Allison Moorer, author of Blood: A Memoir, tells her story of surviving her parents’ murder/suicide, which occurred in 1986 when she was 14 years old. Her father was an abusive alcoholic, among many other wonderful things, who could not control his drinking or his behavior. Her mother was traumatized and could not remove Allison or her sister from the situation. When she finally left him, he could not handle it and ended up shooting Allison’s mother and then himself on the front lawn of the house her mother had rented to get herself and the girls away from him. After her parents’ deaths, Allison went to live with her mother’s younger sister. She began a new school and lost her grandmother all in about 10 days after losing her parents. Both families were shattered after this unfathomable circumstance. She was not put into therapy or cared for any differently than if event hadn’t happened. Allison carried on and went on to graduate from high school, earn a bachelor’s degree, enter the music industry, and make records. She became very productive and tried to figure out something to hold onto to bolster her poor self-image and identity.
She has had many ups and downs in her life and has had difficulty having relationships. She has not felt OK or safe in her life. Allison realizes now that she still has work to do to figure out some things and untangle things that never had the opportunity to be untangled. She learned that personal safety and agency is important, no matter what your age, and that we need to evolve to protecting everyone’s development. She learned that giving and receiving love is the most important skill. And she learned how important it is to be able to effectively express yourself. Allison’s advice to someone going through something similar is to get the child into treatment immediately. Do not let their openness close. Do not let them feel responsible or alone because they will have abandonment issues throughout their life. And for others, whatever gets you to recover sooner, do that.
When he went to college, Chris started to struggle with depression, anxiety, and addiction. He decided to take a few years off to ‘find himself,’ but during that time his IV heroin addiction got worse. After many treatment centers and therapists, he was finally kicked out of a halfway house and ended up sleeping in parks around Boston.
Chris’ family refused to pick him up, but they found another treatment center for him on the West Coast. His bed was not immediately open, so his parents took him with them to a retreat with the renowned meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.
The retreat was transformational. His heart felt like it burst open. He felt more engaged with life, more creative, and felt that life was worth living again in a different way.
Chris went to treatment, spent time in nature, and connected with others. He practiced mindfulness and meditation. As he got clarity, opportunities opened to him. He got sober and then built skills on his sobriety. Chris doesn’t think life gets any easier but that we get more tools to use. Meditation, 12 steps, and therapy became the tools he put his faith in because they worked for him.
Chris’ advice is to keep showing up. He learned more recently about self-compassion and tries not to listen to his inner critic. And he suggests trying to tune into more helpful thoughts, which can be a more powerful voice until we discover our inner compassionate voice that will help us through hard times.
Grow Through It: Adoption, Child Abuse, Substance Abuse, Opiod
Kevin Barhydt, author of Dear Stephen Michael’s Mother, describes the primal wound he experienced being adopted when he was born. He recounts being molested as a child, raped as a teen, and becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol as a young person. It was not until years later that he came to terms with feeling abandoned, not wanted, and understood the effect the adoption had on his self-worth. “An adoptee alone is in bad company,” he says, and attributes turning his life around to therapy, 12-step programs, and a community of adoptees, birth mothers, and adoptive families. His advice: “Do not do this alone.”
Dr. Lise Deguire, author of Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, tells her story of surviving a childhood burn accident and growing through it over the decades with countless surgeries, hope, friendship and therapy.