This is the first post I’ve written that I will be incredibly nervous to hit the publish button on. I wanted to start this post with a disclaimer for any of my family members who might be reading this post, but I’ve decided against it. I don’t want to apologize for my memories and I won’t write a sweeter version of what I recall. I promised my readers and more importantly myself that I would only blog from a place of complete authenticity and integrity. So here I go- I’ll do my best to give you a look inside the series of events that shaped me and made me so passionate about helping others find nourishment in their lives.
I was born December 22nd, 1989 to young and in-love parents. They had recently relocated from Toronto to St. Catherine’s, Ontario to start a new life together. They were full of hope and had wonderful intentions to be the best parents they could be and that’s what they did.
My mother was amazing when she was pregnant with me. She took every care to be healthy and to start my education from in the womb. My mom really poured her heart into my most tender years. She fed me healthy home made foods, she worked from home so she was able to put many loving hours into playing with me and teaching me and most of all she gave me lots and lots of love. I’m incredibly grateful for these years even though I can’t remember them. Thank goodness camcorders were around then because I have plenty of evidence of all of these great memories!
When I was three years old, almost to the day, our family grew when my brother was born on December 23rd, 1992. I was very excited to become a big sister and things seemed awesome. Unfortunately, after my brother was born my mom began to suffer from post-partum depression.
Depression runs in my family, as it does in many. My maternal grandmother suffered from severe depression and consequently my mother did not get the same loving attention when she was young that she was able to give me. My mother’s relationship with her mother was a very difficult one and never had the chance to heal because my grandmother passed away two weeks before my younger brother was born.
I’m absolutely sure that my grandmother’s death played a huge role in my mom’s post-partum depression. I also believe this was the catalyst that eventually led to the shattering of the picture perfect persona that she had invested so much time in building. She was the perfect mom, the perfect wife and a successful business owner. It took me a long time to understand, but I now see that she thought that if she swept all her hurt and pain under the rug, she could balance on top of it well enough to have a happy and fulfilling life.
However, from personal experience, I know that this is impossible. With the abuse she experienced, to the lack of love she received all on top of the emotional unavailability of her two alcoholic parents, it’s actually amazing that she kept it all together as long as she did. I respect her for doing her best and I send love to that young woman trying as hard as she was and just hoping it would all work out. So, when she left a note and first tried to end the suffering when she was in the darkness of post-partum depression feeling completely alone, I do my best understand.
This was the beginning of my childhood. My mom wasn’t able to pull herself out of this hole. As much love and support as my dad and other family members tried to give her, she didn’t know how to receive it. She never learned how to be loved as a child and this is a very difficult and deep wound to heal. She turned to substances to numb the pain and spent the next several years on a roller coaster of trying to escape this world in any way she could. I don’t need to go into the details but there was a lot of trauma during this time and a lot of visits from emergency services.
When I was eight my parents separated and we ended up moving around a lot. My mom tried a few times to pull it back together and we did have a lot of happy memories; I cherish these. The truth is my mom is a fighter, she provided as much as she could for us and she worked really, really hard. But the fact is I am an adult child of an alcoholic. The incredibly painful cycle of depression and substance abuse did not end with my mother, but it will end with me.
I grew up quickly and I took on a parenting role when I was very young. I barreled forward in life in almost the exact same way as my mom did. I acted older than I was, I overachieved and I always acted okay. In fact, I really truly believed that I was okay. I knew I had a difficult childhood, but I’d die before I would ever admit that I was damaged. I was above that, I was stronger than that and I would be damned if I ever let you tell me I was just like my mother.
I moved out young, at 17, and never looked back. It was somewhere around 19 that I realized that I was coming to a fork in the road. I had just gotten into a serious relationship, had an increasingly rocky relationship with my mother and I had been abusing marijuana for a couple of years. I thought I was using it in a socially acceptable way because all my friends did it too, but they were probably escaping something just the same way I was. I was standing in the exact same place my mother was at the same age and I had two choices. I could keep going forward the way I was, shoving it all under the rug and balancing on top or I could look my pain in the face and do the work to break the cycle.
This is incredibly difficult work to do. It’s been seven years since I made this realization and during this time I had truly thought I was doing all the right things to heal myself.
I was reading all sorts of self-help books, I was delving into spirituality and I was getting “healthy”. However, at the same time as I was going through all the motions of getting better, I had also shifted from marijuana abuse (I quit that completely when I met the love of my life) to alcohol abuse. And in the exact same rationalization as with pot, I thought I was using alcohol in a socially acceptable way. It took me a long time to see that I wasn’t and that I was slipping closer and closer towards the destiny I least wanted.
It took my now-husband telling me hundreds of times, and me scaring myself on many occasions for me to open my eyes to what I was doing. At one point it got so bad that I was sneaking alcohol nightly. Getting tipsy by myself and chain-smoking cigarettes alone in the garage until well after my husband went to sleep. Many nights I would sneak upstairs, throw up in the spare bathroom and then crawl into bed with the spins hoping my husband wouldn’t notice.
This is what being an alcoholic looks like. I admit it- I am not good with alcohol and alcohol is not my friend. Every time I drink I feel terrible the next day, even if its just two drinks. And its not because I’m hung over, it’s because I feel guilty and I know that alcohol messes with my brain chemistry. I can sometimes even feel it when I have one drink. I feel less clarity, I feel sad even if there is no reason and I don’t feel love for myself. It’s just not good for me.
This is a tough thing to put down on paper. Our culture is very heavily based upon the consumption of alcohol, not only for celebration but also for commiseration and dealing with stress. We drink when we’re happy; we drink when we’re sad and when everyone else is drinking it feels pretty weird when you‘re not. Alcoholism is a huge stigma to carry and I am currently trying to navigate each situation I enter, with the help of my husband, the best that I can. I haven’t cut alcohol completely out of my life, but I have drastically reduced my consumption. I have found substituting with kombucha to be a great help at gatherings where everyone else is drinking.
I haven’t spoken openly about this to many people, not even my friends. I am incredibly good at hiding it when I’m not okay. It’s been a frightening road and I’m learning how to be vulnerable so I can know that it’s okay to not always be okay. I’ve decided to share this with you now because it’s a part of my healing. I know that online appearances are very deceiving and I never want to create the impression that I’ve got it all together. I’m sharing this because if anyone else is experiencing anything similar I want them to know their story isn’t the only one like it.
I know there are tons of people who have said exactly what I just said and I always thought that was cheesy. The thing is, I never found a story that I thought was the same as mine because I didn’t see that I was self-sabotaging and I didn’t know that my behavior was truly and deeply harmful.
Just because you’re young and its “normal” to get drunk and have hangovers doesn’t mean its okay. Some people can handle alcohol and some people just can’t handle it as well. Maybe you don’t even realize your behavior is unhealthy, but that’s okay because maybe my story will make you want to examine your own habits.
You know how you see someone practicing a dance routine and they are going through the micro-motions of all of their steps? That’s basically what I have been doing with my healing for many years. Going through all of the motions but not really committing to the full routine. I was doing just enough to make myself feel as though I was putting in the work but didn’t really understand how to go deeper. I also definitely wasn’t acknowledging all of my actions that were basically making any and all of my healing efforts null and void.
I wasn’t asking myself the real questions I needed to ask myself. I didn’t even know what those questions were.
It’s hard enough to admit that your actions are not serving you and it’s even harder to look at yourself in the mirror and realize that you have at some point stopped loving yourself.
“What? Me, no! I’m confident, I’m healthy! Of course I love myself! What could you possibly be talking about?”
Self-deception plays a strong game. Look at your life. Are you nurturing yourself? Are your behaviours and your day-to-day actions reflective of someone who actually cares for themselves? And I don’t mean someone who brushes their teeth and goes to the gym. I mean are you empathetic with yourself? Are you tender with yourself the way you would be to a sister or a friend? Get real.
This life tells us that we better be our own worst critics because we are molded to believe that if we don’t do A, B or C we aren’t worthy of love. So what is the first source of love that we cut ourselves off from when we don’t think that we’re deserving? Self-love.
We punish ourselves in all these little ways that add up to a life lived in shackles, ruled by beliefs about ourselves that are simply untrue. It took a lot of physical and mental suffering for me to realize how my past had really affected me and a hell of a lot of asking myself why and how.
In all of the self-help reading I did to find myself a solution to my problems what I mostly found was a lot of inaccessible language; a lot of airy feel-good strings of words. Sometimes I found action steps that gave me this go-getter attitude. Like, YEAH! I can do this, I’ll just follow these 5 steps and my life will be healed. LOL!
Here’s the truth: there is no cookie-cutter answer or method to healing.
There are tools that you can pick up a long the way that are useful, but they are not the solution. The solution is you. The solution is sitting with yourself and digging into why you might act or react the way you do to certain situations and then asking why again and again until you can’t anymore.
Most of the time you’ll end up back at some very similar answers like: I do this because I’m afraid of losing love. But it’s the process of getting to that answer that is the most important part. And then its the process of questioning these beliefs that run you from the core that starts to break apart this self-loathing way of thinking and operating.
I almost guarantee you’ll find yourself resisting this process and probably wanting to deny a lot things because you’ll think you’re better than that, or your situation is somehow more complex or you’re so unique that couldn’t possibly apply to you. But what I have found to be the most true in all of this is that most actions and thoughts stem from love or fear in all of us. They might present themselves in incredibly strange ways but if you keep on digging and digging you’ll often find love or fear at the root. Hate stems from fear and so it’s actually fear that is the opposite of love.
You know that old cliché the only thing to fear is fear itself? Well that’s pretty damn true. Fear makes us push others away, fear makes us hide, fear stops us from exposing ourselves, fear of losing out on love makes us actually lose out on love, its so backwards.
In order for anyone to face their fears, the ones that cause them so much pain, we must be vulnerable and that is so hard because that means letting go of all these defences that have kept us safe for so many years. You have to ask yourself what you are afraid of and admitting that is scary. All openness, all love stems from vulnerability. So that’s where I’m starting with you. I’m setting the tone. I am exposed. My mission here is to be real with you about what it’s going to take.
My healing journey started with the physical and went inward; maybe yours will be the other way around or maybe it will be a bit of both at the same time. I read recently that your relationship to food is a reflection of your relationship to life. For me food was a huge tool to start nourishing myself and I will be writing another post about my physical health and that entire journey as a sister-post to this one sometime down the line.
Ultimately- I feel incredibly good about 2016 because I’ve made some really important changes this past year and I plan to continue on this path of exposing the sore spots and letting them get enough oxygen so they can heal.
I’ll share with you what I’ve been doing and what I have found to be helpful and effective in my journey. But for now I want to turn it over to you; I want to know your story. If you would like to share with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org because I’d love to offer whatever support I can, even if its just me saying: I see you girl, and you’re gonna make it.
Much love and I hope you’ll continue to follow me and my evolution through eating and loving!