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    Emily Bradley

    The Most Important Things I've Learned in Recovery From Addiction

    I’m a 32-year-old with anxiety and depression, and I have been living in recovery from addiction for just over a year. I went into recovery without knowing much about it. Here are some of the important lessons I have learned. 1. I needed to want it more than anything. When I started rehab, I assumed everyone else was on the same page as me. This was not the case. People are in rehab for many reasons, and some of them might not be ready to quit. They could be there for their families, legal reasons, health, et cetera — not necessarily because they want to get better. For me, there was no option other than recovery. 2. You can’t judge another person’s recovery. I was a bit surprised to see the judgment of others within the recovery community. Some people look down on those who don’t go to 12-step meetings. Some don’t approve of replacement drugs. I’ve seen someone quit a recovery program altogether, because she claimed there was too much judgment and drama involved. I find it easier not to judge anyone. We’re all in this together, after all, with a common goal of living free of addictions. With this attitude, I’ve made some unlikely but wonderful friends. 3. The stigma around addiction is still present. I am lucky that I haven’t had too many bad experiences with the stigma surrounding addiction, personally, but I still see it all the time. In particular, I have noticed a lot of people in recovery do not advertise they’re in recovery. There’s still a lot of shame attached to addictions. I need to recover out loud. I feel like I have a responsibility to help others who might be suffering in silence, like I did for so many years. I believe the only way to solve the stigma problem is to talk about recovery. 4. There’s more than one way to recover from addictions. When I was in rehab, I was told to go to 12-step meetings. These are great for some people, but they might not be for everyone. There is a lot of pressure to get a sponsor and work the steps. I like to say my sponsor is a committee — family and friends, my therapist, an addictions counselor, various doctors, a psychiatrist. I like the odd meeting, and they’re awesome for finding friends who don’t drink, but I have a bit of an issue with the concept of anonymity. I will always respect the anonymity of others, but I believe it perpetuates stigma, so I don’t go to a lot of 12-step meetings. I engage in many other recovery-friendly activities and try to live a fairly healthy lifestyle, and it’s working for me! 5. Recovery really is possible. For a long time, I figured I wouldn’t bother quitting drinking because what was the point? I’d just go back to drinking again eventually, like always. I didn’t know any other way, and I thought I was too old to learn. I am happy to report I was wrong. It’s been a year and a quarter, and I’m still going strong. I’ve met so many people who have been in recovery for several years. If anyone reading this is struggling and feels hopeless, I want you to know an addiction doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I never even imagined I could be as happy as I am today. Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

    Ball and Box Analogy Explains Why You Can't Just Get 'Over' Grief

    Get our most helpful mental health articles and tips delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe to our Mental Health Matters newsletter. Grief is a tricky thing to explain. Everyone grieves differently, and there’s certainly no timeline that lets you know how you’re supposed to feel. To show this, Twitter user Lauren Herschel shared an analogy that explains how grief changes over time and why it can still bubble up randomly. Her analogy — and the pictures she drew to explain it — have been retweeted over 3,700 times. Herschel drew a box (square) with a ball (circle) inside. On the left side of box is a red “button.” When the grief is new, she explained, the ball takes up most of the box and is hitting the button, which represents pain, over and over again. The pain is fairly constant. “In the beginning, the ball is huge,” Herschel said in a tweet. “You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles around on its own in there and hits the button over and over. You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting. Sometimes it seems unrelenting. After what has been a surprisingly okayish Christmas, I had a moment today in SuperStore. Saw a lady who reminded me of my 92yo grandma, who even in the early stages of dementia, completely understood that my mom died.I thought I’d share the Ball in the Box analogy my Dr told me— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017 Over time, the ball shrinks — but every now and then, it still hits the button. Maybe you see someone who reminds you of your loved one. Maybe a certain song plays on the radio. Maybe it comes out of nowhere. Over time, the ball gets smaller. It hits the button less and less but when it does, it hurts just as much. It’s better because you can function day to day more easily. But the downside is that the ball randomly hits that button when you least expect it.— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017 “For most people, the ball never really goes away,” she said in another tweet. “It might hit less and less and you have more time to recover between hits, unlike when the ball was still giant. I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.” Herschel told The Mighty the analogy helped her understand why she was still experiencing grief over losing her dad over 20 years ago. “I’d have these waves of sadness over all the things I was missing with him,” Herschel said. “I thought something was wrong with me, given that I was still so affected by something that I should be ‘over.’” After the death of her mother, Herschel’s doctor explained the analogy to her. It helped Herschel understand the overwhelming grief she was experiencing after losing her mother, but it also gave her clarity as to why she was still experiencing grief over her dad. “I think in general feelings, especially the tough ones, are hard to articulate,” she said. Herschel said she doesn’t think people talk enough about death or grief and its impact on our mental health. She decided to share the analogy because she thought it may help others struggling receive some clarity and comfort like she did. It can take time for the ball in your box to shrink. You shouldn’t feel rushed into getting “over” your grief, and you definitely shouldn’t feel judged for grieving, no matter how long ago it started.

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    Wanda Arroyo

    10 Things I Didn't Know to Expect When My Son Died

    I was standing at my son’s funeral luncheon surrounded by family members, the same family who never, not once, left the hospital or my side for an entire week. I got up and addressed the room. I thanked them all for coming and for providing comfort and support during my difficult time. “Please don’t forget about me. I need you.” I do not know how I would have survived this ordeal without them. But I did know one thing. I knew in a few days they would all go back to their “normal” lives, and I would be left alone to figure out what my new “normal” would be. What happens after you experience loss is something you will never be prepared for. Here’s a list of what to expect when the unexpected happens. 1. It gets quiet. In the first few months, you are often overwhelmed with love and support from friends and family. Everyone checks on you … until one day, they don’t. People go on with their lives, but that is something that you, the grieving person, will never be able to do.  This is when you have to reach out to your family members and say, “I am not OK.” The truth is most people who have not experienced loss do not know how it feels. Instead of saying, “They are not here for me,” you need to teach people how to be there for you. The ones who love you will understand and give you what you need. Talk to them. 2. You will find friends in unexpected places. I have a friend who was not around when my son passed, but six months after his passing, she called and said: “I know it is quiet now, and you’re not surrounded by as many people as you were in the beginning.” She went on to explain she was giving me room to heal, and now that she knew I needed her support, she offered it. Chances are, friends like her have experienced loss. I could have been angry because she showed up six months later, but the truth is, she showed up when I needed her. Be thankful for anyone who wants to be there for you, regardless of how much time has passed. Some friends will join you and weather the storm while others will decide to evacuate. 3. You will lose friends. The friends you expect to be there for you may not be, and some of your close friends might abandon you. A lot of my friends could not bear to see me in pain. They were wondering when the “old” me would return; you know, the fun-loving person I was before life hit me like a ton of bricks. They did not know I would never be the same person. 4. You will never be the same person. One day you will look in the mirror and not recognize yourself.  You will notice bags under your eyes and gray hairs. You will look around your place and realize the plants have not been watered, the mail has not been sorted and your bills have not been paid. You will struggle to keep a clean house, or maybe you will clean your house so spotless you can eat off the floor. Either way, you will struggle through daily tasks without realizing how much time has passed. 5. Time does not heal all wounds. When someone you love passes away, it gets harder. When I told people my son passed away a few months ago, they were very compassionate.  Now, when I tell people it has been two years, they simply say they are “sorry,” as if somehow year two is easier than the first few months. It’s not! In fact, the more time that passes, the harder it gets because you have not seen your loved one’s face or heard their laugh. You have not heard their voice in two years. Reality sets in, and you realize they are not coming back. 6. They are not coming back. In the first year, I went through the motions. I celebrated my son’s life by honoring him any way I could. I made donations in his name, and I also started a charity in his name. I celebrated every holiday with him in mind and even left an open seat at the table for him. But he has not returned, nor will he. When we hit year two, I had to figure out how I was going to celebrate holidays and birthdays without him. The realization hit and my life now feels like it has been turned upside-down. 7. Your whole world will be lifted up like a tornado and spun around. Your ideas will change. You have to decide which direction you want to go. My daughter works in customer service. After her brother passed, she started to hate her job and became angry at people who acted like their life was over because something did not go their way. My daughter felt they were entitled and ungrateful people because the world, her world, had more significant issues. I also work in a customer service job. When people complained and acted as if it was the end of the world, I simply smiled and thanked God these people are so blessed that anything that went wrong would ruin their whole day. My daughter was angry, and I was grateful. There is no right or wrong because only you can decide how to pick up the pieces after a tornado. Trust me, there will be good days. 8. You will have good days. Good days are when you wake up and open your eyes in the morning your first thought is, “ It was not a dream.” You will manage to get up, brush your teeth, shower, go about your day and manage to make it back home only to crumble like a sugar cookie as soon as your key goes into the front door. You will go to bed, thinking it was a good day because you only cried once. 9. Some days will be unbearable. There are good days when you only cry once, and there are days when the whole world seems like it is falling apart. The pain of losing someone hurts. It hurts so much it becomes a physical pain for which there is no medication. On those days, you have to feel it, because trust me, there is nothing that will numb the pain. The pain subsides long enough for you to be able to open your eyes again tomorrow. 10. It sucks! For lack of better words, it sucks!  You will wonder, “Why me?” You will ask God, or the universe or whatever higher power may get you through the day, “Why?” You may find yourself crying and screaming, “It’s not fair, it’s just not fair.” The truth is it is simply just not fair. The truth about grieving is you will never be over it. You will live the rest of your life trying to be happy, and then maybe feeling guilty when you laugh for a few minutes. There is no right or wrong with grief. I made a lot of bad decisions, and when my friends and family called me out on these decision, I simply said, “I do not know what I am doing, or what I am going through, but I need you to love me through it. And they did, they still do. Be present with every emotion. Cry when you feel like it, and laugh when things are funny. Turn to your friends and family for support. Most importantly, be present every day. Stop to smell the roses. Be kind to random strangers, and smile as much as possible because now you know life can change at the blink of an eye and you never want to take anything for granted, and I suppose that is the blessing in grieving.

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    Mohini Kundu

    15 Quotes to Help Cope With Grief

    Grief is intensely personal, and yet it is a life experience that affects so many of us. Though the pain may never leave us, it can be possible to find a perspective that helps bring us comfort. And we are far from alone in our sadness or in the search for hope after loss. We asked our Mighty community for their favorite quotes that have helped them through times of grief. Below are a few of our favorites. What’s yours? 1. “Sometimes it’s OK if the only thing you did today was breathe.” — Yumi Sakugawa “We lost my brother unexpectedly last year. This was something that I read somewhere after our dad had passed away. There’s nothing you can say to someone grieving. So when my niece and nephew called me asking how I made it through when their grandpa passed away, that’s what I told them. They came to me over the holidays and said that was the best thing anyone could have told them. It’s OK to have days that you’re just not OK.” — Cynthia N. 2. “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.” — Khalil Gibran Submitted by Stephen K. 3.  “To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” — J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” “My mom and I used to read the ‘Harry Potter’ books together, and once she passed this quote always stuck with me.” — Hannah A. 4. “It’s OK to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you’ll feel better again.” — A “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” song “I know this sounds silly, but it is helping (my mother passed away on Sunday). From the ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ (the kids’ show) song.” — Emma M. 5. “And when people try to minimize your pain they are doing you a disservice. And when you try to minimize your own pain you’re doing yourself a disservice. Don’t do that. The truth is that it hurts because it’s real. It hurts because it mattered. And that’s an important thing to acknowledge to yourself. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t end, it won’t get better. Because it will.” — John Green Submitted by Laurie B. 6. “Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” — Megan Devine “This was brought to my attention in this excellent article by Tim Lawrence.” — Kate Y. 7. “Grief is just love with no place to go.” — Jamie Anderson “I can’t get certain people back. But I can choose to put that love into a new direction and create beautiful things to allow myself to heal. Grief makes you feel so out of control, and losing a loved one is like having a piece of your soul ripped from you. But I have learned the only way I can even begin to heal is to look at how I can honor those loved and lost.” — Charlotte F. 8. “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” — A.A. Milne “Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh.” — Joanna M. 9. “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” — Rodney Atkins, “If You’re Going Through Hell” Submitted by Ashton P. 10. “Grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved. Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world: Look! Love was once mine. I love well. Here is my proof that I paid the price.” — Glennon Doyle Melton, “Love Warrior: A Memoir” Submitted by Katie S. 11. “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” — A.A. Milne, “The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh” Submitted by Kelli Martin 12. “It has been said that time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” — Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy “Reminded me that it’s OK to not be OK right away.” — Samantha S. 13. “The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway, “A Farewell to Arms” Submitted by Samantha J. 14. “Nothing you love is lost. Not really. Things, people — they always go away, sooner or later. You can’t hold them, any more than you can hold moonlight. But if they’ve touched you, if they’re inside you, then they’re still yours. The only things you ever really have are the ones you hold inside your heart.” — Bruce Coville, “Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher” Submitted by Zoe A. 15. “May love be what you remember most.” — Darcie Sims Submitted by Laura H. Image via Thinkstock.