I Grew Up

Posted by Alumni Parent on February 10, 2017

I grew up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish home. My mother suffered from mental illness and my father dealt with it by being out of the house all day. As the oldest in a large family, I took responsibility of my parents and siblings from a very young age. I tried to protect my siblings from the discomfort I felt. I thought I was happy. I liked being in control. In hindsight, I was anxious, sad, scared, and controlling. I used food for comfort, being overweight most of my life. I married young, possibly, as an escape from my parents’ home, or just because it was culturally the right next thing to do. Within a short period of time our family grew. I continued behaving in the way that was familiar to me, keeping everyone safe, controlling, rescuing and enabling. My anxiety escalated. I isolated. I thought I was in control.

Fast forward many years later. Our youngest child, by then a young adult, spiraled down. I was there, trying to keep her safe, enabling, and rescuing. When I realized the situation was bigger than me, we sent her out of state for help. I took a look at myself, and realized I needed help. I joined Al Anon, and found friends who were able to support me in this journey. I learned about detaching with love, setting healthy boundaries, and self-care. I was desperate to change. I was hurting. I was ready to admit I was not in control and that my life was unmanageable. I grew up religious, with a loving God, yet I still worried and needed to be in control. With the help and support of Al Anon, my connection with my higher power has strengthened. I still worry, however I worry less.

My daughter's situation deteriorated and I was encouraged to send her to the Evoke Therapy Wilderness Program. She was strongly opposed to it. I stayed strong, and she went. She was there for about 2 months. While she was there, we as parents had our assignments. For me, her being in the wilderness was life changing. I watched the webinars, did my assignments, and went out to the field to visit her. Before seeing her, I joined a workshop for two days, led by Evoke counselors. That was really helpful, and prepared me for my visit with her. What I witnessed there in the field was serenity, connection, confidence, caring, respect, and peacefulness. It felt safe, even though we were outdoors, exposed to the unpredictability of nature. It felt emotionally safe. A place where people can express themselves without being judged. A place where being heard was a priority. I felt privileged to have learned a new way to communicate, by simply listening.

My weekend in Bend, Oregon was informative, inspiring, rewarding and emotional. I joined the workshop on Saturday and Sunday. That was a great prelude to visiting my daughter. We arrived there late morning, and as soon as I saw my daughter I was filled with emotions. After initial hugs, kisses and happy tears, we sat in a circle on the ground for an introduction group. I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter led the group, joined by her peers, staff and visiting parents. I never imagined my daughter taking the lead, and with such confidence! We all introduced ourselves, and shared some information and an interesting fact. Another student showed us how to bust a fire, which takes strength and determination. I was so amazed by the connection, caring, respect and lack of judgement among the students and staff. I was literally able to feel the peace and serenity that permeated the group. Shortly after we arrived we had session with my daughter's therapist. It was such a calm atmosphere even though the subjects discussed were intense. While visiting I witness many standing groups. I thought to myself, imagine if every family, every work place, any place where people gather, people would have standing groups; a safe place to express how we feel, without being judged, having others reflect on our statement; the gift of being heard, such a wonderful gift. Sounds like utopia; yet it is a common occurrence at Evoke. I feel privileged to have learned a better way to connect.

My daughter is now in an aftercare program. I don’t know what her future is, what I do know is that I love her dearly. Our relationship is much healthier today. I can love her, yet detach at the same time. It isn’t easy, yet it’s the only way to maintain my serenity. I continue to go to Al Anon meetings, as well as the support groups run by the Evoke program. I’m in therapy, and I joined an assertiveness training group. I recently joined an Evoke Intensive, Finding You, which I found to be really helpful, supportive, and enlightening. We were six people, from all walks of life, joined for three days, led by Brad Reedy, in a cabin near Park City, Utah. I was the only Jewish participant, yet the respect shown to me, by strangers to my religion and culture, was awe-inspiring. I learned so much about myself, as well as, my confidence boosted, by total strangers, who share a common factor, we are all in pain over a loved one’s situation. I cannot express in words my appreciation to Brad and Michelle Reedy. I wish them continued success in their journey of life.

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