As many of you know, I host the internationally downloaded Healing Place Podcast. I do my own editing using a fairly easy software, Wondershare Filmora, and can usually work through any hiccups found in the recordings. However, I ran into a snag last week when my own audio feed was scrambled. I had no idea during the recording process and only discovered the problem when I started editing. Needless to say, I discovered I am not a sound engineer.
That left me scrambling for a solution for the upcoming Friday podcast release. I could bump up the remaining recorded interviews, but one of them was a celebration of podcast episode number 100! That nixed that idea. I happened to be running around with my eighty-four year old mother the day after discovering my recording dilemma when the idea hit me to record an impromptu Facebook Live interview with her.
A little history might help.
I have described my mom as that cute little Gizmo character from the movie, Gremlins. She is sweet and cute and an angel on earth.
But add vodka . . . and just like those Mogwai in the movie, Gremlins, if they eat after midnight, all hell breaks loose. My mom would transform into a cruel, at-times violent and suicidal addict. I experienced flashbacks during EMDR Therapy of waking as a child to find my blank-eyed mother standing over me with a butcher knife in her hand. She denies such acts to this day.
I was the “good girl” in our family. Living a life of co-dependency, searching for my mother’s love and approval most often when she was drinking, and always there to clean up the mess alongside my younger sister. That is until July, 2019. I answered my sister’s phone call as I stood atop a mountain resort in Estes Park, Colorado. Hundreds of miles from home. In that moment, as I was informed of another hospitalization of my mom, brought on by a drinking binge carried out with the intent to die, that I reached my tipping point.
Hit a wall.
Broke the poor camel’s back with that last straw.
Said to the universe with zero hesitation . . .
I walked away from my elderly mother in that moment. And did not speak to her for the next three months. And it hurt my soul to do so. I cried. I shook off Catholic guilt. Yet I stayed firm. And as each day passed, I became more determined in my resolve to give her the space she needed to save herself. It was time for her to clean up her own mess and face those long-avoided demons of her own childhood.
She called me in October. I answered. And I’m not sure why I took the call that time. Something compelled me to do so. She was sober. Happy. And looking for resolution in our relationship. I was more than willing to honor her needs and give her a chance, yet again.
This past Christmas she asked if she could skip our traditional family gathering. I asked her if she was afraid she’d be triggered to crave alcohol and she admitted, yes. I, again, honored her needs and we changed our family plans. Instead we surprised her with a quick ten minute visit to her place which left her smiling and grateful.
Now here we are . . . six months in. She continues to celebrate her sobriety. As do I.
When grandma, or in our case GJ, celebrates sobriety, we share it with the world!
I have said for years, as I felt my way along a sometimes rugged and dark healing path, that I had to return to the darkness in order to make it into the light. Those dark spaces held my trauma, the negative energy needing to be released from my body, mind, and spirit. I used to dish this advice to my then-best-friend in regards to her traumatic past. She would scoff me off.
Just when I thought I had processed the worst of my traumas (sexual abuse, bank robberies, murder, physically abusive parent), this said-friend ghosted me. Gone. Just like that. No closure. No good-bye. No “piss off” to send me on my way. Just silence. After seven years of texting every day, weekend hang outs, girls’ trips adventures, deep talks, and laugh-til-we-peed gatherings. Done.
Only two weeks prior had I sat across from her at one of our impromptu lunch dates, telling her that my therapist and I had discovered my biggest fear during my last EMDR session: the fear of abandonment. I told her how it linked back to my mom and her alcohol addiction, how she had left me feeling emotionally abandoned my entire childhood. She knew most of the history of life with my mother: partying with her co-workers after banking hours, stumbling into our apartment hammered a few nights a week; pouring herself a vodka over ice with a squirt of lemon juice on those nights she came straight home from her teller job, sinking into the worn recliner, held together in places with duct tape, losing herself in a book from the library, yelling for my dad to silence the children, which always came with the jingling of a belt-buckle prepping to beat us quiet; belittlement at our not using our God-given talents and, therefore, disappointing Jesus, God Himself, and all of the heavenly hosts; attempted stabbing of my dad when she raged at him with a butcher knife; attempted drowning of her children when she decided we’d be better off with Jesus in lieu of living in this “valley of tears” called life; showing my school photo to church friends, in my presence, and laughing as she declared, “Look how ugly she is!”, later to remind me, “I was just joking”; and so on.
I was struck with an inkling of curiosity when this friend’s head cocked a bit to the side as she replied, “Really?” to my announcement that my biggest discovered fear was that of abandonment. Not bridges or highways, even though I cannot drive on them. Not death, even though I had faced it too many times, from beneath bathtub water, when staring into a revolver placed to my head, when confronted with the firing end of a Luger during a second bank robbery. Not heights, even though my dad had found it funny to dangle me from the Natural Bridge in Kentucky on a rare family outing or had me look out the window of our beat up station wagon at the Ohio River below us as we crossed the humming bridge into Covington, Kentucky to visit my grandparents, as he proclaimed, “See those river sharks? Some day this bridge will crumble. It was built in the 1800’s you know. And when we fall in, those river sharks will eat you”, then he’d laugh and laugh at his humor, while I stared at the muddy water, positive I saw those river sharks. Not flying, though I could not even think of climbing onto a plane without Xanax in my blood. Not cockroaches. Nor being buried alive. Nor fear itself. Abandonment – linked to my fear of rejection, my insecurities, my unstable sense of self, and my deep craving for approval and affection.
Really? That word would haunt my next year as I sorted through the processing of her disappearance from my life.
Only by giving yourself over to your feelings can you find your way out of them.
Susan Anderson in “The Journey from Abandonment to Healing”
I am guessing God’s timing was, yet again, perfect. It was time for me to visit the darkness that was my relationship with my mother. Still swirling in the chaos of her addiction, I never knew who I would encounter upon my calls to check in or visits to her retirement community. Sober mom was kind and doting. “Teri, I don’t know what I’d do without you. Thank God I have you.” Drunk mom was cruel, “I hate you. I want to put a meat cleaver in your forehead.” When I brought that one up during a sober conversation, she insisted, “Oh for Pete’s sake. I was joking. Get a sense of humor. You know I’d never say something like that to you.”
And then the friend-ghosting occurred. And I cried into my journal for a year. I cried at restaurants. I cried at sappy commercials. I cried when I’d hear songs, listening purposefully to tear-jerker ballads. I cried at Facebook memories popping up. I cried all . . . the . . . time. I just cried. For a year.
And as I did so, I read this book. This amazing book filled with comfort and wisdom, reminding me I would survive this, too. Just as I had survived all of the horrors of my past. This ghosting was a reminder that I had not yet faced the pain I had stored away in regards to trust and love, a heart-hurt melded in the hands of my parents. God was opening that attic door and shining a light on that long-avoided box of sadness.
Being left by someone we love can open up old wounds, stirring up insecurities and doubts that had been part of our emotional baggage since childhood.
Susan Anderson in “The Journey from Abandonment to Healing”
My grieving journey had begun. What was triggered by a ghosting, turned into a beautiful journey of healing those old insecurities and heartaches, helping me find forgiveness for my parents, as well as helping me release the ghosts from that abandonment attic. All of them.
The author takes us into an understanding of the five states of abandonment: shattering, withdrawal, internalizing rejection, rage, and lifting. All of which I circled through. The beautiful gift I discovered during this grief journey was that of embracing my own vulnerability even more than I already had. I learned to console little Teri all the while learning to empower adult me.
Susan Anderson, author of this powerful book, offers an action plan for readers to help us along our continued healing journey, as well. An action plan I fully implemented.
The key to change is opening your life to new experiences. Even small changes in your daily routine can lead to new discoveries about who you are becoming.
The key to reconnecting is to cherish the gift that abandonment has given you, to remain open to your vulnerabilities and to the vulnerabilities of others.
Susan Anderson in “The Journey from Abandonment to Healing”
Since reading this beautiful book, I have done exactly that. I opened myself up to new experiences: starting a successful podcast with a growing global audience (The Healing Place Podcast); meeting amazing souls from all over the world who are working to help others along their healing journeys; starting this blog; creating a website aimed at helping others heal from ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and trauma; becoming a YouTuber (that is still in its infancy stages); standing on stages to share my story of hope; creating our Sammie’s Bundles of Hope project to help children struggling with anxiety and trauma history; volunteering with our sweet therapy dog, Sammie Doodle; and opening myself up to new friendships.
I thoroughly enjoyed this soulful and educational interview with Roberto (Rob) Rodriguez as we discussed his work as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, his books and curriculum, work in incarceration facilities, his upcoming curriculum: A Young Man’s Guide to Self-Mastery, his own personal story of triumph, and much more.
“Roberto Rodriquez, M.A., has over twelve years of experience in the treatment of substance use disorder. He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He has worked in intensive outpatient settings and residential settings, providing transformative experiences for adolescents, men, couples, and families. Rob currently works with Family Recovery Resource Experts in Saint Paul, MN, where they specialize in trauma-informed intensive family workshops. He is the co-author of Exploring Trauma: A Brief Intervention for Men with Dr. Stephanie Covington. This is the only research- based, brief intervention program related to trauma for men published by Hazelden. His latest project is the 12-session curriculum, A Young Man’s Guide to Self-Mastery, also co-authored with Dr. Covington, to be published Spring, 2020. Rob has been engaged as a national and international consultant and speaker addressing the concerns of families and their helpers.”
I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down with Jen Johnson to discuss the gifts contained in mindfulness practice, her counseling services as well as her coaching work with clients all over the world, her photography and writing outlets, along with sharing pieces of her own healing journey with us. Thank you, Jen, for joining me on the podcast and shining your beautiful light of hope into the world.
“Jen Johnson, MS, MS, MFA, LPC, CRC, BCC, E-RYT is a mindfulness coach, Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and Licensed Professional Counselor. She is also a photographer and writer. Jen teaches mindfulness for mind body healing. Her areas of specialty include women’s health and wellness (thyroid disorders, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, weight loss), stress reduction, healing from trauma and difficult times, creativity, and grief and loss. Jen offers a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR online 8-week course that teaches mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga for stress reduction.”
WARNING: Confessions of a frustrated co-dependent. Things a child, no matter how old, should ever have to go through.
My mother told my sister last week, “Tell Teri to go to hell and I never want to see her again.” Obviously, intoxicated. This was a result of my discovering she was using a younger family member to drive her to the grocery (where there is a liquor store) and I informed that family member’s parent.
Two days ago she advised a family member she would be “drinking herself to death”. Same old story I’ve heard since I was a kid. Drunken slurs told to me as a child like, “Teri, this life does not matter. I want to be with Jesus. I just want to die. Death is beautiful. If you died I would celebrate. How lucky would that be.” A child. Being told by her mother that she would celebrate her child’s death.
I used to wake up and find my mother standing over me with a butcher knife in her hand. Her eyes would be lifeless. As if she was staring through me. I would cry as silently as possible so as not to startle her. My little sister always found her way into my bed and would wrap herself around me. It was a comfort for both of us.
Today I sit here furious. And bitter. And sad.
She is on another “I haven’t eaten in 3 days. I am no longer taking my medications. I am only going to drink until I die” missions.
I called 911 two days ago when she first threatened to kill herself as we cannot get into her secured building. She turned them away. Today I called her doctor and was advised to have the police accompany the paramedics as they will force her to go with them for a psych eval. Her building social worker called to tell me, that even though she had a “huge bottle of vodka” sitting next to her and a glass filled with it, the police left without taking her. And no paramedics were with them.
So I just printed off the “instructions for filing an emergency guardianship” paperwork. It states a physician must appear before the magistrate in a hearing to justify it is necessary to avoid immediate harm to the ward. I cannot get her to a hospital as she refuses transport.
She cannot live on her own, per her doctor’s own words, but I cannot force her to move until she’s no longer competent enough to make the choice. Apparently the police think she’s still competent enough to decide.
Therefore, we sit and wait. For our mother to sober herself up. Or die.
No child should EVER have to go through this hell.
I lost my mind on the social worker. I snapped. I cried. I screamed, “I’m fucking done. Let her die.”
I’ve reached out so many times for help. I just don’t know what to do anymore.
This is the lady I grew up with. A bottle of alcohol always next to her. She would come home from work and pour a drink and sit down to read. I learned early on to lock myself in my room and put my headphones on and escape into my music. If I approached her, she would slur at me, “Can’t I just relax for five minutes? Just leave me alone!” Or, if I approached with happy news, “Mom! Look! I got a 93% on my test.” (A 93 was still an A back in the 70’s) Her response, “A 93? A 93? God gave you a brilliant mind, Teri. And you are wasting it. Why wasn’t it a 100%? You are disappointing God. And me.” And I would turn away, once again, belittled and shamed. Shamed for not being good enough.
She tried to drown me in a bathtub when I was 4, holding my head underwater. She told me I would be happier with Jesus. Until my dad came in and sucker-punched her across the bathroom. She landed between the toilet and cabinet.
She tried to kill my dad with a butcher knife. But, he lifted a chair in time in front of him as protection to have the blade completely penetrate the wood seat. I witnessed her hauled off in handcuffs on that occasion. I was 4 or 5.
She beat my sister relentlessly. She didn’t like her and made it clear. I got to listen to the screams from behind a locked bathroom door where I would hide for hours until it was quiet again.
She told me I was frumpy and ugly and used to show my 7th grade photo to people and laugh about how ugly I was. I had braces and a unibrow and yes, pretty hideous, but really?
When I was in my 20’s (after the bank robberies) I dressed conservatively for business. She would laugh and call me, “Margaret Thatcher” and advise me I needed to brighten myself up so people would think I was happy.
Yet, I have fought and fought and fought for this lady’s love and approval my entire life. All I wanted was for her to love me and accept me.
I know my life motto is #nevergiveup, but damn is this a tough battle to keep fighting. Please pray for strength and answers as we move forward with guardianship. And that I keep my cool and not explode in frustration again. I’m starting to reach the end of my rope with this one.
I very much enjoyed the opportunity to engage in a hope-filled conversation with Dr. Leslie Cole to discuss her work and philosophies in regards to opiate addiction and her hope-inspired book, Quit Pain Pills: Without the Withdrawal. Thank you, Dr. Leslie, for sharing your personal story regarding your food addiction and your work helping others along their healing journey from addiction to triumph.
“Leslie Cole and her husband, Tim, are from Nashville, Tennessee. She is a physician specializing in addiction medicine and is the author of the new book “Quit Pain Pills without the Withdrawal. How to Break Free from Your Dependence and Finally Wake Up Feeling Normal.” She is very interested in the role that attention, hope, kindness, and safe community can play in the healing of people, having experienced healing herself. You can learn more about her book at www.quitpainpills.com where you can find her contact information.”
Welcome to The Healing Place Podcast! I’m your host, Teri Wellbrock. You can listen in on iTunes, Blubrry or directly on my website at www.teriwellbrock.com/podcasts/
I was thrilled to engage in a beautiful conversation with Julie Brand – founder and executive director of A WISE Retreat program for women. Julie is an addiction specialist, domestic violence counselor, youth educator, and trauma-warrior with a personal ACEs score of 9+. Please join us as we discuss Julie’s heart-felt mission to provide a space for holistic healing for her clients.
As shared from A Wise Retreat website:
A Wise Retreat specializes in the holistic restoration of women. Our services are tailored to the unique needs of each individual at a comfortable, private, and culturally sensitive location where women can get the care and treatment needed. Our services include but are not limited to;
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Domestic Violence Counseling
Trauma Informed Care
Bio Chemical Re-balancing
Intensive Out Patient
A Wise Retreat is a private drug & alcohol residential treatment facility exclusively for women. Located 30 miles North of beautiful San Francisco, A Wise Retreat sits on a hillside surrounded by luscious tall trees that provide shade, privacy, peace and serenity in a home-like setting.
Our daughter has been on a tweenage metamorphosis of late. Some days she’s clad in nothing but boys’ Nike attire and others she is lounging poolside in her cute little bikini sporting her Ray-Ban-esque Dollar Store knock-off shades. As she wriggles her way toward thirteen, a re-decorating of her cocoon was obviously in order. Out with the puppy calendar, pastel-colored name letters, and all things fru-fru-ish. In with a basketball comforter, tree lights strung about her walls, fresh white paint on the once-pink mirror, and a huge Nike swoosh hung proudly (next to the giant teddy bear . . . some things are a must keep no matter how grown up you think you are).
I was fortunate enough to inherit some inspirational decor in the process: “Live the life you’ve always dreamed of. Be fearless in the face of adversity. Never stop learning. Use your imagination whenever possible. Recognize the BEauty that surrounds YOU. Remember where you came from, but never lose sight of where you are going.”
Yes. So much yes.
I spoke to my mom this morning. About twenty-three times. Okay, only about seven, but still. She was drunk and depressed. I have avoided that combo since my childhood. She babbled on about my dad visiting her (scary thought considering he’s been deceased for nine years), wearing a winter coat all night because she couldn’t sleep, how my sister Katie was coming over to take Katie to lunch for Katie’s birthday (I’m still trying to figure that one out), hugging her new picture book and crying, asking me to call the Bureau of Motor Vehicles about my nephew’s car, needing me to call back and wake her up because she was still sleeping (um, no, Mom, you are awake and talking to me right now), and arguing with her dead friends.
You are right to tell me I should put her in a nursing home, have her declared incompetent of self-care. After all, I found out she had attempted to walk to the liquor store at eighty-two years old because she ran out of vodka. In eighty-something degree heat. But, she hitched a ride halfway there (insert eye-roll here).
However, in a day or two, my phone will ring and my bright and cheery mom will start in with her sober chatter, “Hi, TT! How’s my beautiful daughter today? If you have time, will you stop by and show me how to use this new vacuum you bought me? And pick me up some cranberry juice on your way. Did I tell you about the meal I’m planning for my party tonight?” And I’ll hear all about her social events for the next week . . . dinner parties with gourmet foods all cooked by her, movie nights with her old lady friends, rosary group, and noon mass at St. Rose. Sober and coherent and oh-so-self-sufficient.
Leaving me and my sister in that limbo land. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. A pendulum existence between she-is-going-to-kill-herself-with-booze-and-pills and why-the-hell-did-you-stick-your-obviously-fun-and-perky-mom-in-a-nursing-home?
So, here I sit. Contemplating my new office decor.
“Live the life you’ve always dreamed of.”
Is it my duty to spend my days scurrying about making sure sober Mom is nurtured and drunk Mom lives? The life I’ve dreamed of certainly does not include either.
“Be fearless in the face of adversity.”
Why is it easier to face my own demons and confront my fears than it is to make a decision about where my mom should live? Perhaps because it’s HER life and not mine. This should be my mom’s decision, yet the only choice she is making is the one that’s haunted me since my teen years, when she told the family therapist, “If you are asking me to choose between alcohol and my family, I choose vodka.”
“Never stop learning.”
Joining Al-Anon was not so much eye-opening as it was a spotlight into my soul. Listening to others speak my thoughts, cry my tears, and confess to my lifelong fantasy of walking away from the chaos wreaked by my addict mother. Learning to end my co-dependent relationship with my mother has left me feeling more battered than the days she’d scream for my dad to hit me. How do I let go of my deeply ingrained Catholic guilt? Is there a way to let an old drunk hit rock bottom without shouldering the fallout? Who else will be there to clean it all up? (asks the over-achieving peace-keeper in me)
“Use your imagination whenever possible.”
I have imagined chunks of my life away. Sometime I wonder how much time I squandered day-dreaming my escapes. As a kid, my sister and I would lie awake in her rainbow-comforter-clad waterbed, dreaming up our lottery-winning adventures. We would buy our parents the white house with the blue roof near Grandma and Grandpa’s place in Covington. Then we would buy a camper and never look back. Today I dream of living my island life with no desire to look back at the chaos of addiction. Is that an acceptable use of imagination?
“Recognize the BEauty that surrounds YOU.”
Be. You. In gold letters.
I spend every day noticing something beautiful in my life. From sunsets to ladybugs (I noticed both of those today!) to peaceful moments after the babbling phone calls.
Is there beauty to be found in her nonsense? Perhaps by being me, in all of my glitter-shitter glory, I can recognize the beauty that is my mom’s lesson. She has taught me to appreciate the moments between the mayhem. In all honesty, she’s taught me to appreciate the blessings within the torment, as well.
“Remember where you came from, but never lose sight of where you are going.”
I look like her. Especially as I age. I act like her, too. That’s mostly a good thing. She’s kind-hearted, likes to throw parties, loves to laugh, has deep faith, appreciates the value of friendship, and cries over sappy birthday cards and the Budweiser dog commercials. Yep. I’m my mom. In so many ways.