IN RECOVERY – WENDY BLANCHARD, M.S., CHHC

It is always miraculous when someone recovers from an illness, and continues to heal through working toward ongoing self discovery. It reveals the pride one has in themselves, and that they are willing to learn, to grow, to work hard, and to evolve…for themselves, their loved ones, and their community.  Some may “speak” the right lingo, but we all know that it is not authentic until you connect your words to synchronized action. “Walk the talk.” This…is true recovery.

In the disease of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and Co-Occurring Disorders, i.e., Mental Illness (MI), Eating Disorders, (EDs) etc., it is always miraculous when one in recovery has done the work to mindfully make changes where they experience self love, to practice self care, and to find a true spiritual path that allows one to purposefully and successfully sustain their recovery. One that offers an individual choice in a pathway to recovery. This is my greatest accomplishment in recovery…and, miracle. I am whole, and I am so blessed to be able to pay it forward with the love and support of so many, many people in our community, and of course, my loved ones and friends.

I, too, seek ongoing support as I am cognizant of my weaknesses that creep up from time to time, and I am eager to work to improve upon them so that I can be the best me, the best mom, partner, friend, and offer my best self as an advocate, peer, Ambassador, and community educator to all of the patients, clients and community members that I work with each day. I have the opportunity to offer them the insight and encouragement they need to create change through my own journey of a sustainable and successful recovery.

In my own recovery from Substance Use Disorder, and Mental Illness, through my years of diligent work, determination, resilience, strength that I didn’t know I had, my willingness to change, and the greatest piece of all…love and care of self, I remain grateful for all of the experiences and people that have helped me to become the woman I am today…with God’s blessing. I will continue my journey and my dedication to being a voice for those suffering with the disease of SUD, and Mental Illness, and their loved ones. I will continue to advocate for much needed change, to educate and empower our community on this disease, its risk factors, its protective factors, how to recognize signs and symptoms, how to safely and empathetically engage, and how to offer reassurance and offer appropriate resources to those asking for help. I will continue to work on eliminating the stigma of Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness…a progressive brain disease, sometimes occurring simultaneously, or “co-occurring.”

When we educate our community on this brain disease, we must be certain that we have our facts correct, that we are coming from a place of empathy and assistance, and that we are not just stating our opinion, or something we read on the Internet. We must, ourselves, be educated, trained, and perhaps have life experience in the field so that we may truly empathize with others, as well having an ongoing opportunity in the community to work with those suffering with the disease, and their families. We cannot speak intelligently or effectively if we are only on the sidelines calling out random plays for the field. We must be on the front lines. We must become educated on the facts. We must sit and hold a hand. We must listen to a story with great empathy and compassion with no regard for our own views, and we must have the time to devote to someone in need if we decide to work the front lines. We must decide a beneficial course of action to suggest to those asking for help based on what they feel they need that will allow one to feel safe, empowered, and respected…making them proactive. We cannot throw around catch phrases even if we preface it with, “I am not a therapist…but” We have to be so mindful of what we are putting out into the public, and to the Universe. We do not need any five and dime “psychoanalysis” which only serves to demean those who are already fearful of asking for help due to the stigma. If we are not in a position to speak about the disease with our “wise mind,” then as the saying goes, “When in doubt, don’t.” “Wise Mind vs Emotional Mind” is a part of DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) that is used in treating SUD (Substance Use Disorder) and Mental Illness, and has found to be effective in many cases. Take a class!

It only takes one person to make effective changes, especially with Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness, although we must work as a team. Having one person believe in me throughout my recovery, and I’ve had more than one, has been the sustaining force in me believing in myself. We all want to know that we are not alone, and that we are loved, and to have validation that we are on the right path. I think whether we are in recovery, or not, we all need and want these things. We cannot isolate ourselves. We cannot hide from the pain. We must try our best to find the courage to ask for guidance and support…ongoing. We may not want to say it aloud, but when we are alone, or blaming others for our pain, in the silence, we know the truth…and we can either step up to ourselves, or allow the thoughts and the emotions run us into a ditch. We can still make our way up and out, but we need a loving hand of guidance.

Sometimes a loved one is not yet ready to take that first step. If their behavior is affecting our own health, it has been suggested to me by the professionals highly respected in this field to “detach with love, and be there when they’re ready.” We must put the oxygen mask on ourselves first…you know the drill.

It is such a vulnerable and frightening time when the darkness is prevalent…and in my opinion, the only way out…is connection. Connection is the path to the light. My light comes from those loving souls that I surround myself with each day, and we all receive our “power” and our “Connection” from this loving Universe. For me, my strong Faith comes from my Connection to the Universe/God/Spirit. And I always know that the One who knows all…knows all. There is never any doubt of my loving Intentions…

I am so blessed with a wonderful family, so many wonderful friends, and my amazing work family, as well as so much love and respect from the community that I love so much. Every day that I hear someone say, “Thank you,” or tell me that they have been helped, or a family member has been helped by my work in the community, it validates for me the path that has been chosen for me by the Universe, and one where I am making a difference…by the grace of God, and the amazing people I surround myself with.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve the people of my community on so many levels, and to continuously be asked to go out and speak to more and more people, to educate, to empower, and to just have a conversation as a peer, as an advocate, as a survivor, is worth its weight in gold…For me, this is what I live for, and it is truly priceless.

I am getting ready for a week long business trip to be further trained, and I’m so excited that my supervisor and CEO have asked me to be a part of this training. I will add this to a variety of other trainings for which I have earned certifications in the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder fields.

We MUST change our language when we talk about Mental Illness and SUD. It will change the way we think, as well as our understanding of M.I. and S.U.D., eliminate stigma, and empower our communities through education of this chronic brain disease which is diagnosable, treatable and manageable.

Recovery brings with it so much beauty and blessings as we find our own individual path through trial and error, with guidance, and it is open to anyone. Although I have 5 plus years of recovery, I still explore new options ongoing to use to treat my anxiety. It is great to have options!

Love and blessings,

Wendy

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