The BALM Has Increased My Peace in the Midst of Enormous Grieving
By Maryann Williams RN, Certified BALM Family Recovery Life Coach
“Haven’t you done enough Maryann?”, sarcastically stated my middle child Rob as he started out of the driveway with a large rolling duffel bag and his bicycle.
I was thinking, “Who is this person? It isn’t my son. What is wrong with him?” “Why is he calling me Maryann and not Mom?” He had come back to the house after being kicked out several weeks earlier, per our agreement, had called the police when I refused to let him in the house without someone else there, and collected as many of his belongings as he could carry to go back down to the Baltimore City Streets. I was standing on the front porch with three police cars in my driveway. Two of my friends had arrived during his visit, I had called them, and watched as I said, “I love you Rob” when he was leaving.
I had been saying “I love you” as much as I could in the last 22 years of his addiction, even through the angry, cuss word laden, drug infused conversations. I wanted him to know I loved him in case anything ever happened when he was out attending to his addiction. This time something did happen. A week later he was dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl, found in an abandoned house in an undesirable area of Baltimore City.
I had been saying “I love you” as much as I could in the last 22 years of his addiction, even through the angry, cuss word laden, drug infused conversations. I wanted him to know I loved him in case anything ever happened when he was out attending to his addiction. This time something did happen.
I was able to calmly tell him I loved him because of the BALM (Be A Loving Mirror) and my BALM coach Bev who was there to support me throughout that particular ordeal. I was so grateful that I had been able to tell him I loved him the last time I saw him rather than lashing out in anger as I had done years before when I had no tools to deal with an angry sick person.
Addiction is a disease, not a disgrace. I am grateful that I still have the BALM tools to deal with the other addicted loved ones in my life because our family has been as sick as Rob and we are able to continue to learn a less dysfunctional way to behave together. We still have the behaviors of co-dependency even if our addicted loved one is gone.
As of this writing, my 36-year-old son died eight months ago, three months after my 58-year-old husband died of an 18-month fight with cancer. My heart is broken, and I am still deeply grieving with my other two children, but I am starting to be able to be grateful for so many things. I am very grateful that I was able to have my son in my home with me when my husband died and to have him for four months before he left. I was able to do that because of the BALM program. I knew it would be difficult, but with the tools of the BALM program, I have memories that I will cherish.
You see, I am also in recovery from alcoholism myself. I stopped drinking in 1987 when Rob was six years old. I used to take him to 12 step meetings with me, so I could learn how to live a life without being a throwing up, falling down, blacking out drunk.
My three children do not know me as a drunk. I raised them as the best mother I could be. However, I began to realize along the way that I also had an additional issue, co-dependency. There is another program for people who are friends and family of alcoholics and addicts. A person like me knows a lot of people like that, many also in recovery. We are anonymous people, but we are everywhere. So, I was attending two different 12 step programs while praying that Rob would get into recovery and stay there.
Over the years he had been in so many recovery programs and jails that I had lost count. I could not remember how many times I had kicked him out of the house, once on Christmas Eve, because of the stealing, lying, disrespect, and overall anxiety producing behaviors that he exhibited. He had been homeless many times. My mother’s heart suffered greatly for my child.
Co-dependency and the associated denial of the problem is such a multifaceted slippery slope. The definition that I understood of co-dependency the best was “being dependent with”. My life was intertwined with Rob’s in the earlier years. Then I learned detachment with love but had some of my family wanting to amputate Rob from our lives rather than giving him the love he, and so many other addicted loved ones need so desperately.
The thing with being in recovery myself is that I can so strongly identify with the feeling of being an unloved and worthless human being and truly believing that. We feel hopeless, helpless, and often want to die. Our addicted loved ones need our love so badly. Don’t we all? Isn’t that our primary mission in this life to love God and each other? How are we all doing with that in the middle of this miserable opioid addiction problem scourging the United States? As far as the denial piece is concerned, how can we say this isn’t our problem? The family of an addicted loved one is as sick, or sicker than the addicted person and needs help just as badly.
I was able to become an RN in 1996. I was going to further my nursing education around 2014 and discovered the BALM Institute. I thought that would it be great to be able to make a living in the recovery field since I just loved how it felt to be in recovery and to see the light come on in other’s lives while they learned how to get into a new and better life. Instead, I found a program for inner transformation.
Addiction is a disease just like congestive heart failure or diabetes. Why aren’t we admitting our addicted loved ones to hospitals and treatment centers to help them? My son needed treatment for a longer period than just 30 days. The week he died, he made a feeble attempt to get into treatment without insurance, without success.
I had started my schooling in becoming a Certified Balm Recovery Coach by going through the yearlong BALM comprehensive. My first week I entered into Principle three and was able to listen to the recorded lessons to catch up. Principle three was about getting and staying calm by providing the tools needed for the inner peace we need to reach our addicted or sick loved ones. Turns out that I was having trouble breathing that week because my husband and I had found out about his lung cancer.
As an RN, I knew the implications of this particular lung cancer. Despite the meditation routines and healthy lifestyle practices I had developed, I was still having trouble breathing. That is how I knew my being in BALM was a God thing: this first BALM lesson helped me breath through a terrifying situation. The rest of my BALM education and the BALM community support helped me get through the rest of the story with grace and peace.
Addiction is a disease just like congestive heart failure or diabetes. Why aren’t we admitting our addicted loved ones to hospitals and treatment centers to help them? My son needed treatment for a longer period than just 30 days. The week he died, he made a feeble attempt to get into treatment without insurance, without success. We now have scientific evidence to show that we have neural pathways with addictions or habits. The surgeon general stated years ago that the addiction to nicotine is as strong as the one to heroin. How many people, like my husband, have died because they couldn’t quit cigarette smoking. So how many of us know what it is like to try and quit heroin? Whoever smoked knows what it is like. It takes a while, with a lot of support, to make new pathways in our brains that support a better lifestyle. Where are the medical facilities for the treatment?
I graduated last November 2016 and am now a Certified BALM Family Addiction Recovery Coach. I have also been working as a hospice RN to finish out my nursing career. It is comforting somehow to know that I can still help other families that have addicted loved ones.Maryann Williams RN