Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Blessed Assurance

"This is my story, this is my song.
Praising my savior all the day long."

Frances J. Crosby, 1873 

Living with addiction and/or mental illness can be distressful to say the least. For those, like myself, who have had to battle any different type of brain disorder, there can be a constant ebb and flow of symptoms. These indicators can create an internal discord in one’s ability to work or go to school, carry out daily activities, or engage in satisfying relationships (this is the generalized definition of a mental health or substance use disorder).  

As for myself, the path to wellness has not been linear. Early on I was on a straight trajectory to a lifetime through the revolving door of institutionalization. I was incapable of doing any of the things that my peers were accomplishing, and this hurt. I recall that I did not attend my ten year high school reunion because I was ashamed of how my life did not match the one that so many of my classmates had. Despite the fact that I had been clean for three years, I still felt like I had to play “catch up.” 

But slowly but surely I began to gain traction and my life improved. I attribute this to the strong spiritual foundation I had developed through my church and addiction recovery groups I attended. This connection proved to be vital during the ensuing years as I traversed the landscape of adult responsibility. But it was working. I began to become more confident with the assurance that God was working in my life.  

One such example was when I obtained my first “real” job in 1992 working as an alcoholism counselor at the same community health center in Buffalo General Hospital where I had been hospitalized eleven years prior. I was green, wet behind the ears, whatever you want to call it. In many ways I was very uncertain about my abilities but I was given the opportunity to prove myself. During the time I worked there I began to develop the skills I needed to grow into the professional I had always aspired to become. 

Looking back I have come to believe that my employment at BGH was not a coincidence. I had come full circle. The fact that I was working alone was remarkable considering my condition just five years prior. This is one example of the incredible potential that we have as people who have often thought to be incapable of any significant accomplishments.  

But here’s the thing. I leaned heavily on my faith to get me through the periods of doubt and uncertainty. And I still carry this faith with me today. I have been consistently challenged to go outside my comfort zone and stretch beyond my self-perceived limitations. This, in turn, has given me the sense that I can do things that at one time would have been impossible. 

Mind you, it’s not all about faith. Recovery is hard work. Real hard work. But with the proper combination of treatment (which is different for everyone), persistence, and grit, it’s possible to go further than we think we can. As I always say, “NEVER GIVE UP!!!”

Admittedly there are some who struggle incredibly and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge this. Severe disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and major depressive disorder can be debilitating. So for those who this pertains to, simple relief from symptoms is what can be achieved. But I still believe this is possible with the proper care.

Through my faith I am assured that with the help of God I can get better. While this is a lifelong process, I know that I can become the person that God has intended me to be. Like a good friend says, I just have to “try harder.”  

Be Well!

 Shirley Caesar
"Blessed Assurance"

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