The Call for Help.
There’s the man that text me late one night and said, “I need your help.” He was afraid he was going to lose what he realized was the love of his life because he was addicted to prescription pain killers. “Will you help me?” he asked “Will you help her understand? The fear of losing her feels like rock bottom.” We texted back and forth, long honest texts. I told him, “Surrendering to love will save your life” and a few days later the three of us were together, talking, listening, understanding and loving.
There’s the sister who sends me a private facebook message, “I need your help.” she writes of her nephew and his heroin addiction and the toll its taking on her sister’s family, on all of them. She’s frightened for her nephew’s life. “How do I help my sister?” she cries. “how do I help my nephew?” and a few days later she writes to tell me he is in treatment.
There’s the best friend who sends me a message that goes like this, “my friend needs your help. Can I give her your hame?” and her friend sends me a message and we chat and she cries and we start to talk about how they get to the other side.
The Friday night phone call from someone close to me, “will you talk to my friend? She’s in such distress, I don’t know what to say to help her feel better” and for two hours we talk and cry and talk and cry until finally some calm comes and sometime later we meet up at the family meeting I’ve started in the community to support families and their loves ones.
The Mom who calls while I am making dinner, “My teenage son….. I don’t know what to do?” and I listen and understand and a few days later we hug in person. Tiny shifts but shifts towards recovery.
The sister who texts and asks “do you have some time, my brother…..” and 30 minutes later she’s sitting in my kitchen telling me her story and a few days later he is in treatment and starting the journey to wellness.
My son who texts and says, “I gave him your name, can you talk to him, talk to his parents…..” and the next text is the young man who says, “I can’t tell my parents, they wouldn’t understand.”
Then the young man sits on my sofa with his mom and tells her, “Mom I have a problem, I need help…..” and now is two weeks clean, in treatment and really proud of himself and texting me saying “treatment is kind of fun.” (That was the by far one of the best messages.)
The woman who writes me and says, “you seem like someone who can help me. I am addicted to pain killers…..”
The person who says, “I’m having thoughts, really dark thoughts…..”
The mothers who call for help. The brothers who call for help. The sisters, daughters, lovers, wives, husbands, friends, fathers, family members, people who call for help. I answer the calls. They sit in my kitchen. We talk on the phone. We text. We find help, we hold onto each other.
I am telling you this because I want you to know, I am here and I mean it. I’ve felt the way you’ve felt before. Scared. Lost. Dark. Totally Helpless & Alone and needing someone to help me to get to the other side, to see another side.
People kept saying “You are not alone.”
The truth is I didn’t believe that. I didn’t FEEL that. I felt the most alone I’d ever felt sitting in anonymous circles or sitting in church pews. I felt the most alone I’d ever felt battling addiction with people in my family. I felt alone in crowds of people and even with my friends. I didn’t think anyone could possibly understand how I was feeling or help.
It didn’t matter how many times they said it, someone wrote it or I read it. I felt alone in my soul. I don’t feel that way anymore. One day I called a stranger and asked for help.
One day that stranger who is now one my most treasured friends, wrote this on Facebook: “I have been there. I have felt bullied, lost, alone, depressed, anxious, sad, hopeless, useless, unwanted, unloved, unlovable, scared, shameful, desperate, etc. I have felt all of those things and more. PLEASE if you feel like nobody understands or nobody cares you’re wrong! BECAUSE I DO! I understand and I care….I AM YOU! When you just can’t seem to “suck it up” or you just can’t “deal with it” or “get over it.” Please reach out to me before you do anything to hurt yourself, YOUR life matters!! I can’t fix anything… But I can talk to you or sit with you and say nothing or just hold you if that’s what you need. I can and do understand. I AM YOU!” -tattootom
Years ago, he answered my call. He listened, he offered help and he held my hand. He wasn’t the only one. The more I reached out, the more hands were there, the more hearts were there including my friends. I began to feel less and less alone. For Real.
I answer these calls, these calls for help, knowing I can’t fix anyone, or make anyone stop doing the thing that causes so much pain but I can be the one who answers and sits, hugs, holds hands so that someone feels heard, cared about, understood and loved because I AM YOU.
I am also the one who has actionable solutions. I am the one who can hold the space. I am the one who has been there and can guide you to the other side. I am a pain reliever. I can help you fix the situations. I know how.
I don’t say “you are not alone.” anymore. I know that feeling so well. Sometimes you are alone. Totally alone but you don’t have to be.
You can reach out, even to a stranger and say, “I need help” or “I am scared” or “I don’t know what to do” or “I can’t do this anymore” and I promise you will be heard. Held. Loved.
We are together. That’s what I FEEL now.
Reach, I promise there will be help, love and understanding. I AM YOU. We are each other. And when you’re feeling strong, you can answer the calls too.
Just don’t give up and don’t leave or hurt yourself without giving someone a chance to help, to hold you, to listen, to care, to love you.
We are together. I promise.
Here’s my email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need someone to lean on. I always answer.
“What was the one thing you did that you feel helped you and your family the most?” she asked me. I’d told her about a year I’d spent devoted to healing, of deep soul work, about the year that I believe broke the cycle of addiction that had been passed down for generations in my family. A year that changed me profoundly in the deepest way, which in turn gave me the courage and the strength to do something to deeply change the lives of my son and my daughters. My own LOVE RISING. I’ve been telling the story on the blog under the heading “Recovering Truth” for a little while now. You can read that here.
She was telling me about a silent yoga retreat she was considering. She’s in recovery, she’s navigating her path, she’s been doing the work to remove the barriers to love and she’s an excellent guide for others.
“What was the one thing?” She asked me.
“The retreats” I tell her. “Definitely the retreats.”
I’d gone on six retreats that year. Three solo weekends with my spiritual guide, Jen Lemen, one with my daughters and Jen, a three week sabbatical with my kids at the beach on our own but with support from Jen and one 12 day long trip to Bali with a friend. Intentional disconnection from my “life” to connect with my “self.” It was a year of surrender and devotion. Each retreat chipping away at the protective shield I’d built around my heart over a lifetime that was keeping true love out and keeping me “safe.” Each retreat giving way to a softening, an opening, a melting of my body and my heart so that I could truly feel all the feels and deeply connect with others, with spirit, with nature and with myself. Each retreat letting go of beliefs that didn’t serve me or my family and discarding baggage that was not mine but had been inherited or absorbed by my being. Each retreat shifting perspective about myself, my life, the world around me and increasing my ability to be truly present and feel the most alive. My love, my spirit rising from the ashes of loss, of grief, of a lifetime in an environment that wasn’t completely well, happy or peaceful. A life that looked good from the outside, surrounded by friends, family and community, but with emotional suffering on the inside. Some parts were so beautiful and good but others were sucking at my soul. I owned that I had a part in how my life felt and that it was my repsonsiblity to make it what I wanted it to be. I wanted to create a life that I adore, that fuels my fire and makes my soul sing, I didn’t know how to actually do it. (I adore my life now like never before but that’s another story)
All I knew when I went on that first retreat alone was that I didn’t want to feel the way I was feeling behind the walls for another minute much less another day, week, month or year. I didn’t want walls anymore. It was exhausting trying to maintain the level of brightness and positivity that I am known for, that I know is at my core, under the circumstances we were in. I’d ended my marriage two years earlier, lost my parents six months prior, had a confusing relationship with a man whose spirit I felt like nothing I’d ever felt before and one of my children was in the grips of addiction and deep trauma to his heart. I was treading water with a brick tied to my ankle with a big smile on my face. The only things keeping me afloat was my incredible community and my love for my children.
I’d been praying for guidance. I found it on retreat. That wasn’t all I’d found. The retreats changed everything. I’d been praying on this idea awhile:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” -RumiI didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I wanted to be IN LOVE. As real as it could be with every part of my soul, in everything that I did, in all of my relationships and in partnership and I wanted people to feel me too, not the “correct/acceptable” version of me but the truest version of me. The me without anybody else’s definitions or expectations or labels. Only my true self. I’d started on the path by myself by getting out of a marriage that I could no longer bear, reading books like Return To Love by Marianne Williamson and Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein and being led to other books including A Course In Miracles, which I practiced for an entire year after my divorce, my son’s first time in treatment and when that confusing relationship ended abruptly. I didn’t really know what that BIG LOVE felt like on the outside but I knew I had it on the inside. I was determined to find out and feel it, live it, be it. I was determined to have the life I longed for. Deeply connected, completely aligned, steeped in beauty, fully expressed. Present.
I believed. I had faith. Extreme faith in Love and its power. Somehow it was going to change my life, the life of my addicted child and the lives of my other children. I devoted myself to whatever it took and however the process unfolded understanding that God/The Universe/Spirit, whatever you choose to call the force of Love, would guide me, provide for me and place the right people in my path to help me grow, heal and evolve.
It was the retreat experience that disconnected me from “the daily,” the chaos and all the things/people/demands on our time and our being. In turn, the retreats reconnected me with me. They put me deeper into my body, deeper into my heart, able to really hear and respond to my own guidance, my own deep knowing and ultimately what stripped away “the barriers” to love by opening me up and surrendering to healing and to truth. Thresholds of enchantment, that’s what those retreats were. I became enchanted each time I stepped away for a little bit and the magic began to transform me into the woman I wanted to be.
I went on the retreats even though my child’s health was not stable. I had to depend on other people to care for my younger children. My community supported me with their love, their time and their blessings. I had to ask for help. I had to admit that I didn’t know, I didn’t understand, that I was sad, scared, lost, alone and very very tired. I had to surrender to uncertainty, unknown, and strangers to take care of me. And they did. I had to trust that this was the right thing to do for myself so that I could be the mother they needed, become the woman my community needed, the world needed me to be but most of all the Me I needed me to be.
First was the solo retreat with the spiritual mentor the universe sent me to begin the process of cracking the walls and opening my heart for a kind of surgery on my soul. After which I knew I would never be the same as I began to undo the lies I’d been telling myself for most of my life. As I began to reclaim my own beauty and let go of the stories that had been handed down to me. Stories of unworthiness, of not good enough, not pretty enough of being unloveable by nature. Stories that created an environment where addiction could thrive. An environment where you don’t speak, don’t feel and don’t trust. The three rules that keep addiction alive and ruling the world. I began breaking those rules and by breaking the rules I began to feel deeply, to speak up and to trust love.
Then the retreat to Seattle with two of the best soul whisperers on the planet and a horse named connection. You can read about that experience here. Where I learned about connection and the power of the heart and began to find my voice and let go of the pain and grief held in my body. The pain that was clenching my soul. Where I danced and I sang in a tiny little house in the woods. After which, I shifted my beliefs around addiction and began to treat my child as if he’d been diagnosed with a terminal disease, which set in motion a chain of events that ultimately resulted in treatment, remission and recovery for my child and a purpose began to rise in me.
Then the 14 day trip across the world to the tiny spiritual country of Indonesia. Finding myself in the company of a High Priestess and her husband and surrendering to their blessings, their love and healing in the heart of Bali. The unclenching of my soul, the unfolding of a spiritual adventure and the release of a huge amount of grief stored under my skin, feeling myself getting lighter and lighter and more and more connected to myself.
Then the trip to the eastern shore with my daughters where they began to melt and come down off high alert by just being alone with me, without our daily, without addiction running our lives, without cares. Just us. Where they cracked open just enough to let me see the pain in their hearts which in turn fueled my fire to cure our family and create the kind of sweet and beautiful existence they deserved, that all children deserve. When I knew with my entire being that addiction had to go once and for all and I would fight it or die trying. When I saw that they were tired too and needed me to end this and fast.
After that things began to rapidly change. It was chaotic and loud, difficult and scary but I knew that something greater was coming. I trusted God in a way I never had before. I listened with my soul. There were moments of searing beauty, great fear and moments of extreme rage but I was stronger because I’d learned what I needed to be a warrior. I kept confronting addiction at every turn and I didn’t back down. Sometimes I came away feeling defeated and beaten down and sometimes there was a victory. I’d read somewhere that your actions now affect the next seven generations. I wrote that on a card and put it on my altar. “your life will affect generations.” I became devoted to making sure my children and the children after would not grow up in an environment of addiction. They’d grow up in love, joy, happiness, wellness, peace. For that to happen, it had to start with me.
I booked a place at the beach for a few weeks and packed up my girls, puzzles, coloring books, flip flops, bikini’s and beach cover ups and spent the whole time asking myself everyday, “what does my 10 year old girl need today.” In that way I began to connect even deeper with the source of loneliness and the joy hidden deep down underneath all the sad and the pain. I’d turned 50 that year and I’d chosen the word JOY to live in for the year. In doing so everything that was in the way of feeling my true joy began to rise up for healing and then to fall away. That included anything and anyone that kept me from being awake, aware, alive and connected. Barriers to love are also barriers to joy.
In the fall with my child safely in treatment and on the path of recovery and wellness, I landed in the Land of Enchantment, Santa Fe, New Mexico ready to hear my next set of instructions from Spirit. I met with a shaman, a sage guide and the soul of the world itself while camping out in a tipi and hiking through in the hills of Madrid. You can read about that experience here. It was here I connected with my purpose and how to live my life with meaning and deeper in love. My soul healing that empty space that we look outside of us to fill and also alchemizing the pain of the past into pure gold ushering me and my family into a new way of being.
Finally a trip to an old house on Amelia Island with Jen as my guide in Florida a year to the day from that first retreat with her where I washed away all the things I was not and began to live all the things I was and sending my prayers for a new way of being up in a bon fire. A retreat to recognize all of the barriers that had fallen over the year and a reconciliation of what it took to set my heart free and begin to create a life fully expressed, completely aligned, deeply connected.
“What was the one thing that you did that you feel helped the most?”
“The retreats, definitely the retreats.”
I went looking for all the barriers within myself that I had built against love and burned them down and cleansed my soul on retreats.
In love and enchantment,
The thing is I did pray, I do pray. ALL THE TIME. And I did believe, I do believe, in God/Spirit/Love whatever you want to call the mighty spiritual force in the universe. I admire and follow the example of Jesus. I also admire and follow the example of Buddha. Angels are my friends. I adore Mother Mary and the rosary. I use mala beads from the Hindu tradition during prayer. I find some of the stories in the Bible to be extremely inspiring, hopeful and miraculous. I trust Spirit to guide me. I have a daily prayer practice that keeps me grounded. I talk to God all the time and God talks back to me, all the time. I am woman of extreme faith. I trust that there are Angels. I just don’t run around asking people if they’ve accepted Jesus as their personal savior or forcing God or my spirituality down anyone’s throat, or trying convert anyone to my way of prayer and I certainly don’t assume you wouldn’t want my love or blessings in a greeting card no matter how you connect with your spirit.
I just don’t go to church as a practice. I love churches, they are beautiful creations. I can feel the holy spirit and angels when I am in a church. Sundays are still sacred to me, they feel sacred. A day of rest, connection to self, Spirit and family after a week of hustling, working, schooling and parenting. A day of quiet without expectations feels like perfect love. We’ve tried churches, lots of churches. We haven’t found one that resonates with my soul.
I believe we are holy as people. I believe we are by our very nature Love and Goodness. I am not on the everyone is a sinner and inherently bad program. It makes it harder for me to find a church that resonates on that level, because I believe we are all good on the inside, not bad trying to be good. Good period.
Love is my religion.
I believe in the power of ritual, ceremony, tradition. They are all beautiful, glorious, in all of the religions. Each religion holds its own special magic and magnificence. I believe in Christmas and the story of the birth of one of the most profoundly loving humans. I like Jesus.
We always go to a church on Christmas. I don’t always feel like I belong there because I am not a regular, its not my “church home” but I love hearing the music and special stories and seeing the wonder and delight of the children. It helps me feel grounded in a way, a moment of surrender to the joy and spirit of Christmas after all the hustle to perform the Christmas miracle of decorating, getting everyone’s gifts, stuffing stockings, mailing Christmas cards and shopping for all the food and not collapsing under the pressure to create this magical event.
That hour in church on Christmas Eve is my magic and my heartbreak. The heartbreak is the opening that lets the light and the truth in after all the “to do” that’s happened up to the moment I enter the sanctuary including making sure my family is dressed appropriately and all the gifts are loaded in the car for the dinner and gift giving after the service. Christmas Eve in church is actually the moment I enjoy the most besides my children’s Christmas morning glee. (after which you can find me passed out on the sofa- exhausted but that’s another story I think I’ll tell tomorrow)
I remember the year that my son’s best friend Ben died in a car accident and the pastor told a story of his new baby Ben and my son squeezed my hand the whole time and I cried for the rest of the service and sobbed during the candle lit Silent Night knowing how hard Christmas was going to be for my son and Ben’s family. Every Christmas for 16 years was spent with Ben playing with star wars figures and legos and playmobile at each others houses. Feeling how broken my heart was and missing that boy that was like my own was hard. I was trying to remain joyful for my children and my family but grieving deeply just the same.
I remember the year that my mom was sick with breast cancer and didn’t come to our annual one night together at church where we took up 13 seats as a family and her illness really sinking in on me. Holding my candle and singing Silent Night thinking, maybe she’d never sit with us at church again.
Or the year we tried a different church and the pastor told a story of the family whose son wouldn’t be coming for Christmas dinner because he died of a drug overdose but his mother kept his place at the table so that others would remember him and would maybe not make that one choice that activates addiction. My son was so sick and deep in his disease that he couldn’t hear the message, but I did and tears streamed steadily down my face all the way through the sermon, wondering if one day I’d be having Christmas Eve dinner without him and an empty seat at the table. Grateful for the message that Spirit had handed me with this story and even more grateful that my son was even here in church, very sick and still grieving and suffering holiday trauma over the loss of his friend.
Then two years ago, after both of my parents died and we didn’t know where to go or what to do and nothing felt right, not a church or the dinner or the gift giving, none of it felt real or very joyful. Today I can’t even remember what happened or where we went to connect with Christmas on a spiritual level. Grief has a way of numbing your mind until your soul is ready to handle things.
And last year. The year we went to yet another church as a family even though we are divorced, celebrating the wellness of our child during treatment for substance use disorder. A joyous holiday for sure. We sat in a packed row, my children, my ex husband, his girl friend and his mother to connect with the true spirit of Christmas. Togetherness and Hope. And then a sober dinner with twenty five family members and friends at our house. All of us together, including dad, his girl friend and Nana, celebrating wellness and the joy, peace and happiness found in recovery.
This past few years and experiences of grief, sickness, death, loss, and pain have deepened my spirituality in a profound way. I believe in Angels. I believe in Love. I still don’t practice going to church. I am not religious but I wouldn’t have made it through what we’ve made it through without my faith in the goodness of people, in love and in God/Spirit/The Force and neither would my family. I believe everyone can be an angel in some way for others. It’s our purpose here on earth to see each other through. It’s how we do hard things. Angels are the original love warriors. The light bringers. The comforters.
My dad used to call me his Angel.
“Shelly’s my angel,” he would tell people. It was one of the last things he said before he died. The other was “I love you.”
“Let me be the angel by your side” is a song I like to sing. It reminds me of my true nature, our true nature, goodness and light, whether we practice a particular religion or gaze at the stars and pray.
With so much love from me and all the angels,
Artwork by Karen Tarlton (found on Pinterest)
Family Recovery Advocate
I serve women seeking healing and transformation.
I serve people who have been impacted by addiction recover their lives.