It’s the last day of 2016 and I like to take this day to reflect on all that happened in the year and what lessons I learned. It’s time for me to take stock of where I’m at and where I want to go. I don’t set resolutions as I notoriously don’t live up to them and this only increases feelings of guilt and shame for me, but what I do do, is try to envision a game plan for the year ahead. I imagine where I would like to be mentally, physically, financially, and even spirituallly at this time next year and think about what I need to do to get there. In order to gain strength to do this, I look back to see how far I’ve come.
January 2016 was a chaotic time for my family life. There was a lot of disharmony in the home due to dealing with my son’s active drug addiction, my mental illness, my daughter’s struggles for independence, and my husband’s level of stress with work. Things all came to a head at the end of the month when I finally told the children that they would have to find somewhere else to live at the end of February. Things blew up and my children both ended up leaving that night to places unknown, accusing me of “kicking them out” and “abandoning them”. Due to the high emotions and potential for violence, there was police involvement that night as well. It was never the way I had imagined my children moving out from my home to their own independence. I was shattered.
For months, I lost contact with my daughter who refused to speak to me. I can’t believe the grief and pain that I felt at not having her in my life. It was like a piece of me was missing. My son, who was still active in his addiction, would contact me on occasion when in distress and many times, I would do my best to help him. I tried getting him into rehab, but an addict has to want recovery. He floated around the streets, feeding his addiction. I eventually had to get a restraining order against him as there were many times he would contact me in a drug fueled rage, and I became fearful of what he might do. I was never as sick to my stomach that year as the day I stood before a judge and told him my story. I felt like I had lost both my children that year.
For the first eight months of 2016, I lived in a perpetual state of shock and grief. I honestly don’t recall much of that time, other than that I was lonely and sad. In August, I learned that my son was hospitalized and in danger of losing his arm due to an infection in his bone. I was by his side for most of the month he spent in there, encouraging him to choose recovery and letting him know that I would be there for him if he did. I had also started to see my daughter again and I had hope that this tragedy might bring us closer together.
Unfortunately, my son chose to return to his way of life after hospitalization (he was able to keep the arm, although he was at high risk of reinfection when he left the hospital) and once again I had to detach from him and his lifestyle. My daughter and I did continue to get closer as she had started to gain a deeper understanding of why I had to detach from my son – she herself had to do the same thing. In the past, she had repeatedly said I was a horrible parent for not letting him live with me while he was in active addiction and blamed me for him living on the streets.
In September, my son made the decision to return to New Brunswick where his father lives. I wish that he and I had a better relationship and I’m hopeful that one day we will. For now, I will continue to love him from a distance. I also began to focus on my own recovery in September. I began an eight week fitness challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed and excelled at. I then began an eight week intensive group therapy program that would sharpen my emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and communication skills. I really benefitted from this group and upon completion, felt like I was closer to my goal of returning to work eventually.
At the end of November, I underwent a surgery for a bladder repair that has kept me out of commission for the last 4 weeks. That’s meant a quiet December and New Year’s.
I learned a lot this year. That no matter how much you love your children, they need to know you have boundaries. That it’s ok to say no to unjust behaviour. That it’s not only ok, but necessary to put myself first if I’m going to make it. That I don’t need anyone’s approval for my self-worth. That life is about setbacks and steps forward and you just have to learn to love the dance.
Where do I want to be next year? I want to continue my mental health advocacy work that fuels my purpose. I want to be working again so my days are filled with meaningful work. I want to be able to pay my bills and have a little left over for fun. I want to be healthier – and only I can change that. I want to continue to inspire others to be the best they can be.
I want to be me. Bring it on.