According to the dictionary, relapse is defined as, "(of someone suffering from a disease) suffer deterioration after a period of improvement." I would like to refer to relapse here as: periods of imbalance. Relapse doesn't only affect the one suffering from a disease or addiction. It affects all human beings and it creates unhealthy patterns in family members as they watch their loved ones ups and downs in relapse. These are the patterns that if not examined under the microscope of love in our adulthoods, can be passed down to generations and generations.
As I sit here alongside my brother's period of relapse again, rather than judge it, I am taking it as an opportunity to look at my own times of relapse (trying to control others, not trusting the flow and letting the chips fall, not trusting others, not trusting myself, spending countless hours trying to fix my family, fear-based thought patterns about cancer, hypochondria, shame depression, anxiety, and my own unhealthy choices) that have crippled me off and on for decades. In my times of relapse before I had my first son, I had a decade where I coped with alcohol-I thought, "I will eventually grow out of this," and it took becoming a Momma for me to start unraveling my relapses and begin my spiritual journey. All of the pieces of my relapses are my teachers and it is time that I study for the test and share with you my study guide. I was laying in bed this morning cozy and warm and I began to reflect on and own these relapses of mine. Where did they come from and when did they begin? I closed my eyes and took a peak in the vault of my mind. I have had these patterns for at least 3 decades and it is becoming clear as to why and will inevitably continue to unfold.
Growing up and being an adult alongside a brother with mental illness and drug addiction is a dance of survival. A dance that is choreographed moment to moment and eventually can become the recital of your life. There are times of flowing and dancing to a light melody and then, crash come the cymbals of imbalance separating us to different corners of the stage. It became my patterns, my way of life, my lenses of the world, my lens of myself. I thought if I just did this or said that, then maybe things would change. I lost my sense of security and self-trust and I started shaming myself because I couldn't understand why all of this turmoil was happening within my family and why it couldn't be fixed. I shamed myself for decades and developed fear based thought patterns that have wreaked havoc on my soul and simultaneously built my courage to put this blog out into the ethers.
My loss of security gave birth to one of my crippling habits, not trusting others and the process and subconsciously not trusting myself. The fear of mental illness and cancer, the depression, the anxiety, the hypochondria, the shame all flood in shortly after. I am currently typing while sitting with all of this because when I am alongside relapse, this mistrust domino effect cycle is triggered. I am looking through the lens of curiosity and compassion this time (at least I am practicing the compassion part-definitely a work in progress #humanbeing, right?). I discovered in my cozy reflection this morning that all of this stems from not feeling secure in the present moment around my brother and thinking that I have to be around him to please others for so many years. For always thinking subconsciously that the shoe was going to drop at any moment and that I wouldn't be able to protect and defend myself. We can't choose who we want to spend time with as easily when we are living under the roofs of our childhoods so I just played the perfect, scared little sister and kept the peace and her mouth shut and lived with what I didn't know back then, fear and shame. I became the perfectionist, go-getter, people-pleaser, problem-solver. If I wasn't engaged in one of those personas, then I wasn't doing this life thing right, so I thought. It was my suit of armor. I got a lot of things done and accomplished great things and also betrayed myself over and over again and I still felt small, empty, restless, and fearful. The lens, the dance, the pattern-my life. This restless mistrust of others and the process would show up in the times of stillness or lightness or mundane when I would actually become present in my body and when I needed to slow down and grow (but the me back then didn't know this of course) and I would get uneasy and then show up as the have-it-all-together girl-my suit of armor over my suit of armor. I would "buck up," show up and force the smiles despite the anxiety and warning signals from my body and ignore them and the deny the reality of what was really happening and pretend all was okay and it would inevitably cause me to feel more shame and self doubt, depression, confusion, and anxiety and I couldn't figure any of it out all while spending hours trying to help to fix my family behind the scenes in times of my brother's episodes and relapse. It is clear now that this was my own relapse and recovery dance that I created within the one of our family. This was as good as it gets. My soul wasn't willing to settle for that.
After years of spiritual growth with absolutely no signs of slowing down, Yay, I can look at ALL of this as suffering that was necessary for me and I can simply give the little girl, the twenty something child in a woman's body, and the thirty something thinker who just turned forty, loving-kindness (#spiritualgrowthforthewin). I have done my best in all seasons of my life and I accept the me who didn't know any better. The me who relapses too. The me who suffers without knowing it. The me who doubts myself and doesn't trust others. The me who pleased everyone and betrayed herself. The me who thought there was something wrong with her and shamed herself. The me who feared mental illness. The me who fears cancer. The me who drank too much every night trying to destress in the good as it gets. The me who couldn't see the bigger picture in all of this. The me who was the victim. The me who sabotaged the present moment. The me who settled. The me who remained in relationships with people that my soul knew I shouldn't. The me who is scared to death to put this blog post out there. All of me-accepted- JUST LIKE THAT. Aaaaaaaahhhhh...that feels good.
As I type this, I have sincere gratitude for the personas that I created, the fear-based thought patterns, all of the bad and the ugly that developed. I can look at it in amazement that I was even able to choreograph a dance of survival at all. I can reflect on my periods of relapse alongside his and know with certainty that they have been signals for me to look within and to grow and to take care of my emotional needs, to prune relationships in my life that need to be clipped away, and to get back to balance, not fall into relapse too. The awareness of the sensations in my body now help me to understand that they have all been intentional and loving and have been orchestrated notes encouraging me to create my dance of aliveness and leave the dance of survival behind. My body has been telling me to break the cycles of my self-doubt and self-betrayal and build my self-trust and courage. That I don't need to fear but rather tune into the music of my spiritual growth and change the station when the songs of survival come back on.
Periods of relapse can cause us to create great suffering in our lives. They can also teach us our most valuable lessons in life. For me these are owning my choices to suffer, my mistakes, my flaws, my crazy, my outdated beliefs, and my unhealthy choices. By owning all of this, I can choose to take steps each day toward balance through practicing gratitude, and eliminating my unhealthy habits and ways of coping head on. These lessons during spiritual growth and reflection create love...a true love of self so that you can stand firmly grounded in it and give it to those who need it most when they are wrapped up in their relapse and suffering. By grounding yourself in love, you can trust yourself and protect your life's balance and flow by letting go of all the drama, all the details, and all past traumas. You can hold onto your own spiritual journey while holding space for your loved one's simultaneously by choreographing the dance of your aliveness no longer the dance of your survival.
I hope this is helpful to you.