if I was bored or a handful, I could also get the medication. Life, even as a small child, felt better high.
The next years were filled with violence, fear and abuse. (Please don’t assume the identities of the abusers, I have forgiven many who were involved and wish to keep their identities private to honor the sanctity of my healing). My body would hurt from being used and tossed in to a corner, my head would betray me and I would have a seizure. There was no protection, even my own defenses let me down. I remembered praying at 4 years old that if God would let me live, I would help others.
From 18 months to the age of 42, my years were filled with substance abuse, abandonment, more abuse, rejection and now addiction and mental health issues. There was no hope and my promise long forgotten. There was more than one time that ending it all appeared to be the only option.
One miracle that I was given (actually 6) amazing people in my life that helped me to hang on, my children, when I was about to let go. Each brought their own gifts of love, friendship, trust, humor, stability and intellect. It was looking into their eyes that I found the courage to find a different path, a different answer.
It is because of them my journey to become a whole person began. I read veraciously. I attended counseling sessions in both group and individual sessions. When it became apparent that I was an addict and an alcoholic, I found my way to the rooms of sober support and worked closely with a sponsor and allowed myself to make lifelong friends that would love me no matter what.
When my head finally cleared and life began to make sense, I remembered my promise. It was finally safe to remember the prayers of a little girl, crumpled on the floor and in pain. It is to her that I do my work. I became a yoga instructor and was not your typical yogi. I was fat, broken and older. Yet that made me perfect to reach people who were out of the ability to love themselves just as they are. Then I became a chemical dependency counselor. Even though it is my job, I pour my life, experience and hope into my clients, giving them unconditional positive regard.
And it is to that little girl and her legacy of being very brave in the face of sheer terror, that I wrote the book Building Blocks of Recovery. While to the outside reader, it appears to be a recovery system combining several different philosophies into a recovery road map to rebuild a life, for me it is how I literally survived. The book is a legacy of survival against the odds.
Today and I hope for many days to come, I live by the philosophy “for love and service, like it’s fun and it free”. For today, I have been blessed to be given the tools to move from broken to filled and to share both my education and experience with all who I come in contact.
I dedicate my life to all of the little girls and boys who feel too broken to be loved, to tell them the story of miracles and possibilities that are within them. And that they are strong enough to survive, recover and thrive.