Wife of a recovering addict

I was unloading the trunk of my husband’s car packed with party supplies. It was a day full of preparation as we were celebrating the dedication of our third child at our home church with a reception immediately following the ceremony the very next day. Its been a jam packed week as I prepped for this celebration with three kids under the age of five in tow. After I unloaded the last grocery bag, something told me to lift the cover of the spare tire. In the center of the spare tire was a container that I’d never seen before. It didn’t look like anything car related so I opened it – there in plain sight was my husband’s drug stash and paraphernalia.

The world stopped.

Standing in the light

This wasn’t the first time my husband has been caught with a drug stash. In our 20+ years together, he has relapsed a few times. I am sharing my side of this recovery journey because of the spotlight on Dax Shepard’s relapse after 16 years of sobriety. More importantly because of Kristen Bell’s honest statement about supporting her husband through his recovery. I appreciate the transparency they have with the public surrounding their marital and mental health struggles. Their vulnerability urged me to stand in my truth as a fellow wife of a recovery addict. This emotional road of ongoing recovery isn’t easy. It is an evolving process that is held up by our faith in Christ, an enormous amount of grace, compassion, and healthy boundaries.

Our story is important to share because of the stigma surrounding the inability to process feelings and generational cycles of addiction especially in the Filipino community. I have seen far too many drunk Titos (uncles) and absolving Titas (aunts). I’ve experienced first hand the wrath of an emotionally unavailable and alcoholic parent. This destructive behavior has been acceptable for far too long in our culture. The only way we will be able to break this generational mental enslavement is to begin to heal ourselves, address our feelings, slay our inner demons, and live an authentic life with a higher purpose.

My first boundary

On that day pre-celebration almost 14 years ago, I vividly remember storming into our home and pushing that container into Chris’ face. We argued for what seemed like hours and deciding to put this fight aside to prioritize one of the most special days of our lives as a parent – dedicating our daughter to the Lord. I can still relive the shame I felt during that time. Ashamed of not realizing what was going on right in front of my face. Mortified of the fact that the father of my children is an addict. All of my dreams and expectation of what my life should be were annulated the moment I found that container. It felt like my life was over.

I remember calling my Mom and asking her for advice. She told me to do what was best for the children and myself. The only solution I could come up with was to leave. So I asked my Mom if I could live with her and my dad while we figured out our next steps. She immediately agreed. I took as much of our belonging as I could fit in my van and strapped the kids into their car seats. Chris was at work. So he would come home to an empty house. My parents welcomed us with forced smiles and played with the girls while I unloaded our clothes, the kids toys, and got my bearings of an unknown future. That evening I received a call from Chris asking why I left. We fought for what seemed like hours. The next phone call I received was from my In Laws. They were distraught and beside themselves that I was being a terrible wife and mother; ruining our family by leaving my husband because of my husband’s secret drug habit.

I was the problem.

I was the person bringing shame to the family.

The girls and I lived with my parents for almost a week before I moved back into our home to begin to reconcile our marriage with the conditions that we would go to counseling and Chris would get help with his addiction. The same day I returned home, we went to a church service. I asked for help from church staff member. I remember her handing me a flyer and showing it to Chris. I could feel in my gut that this was the answer.

I couldn’t say ‘No’

The very first recovery meeting was filled with shame. I was given a crash course in addiction, Christ-centered recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous / Narcotics Anonymous. I was overwhelmed with this new information when I was also told that I was an enabler. I have a codependency issue.

Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs.

Psych Central

I was shocked!

How dare they say that I was part of the problem!

The facilitator handed me ‘One Day at a Time Al Anon’ and told me to read it everyday. I came to the realization by the second day of reading the devotionals that I was part of the problem. I learned my inability of saying ‘no’ enabled Chris to do a he pleased. I had to learn how to set my boundaries. More importantly, be ok with how he reacted to my boundaries and stand firm – no matter what. Holding myself accountable for something I had never done before was extremely daunting and uncomfortable.

On this first meeting, I also heard the ‘Serenity Prayer’ for the very first time. It was something everyone recited joyfully. I recall thinking this prayer was ‘just another thing’ I had to do to fix my husband. After attending a months worth of meetings, this prayer was my saving grace. It helped me realize that I wasn’t in control of anyone but myself. My recovery did not was not dependent on Chris’ recovery.

We attended this recovery meeting for a few years, it was the main reason we were still married. It also solidified our individual relationships with Christ. We became a family with our recovery group. This group of brave, unconditionally supportive individuals encouraged us through the 12 steps. We loved on them hard and checked in on each other when times were tough. They helped us welcome our youngest daughter into the world. They also saw us through our first relapse.


Join me as I share how I handled our first relapse. It was our very first hard fall back to the beginning of recovery.

Have you experienced recovery? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below and what has helped you.

And remember…. It is ok to NOT be ok.


The bible and mental health

In the recent months, our home church spoke about pertinent topics that many struggle with as human beings of this earth. What I appreciate about our church is the focus on bible based teaching. As a former Catholic, I never really read the bible and remained focused on the traditions of Catholicism. Growing up, I believed that God’s truths for me were conditional. Believing that someone would love me just as I am was a foreign concept. It is still a struggle today but I know the truth and press forward everyday to build my relationship with Christ.

With all that is going on in the world, I wanted to create a complication of sermons our church has spoken about so other’s may find comfort in His truths. Being a person in 2020 is absolutely exhausting – mentally and physically. I am thankful for my faith in Him and not in my own willpower. If you want to read more about how I am leaning on Christ during this hard season, please read my article in The Brave Collective digital magazine – Who is Jesus? Jesus is my beacon of hope.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

– John 16:33

Life struggles

I have struggled with shame and guilt around my mental health as a Christ follower for years because I believed that I shouldn’t be sad or have hardships as a Christian, right?

Wrong.

Christ never said that we will be without difficulties, instead He gives us His grace, love, and new daily mercies – unconditionally.

Doubt

I was told as a child that I should never doubt or question God. As a teen exploring world around me, I wanted to ask so many questions but was silenced very quickly. My curiosity was deemed as being unfaithful. In turn, I stopped asking questions and began to doubt any presence of a higher being. It wasn’t until I began my own faith journey as a young adult that I learned that doubt was ok and God wanted us to doubt. This concept blew my mind! It helped me grow my relationship with Christ.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

-Proverbs 3:5

Mental Health

I have heard many incorrect statements about mental health as a Christian.

“All you need to do is have more faith.”
“Just pray the mental health away.”
“You probably don’t believe in God enough.”

I want you to know these statements are not constructive for those who are struggling mentally. They actually do more harm than good. As someone who supports other’s in their mental illnesses, I would like to offer you a few helpful statements instead

“I’m sorry you’re struggling.”
“How can I support you?”
“How can I pray for you?” (Then pray for them right then and there)

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

– Psalm 34:18

Hope

I remain hopeful in this current season of unrest and uncertainty because I know who is in control. I pray these sermons have helped you and hope you even venture into other sermons our church has shared. It is through my faith in Him that I can share with you today.

I’d love to know which sermon resonated with you the most! Please share that with me in the comments.

As always – It’s ok to NOT be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!


Radiate Life

I would like to announce the official launch of my coaching business!

While I have coached many individuals on how they are capable of compassionate transformation and loving their authentic self, I want to formally announce the name of my coaching business on this blog because this is where it all started.

Welcome to

Maryann Clark Coaching – Radiate Life

Why – Radiate Life?

In order to understand why I named my coaching business “Radiate Life” you must go back to the beginning and the creation of The Filipino Mom blog logo. That logo really encapsulates my purpose for talking about my life struggles with depression and anxiety as a 1st generation Filipino American. To read more into the reasoning behind naming this blog and its logo, please go back to the blog post – Behind the design.

I want others who are suffering in silence to out worldly know that there is a Filipino who understands the difficulty of mental health disorders with the complexity of our culture. One of the main aspects of the logo that I still wanted to bring with me, if you will, as I expand the brand is the sun rays from the Philippines flag. As you can see, the rays are now facing outward signifying that this coaching business will focus on helping others in this community radiate life through compassion for themselves as they embrace their most authentic self. In doing this, clients may also do the same for the people in their own community and future generations.

Why is this important? As a Filipino American, I have never felt as if I was American or Filipino enough. I have been dubbed a “coconut” many times – brown on the outside but white on the inside. Yup hurtful, I know. As an adult, I understand that I am an American with a Filipino heritage. I don’t need to be anything more than myself. I am enough just as I am.

So to help other’s move towards compassionate self acceptance, we must understand how we got here – unlearn, relearn truth and heal from generational trauma, colonization, and racial biases. Then and only then, can we begin to heal ourselves and move forward.



What’s next?

With the expansion of my brand and the official announcement of Radiate Life, I would like to announce that I am creating a wait list for my group coaching co-creator program launching in a few short weeks.

This inaugural course will be heavily influenced by the brave co-creators who give meaningful input week in and week out. If you would like to get on this wait list, please click on the image or here. Please note that since this collective will be more work for the participants, it will be discounted to offset the weekly input. Once the course is open to applicants, those on the wait list will be given top priority to schedule their one-on-one session to see if we can co-create together. Community is vital for a group coaching course and I want to ensure not only are co-creators committed to creating a meaningful course but also allowing others a safe space to be heard.

Offerings

I am continuing with my one-on-one tailored coaching course. If you are interested in learning more about how I can support you, please click on the image or click here.

If you would like any further information on future programs or community events, please feel free to join the TFM fam newsletter where I share information with the fam even before it hits social media platforms.

I am honored to serve this community in this capacity. Thank you for being here! Join me as I celebrate this momentous occasion!!


When is it enough?

I have written and rewritten this particular post many many times. I have struggled to find the right words to provide clarity and compassion. I feel like no matter what I say, it won’t be enough. So I will speak from the heart as a human being, a parent, and most importantly a Filipino American. If you are triggered negatively by anything I share, please know I am speaking from my own experiences and they may not be what you have experienced. The most important part of this post is just because you haven’t experienced it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Hear my heart when I say, have an open mind.

This post will be different from my regular posts as I included thought provoking questions for you to dig deep as you read some of my experiences. I would love to hear your answers and continue this safe open conversation.

Filipino-American

As the granddaughter of two Filipino men who served in military branches during the Civil War, I have deep roots in this country. Not only did my ancestors fight for this country, they also endured an enormous amount of prejudice, discrimination from the country the put their lives on the line for. They are the epitome of grit and resilience. They have provided a way for those from the Philippines to immigrate to America to provide a better life for their family and the next generation.

My family isn’t the only one that has grandparents or even parents that served in multiple military branches. I know of many fellow Filipinos who have served in the Navy, Air Force, Marines, Army, and the Reserves. Our people have fought along side those who wanted our help. It pains me to see the hardships they endured after all of our ancestors’ sacrifices. My family is from this great nation.

Please stop asking:

  • Where did I come from?
  • What type of Asian are you?
  • What type of Chinese are you?
  • Do you eat dog?

Historical Fact: The reason people ask if Filipinos eat dog is because of the ‘Living Exhibit’ of the Igorots at the 1904 World’s Fair. The largest of these exhibits was the Philippine village, a 47-acre site that for seven months in 1904 became home to more than 1,000 Filipinos from at least 10 different ethnic groups. The biggest crowd-drawers were the so-called primitive tribes — especially the Igorots, whose appeal lay in their custom of eating dog.1 Their ceremonial purposes became a performance.

NPR, ‘Living Exhibits’

Thought provoking questions:

  • How would that make you feel if someone made your ceremony an exhibit?
  • How would it make you feel if someone made your ancestors into a ‘living exhibit’ for entertainment purposes?
  • Why did anyone need to be deemed less than especially the Igorots?
  • Who decides what is savage or primal?
  • Why is it ok to categories people in that manner?
  • How does this change your narrative around Filipinos?

English only

I am a born and raised Bay Area native. I am proud to be from ‘The Bay.’ Almost all of my family still lives in The Bay and all across California. The west coast was my home for more than 30 years. I am a descendant from Philippine provinces in Bohol and Tarlac who rode the wave of the 1965 Naturalization Act. The main purpose for this act was to reunite families and bring skilled workers to the US. They met and married in 1979. I was born in 1980 in San Jose, California.

Historical fact: There was a critical shortage of nurses following WWII and U.S. hospitals started advertising for Filipino nurses. The Philippines continues to be the leading exporter of professional nurses to the U.S., although the ways they immigrate have changed over time. About one-third of all foreign-born nurses in the U.S. are Filipino. Since the 1960s, there have been over 150,000 Filipino nurses who have migrated to the U.S.2

Berkeley News, UC Berkeley

My parents didn’t teach my sisters and I what it meant to be Filipino. They only spoke English at home. We only heard Tagalog, Visaya, or Ilocano when my parents talked to our relatives. We would only get tidbits of information about the Philippines and we would have to piece them together to understand were we came from. Only until I became an adult is when I really began to understand what it meant to be Filipino and why I should be proud to be from that country.

Furthermore, I never understood why I couldn’t play outside in the sun. I never understood why it was not ok to be dark skinned. If you were to meet my sisters and I, only one of us is light skinned. To be clear, if it isn’t already, the standard of beauty was based on European light skinned colonizers. Cultural assimilation was heavily encouraged. We were told to only speak English. Being a Filipino American felts like a balance to act American but not look like an American.

Cultural Assimilation – is the process by which a person or a group’s language and/or culture come to resemble those of another group

Wikipedia

Thought provoking questions:

  • How would that make you feel if someone told you to not speak your native language?
  • How would it make you feel if someone told you how you looked wasn’t beautiful even if you couldn’t control the color of your skin?
  • How would you have navigated the balance of acting like an American but not looking American enough?
  • What does an American look like?
  • How much cultural assimilating is required to be American?
  • Is there a balance between being American and Filipino? If so, please explain?

Mama Bear

We moved to Arizona a little over three years ago. I will say it has been the best decision for our family to become more financially stable. As a family of seven on one income, transplanting to Arizona was a more viable option for us. We moved to a beautiful suburb in the East Valley. We love our neighbors. We love the community driven relationship. We appreciate the kindness we experience on a daily basis.

The one negative we’ve experienced is the racial discrimination in the public school system. I will not go into any details to protect my kids as well as the others who are involved. This has not been an easy six plus months of dealing with this in private. My kids are extremely braver than I ever was to speak out for what is right. I know this hardship will not only built their character as 2nd generation Filipino Americans but it will leave lasting scar deep within them. Just because they were born with Filipino features and darker skin, they have been deemed not American enough. It pains me in the deepest parts of my soul that there are people in this world that would find fault in a skin color facial features, or body shape. My kids were born in America and belong in this community just as they are.

Racial discrimination occurs when an individual is subjected to unequal treatment because of their actual or perceived race.

Race Discrimination in Education, FindLaw

Thought provoking questions:

  • What does an American looks like?
  • How would you feel if someone made assumptions of your intelligence, athletic ability, and general capabilities in the public school system?
  • What would you do if you saw someone be discriminated?
  • How can we help our community gain knowledge on how to be sensitive around racial profiling and racial biases?
  • What can you do today to help your kids or kids you come into contact with feel see, validated, and heard?
  • How can you teach your kids about the truth of how this country was founded?

Thank you for being here and support this blog. It means the world to me to get my words out to those who have similar or even different perceptions of living in the United States. Again, I would love to hear your answers and continue this safe open conversation.

Remember – it’s ok to NOT be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!


Inner work

From a very early age, I felt as if I didn’t measure up to the expectations my parents and relatives had for me. One of the statements that still make me emotional today is “you should have been a boy.” To make matters even more uncomfortable, we were a family of three daughters – Tres Marias, as everyone called us. Being a family of all daughters apparently wasn’t a very appealing family dynamic for a Filipino household as they also believed in the patriarchal systems like many other cultures. So for most of my life, I heard that one of us should be a boy.

Yes, I understand the importance of passing down the legacy of the surname. I also realized at an early age that this system is flawed. Without the females in the community, generations wouldn’t exist. Women in most cultures were viewed as less than and my Filipino heritage wasn’t any different. So with that one statement, repeated many many times during my childhood, I never felt that I measured up to something that I couldn’t control. I never felt that I was enough just as I am. Just as I came into this world.

The work

As it turns out, this was the foundation from where my negative self monologue stemmed from. I only recognized that this statement shaped my belief in myself when I began to dig deep within myself and do some major inner work.

Inner work – the process of deliberately changing yourself through bringing an awareness to what is happening inside you and how it affects what you do in the world.1

I had gone through therapy when I was a teenager for childhood traumas. While I won’t go into that at this time, I want you to know that going to therapy really helped me tap into the feelings I had about who I was as a human in this world. Therapy was a safe space for me to understand what my inner being needed and I was thankful that my parents were open to providing me with this space.

Inner being – a person’s true or internal mind, soul, or nature.2

As an adult, I could never shake the negative self talk I had around being enough. I struggled with my self worth for my entire life. I never understood how to overcome this belief I had of myself. I didn’t have the tools to even begin to heal that deep part of myself. The inner child who heard that because she was a girl and not a boy – she wasn’t enough.

Since I couldn’t control the gender I was born with, I decided to control everything else around me. I became a control freak. I wanted everything to be as perfect as it could be because it was something that I could control. I thought that if I created an environment that was perfect that maybe, just maybe I would be accepted for who I am. I was chasing an invisible and unattainable standard of perfection and being enough. The questions I began to ask myself were:

What is perfect?
What is enough?
How is it measured?

This was the beginning of my journey to healing the inner narrative that everything had to be perfect, I had to be perfect, and everything around me needed to be perfect. I began to ask myself really hard questions and began to write down what I really believed about myself.

  • Why does everything have to be perfect?
    • Everything has to be perfect so people think I have my life together even if I don’t.
  • What is enough?
    • I have no idea what enough is but I think its more than I am already doing.
  • How is it measured?
    • What? I have no idea but I’m sure its more than what I am doing now.

Yes it all looks and sounds very irrational but in my mind it all made sense. Challenging all of the beliefs I’ve had since I was a child was and still is the hardest thing I’ve ever done for myself. It has allowed me be free of creating an immeasurable scale for myself that I could never truly quantify or gauge when it was enough.

Change the language

What I’ve learned from challenging my beliefs of myself from childhood is that they no longer help me become the best adult version of myself. So I began the hard work of reframing the words I used to describe myself because I knew that how I described myself was how I truly valued who I was and it didn’t sound like I valued myself at all. I wanted to badly to create a more accepting inner being and I knew that it wouldn’t be easy but I was up for the challenge. I began to ask myself one really hard but simple question everyday.

  • What if what you did today was enough?
    • Ummmm…I don’t know. That sounds really weird but ok if that’s true then I don’t feel like I need to do more.

That question is the same question I ask myself today because it allows me to accept that who I am and what I’ve done is plenty. There is no reason to perfect the task that I needed to do or to create a more polished persona. I could just be. And just being was glorious! The more I allowed myself to just be, the more I was comfortable with doing the best I could at that time, knowing that it is absolutely 100% enough.

This is hard work

Yes, it is hard to challenge the beliefs you’ve had about yourself for as long as you can remember BUT what if, they’re 100% wrong?

What if you can?
What if you are enough?
What if you are perfect just as you are?
What if you are capable just as you are? 

I know what you’re going to say – BUT I have never been able to do that in the past because …..

Yes I understand that reasoning 100%! I thought that way too until I allowed myself to just take a small step forward into “What if I can?”

What would that look like?
How would I accomplish that?
What would I need help with?

Instead of asking myself a finite Yes or No question, I asked myself a more inquisitive question – What if? Questioning how I would accomplish a task, project, or job allowed me to freely think about all the ways it could be accomplished instead of if I could accomplish it at all. When I began to reframe the beliefs I had for myself, I began to transform how I spoke to myself. This was absolutely freeing!

Me too

If you read through this post and said, “me too” or “Amen” or “that’s me.” Know that you are not the only one who struggles with their self worth. Furthermore, know that you can begin to change the narrative of how you speak to yourself. I’d love to help you begin that process! The hardest thing to do is to admit you need some support. Guess what! I will offer my services to you for free.

All you have to do is schedule a session using my scheduling link here. Click on the FREE 30 minute session. We can talk through whatever you want. It’s your time and I want to honor whatever is most important for you. A coaching session is a place were you can say anything you want about yourself and no one else will hear about it. Its a confidential safe space for you to be as vulnerable and transparent as you want. You drive the conversation, I just ask you questions to help you get to where you want to go. Sounds easy enough right?

Let’s get started! Schedule your free session today. Click here. The best investment you can make is to become your best true self and I am here to 100% support you in that.