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!


Odd woman out

One year of blogging!!!!

Holy moly cannoli can you believe its already been a year!?!?!

A year ago, I knew this blog would create uncomfortability and an inward angst among the Asian community. I was (and still am) ok with that. I am not here to be a hero – or shero. I didn’t begin this work to be loved by all. If you know anything about the Filipino culture you KNOW that what I am doing goes against all cultural norms. We’ve been taught to stuff down our feelings and pretend everything is ok. Well I’m tired of pretending. I am over silencing my struggles. I’ve made my peace with being the odd
wo-man out. It was time to shed a light on the mental health epidemic even at the expense of my vulnerability.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of support and like minded 1st and 2nd generation Filipinos that supported this journey. When I made this social media presence, I was floored by the amount of direct messages I would receive thanking me for being brave enough to share my story and create space for others to share theirs. I am so thankful for this community and all that it has given me. 

If we’ve had direct message conversations and we’ve never met before in IRL – I’m so proud of you for reaching out to me and being vulnerable. Keep reaching out!

If you’ve never reached out to me, just lurk, and get inspiration from my posts – Hi! Hello. I’m Maryann. Thanks for being here! I’d love to know what you enjoy about my blog and my social media platform. HMU let’s support each other.

If we’ve had IRL conversations where we cry, hug, laugh, and pray together – Hey thanks for being brave enough to talk in public with me. As you know, I’m extremely emotional in person and the fact that you braved all of my facial expressions and tight hugs means a lot.

I hope you continue to vocalize and support each other in our struggles. It is the only way we are going to heal ourselves, our community, and the world. Your voice matters! Thank you for being here. I appreciate you!

Accomplishments

I had no – zero – zilch – expectations for The Filipino Mom blog when I started it. I truly believed that the only people who would read my content would be relatives – to see if I was talking about them. Chismosa! The fact that I have been able to collaborate with so many amazing people and communities in a short amount of time is mind blowing. I am extremely humbled when people reach out and give me a platform to share my story. 

Outward

Many measure success by outward accomplishments. I am absolutely floored by what has been achieved by this blog in such a short amount of time. These stats absolutely humble me in the deepest parts of my heart. The fact that this blog can reach anyone and everyone means that anything is truly possible. 

Here are a few stats that I am extremely proud of for this blog:

Inner

I am most proud of the inner work I have overcome in the past year. While inner work is not an observable value others can visibly measure, my personal growth has benefited my everyday life in ways that extend farther than just myself. Conscious inner transformation is releasing old belief systems that I held on to since my childhood. I learned these survival strategies decades ago and as an adult, they no longer benefit my current life goals, aspirations or help me become my true self. While isn’t been a difficult few years of creating a new inner narrative. Once I was able to release the old beliefs, strategies, and tactics, I was able to accept a new belief system based upon facts and not my feelings. 

Confused on what in the world I am talking about? I know it’s hard to explain without vocalizing my thought process. Here is an example of one of my biggest belief system that held me back from doing- anything new. 

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you resonate with this mental obstacle I had? I’d love to help you talk through your thoughts about yourself. You can schedule a FREE 30 minute clarity session with me! I’d love to support you in moving towards your best self. You can also download my free Ebook to help you look at your life from a birds eye view. Its a great first step to creating a more impactful life.

Unconditional Support

Last but absolutely not least, I am extremely thankful for my group of family and friends who have supported me this past year – and really my whole life.

First and foremost, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thank you for never leaving me or allowing me to stray too far. Holy Spirit, thank you for knudging me towards things that I would not normally do and blessing my life (and my family’s lives) with so many wonderful people. I’m humbled by your renewing grace for and pray to be as selfless as you. Amen.

Thank you mom for being open and accepting of this journey of mine. I appreciate all the pep talks and words of wisdom you give me when I am at my lowest. Also thank you for being an amazing caregiver to dad.

Thank you dad for showing us what true perseverance looks like. Even at your most trying times, you have encompassed strength and determination.

Thank you to my sisters! I don’t think I would be who I am today without you. You have been my constant stream of support for as long as I can remember. While we are all living in different areas on the west coast. We still support each other with the help of technology. I appreciate you both sooo much and hope I make you equally as proud.

Thank you to my amazing friends, near and far! You have accepted me with unconditional support and open arms. I appreciate how you’ve put up with my crazy texting rants, uncontrollable tears, and loud laughter.

To my crazy bunch of kiddos, man you guys drive me bananas. Thank you for allowing me to grow along side you and figuring this mental health stuff out together. I pray your bravery heals your generation and the generations to come. Keep doing the right thing even if its hard. I love you guys!

To my church family, in California and Arizona, I don’t think I would have survived the last five years without you all. Your unconditional support, unceasing prayers, and tight hugs have given me the strength even on my darkest days. I appreciate each and everyone of you. I pray I’ve helped you just as much as you’ve helped me.

Last and certainly not least, my husband. You have picked me up off the ground while I’ve been in a puddle of tears. You’ve coaxed me out of bed on days when I wanted to disappear from this world. You love me despite the times I hate myself. I appreciate all that you do for me, for our family, and for yourself. I love you forever – and a day.

Moving forward

While I don’t want to share too much, I want you to know that there are so many things I have planned for 2020. More collaborations, more mental health talks, more real life struggles, and even more Jesus talk.

I hope you join me! I need all the help I can get.


Doing it all

I have been asked how I manage to ‘do it all’ with of my all the current responsibilities – required and volunteered. In addition to managing a large family and their daily lives, I also volunteer in multiple ministries at church; work part time remotely for a software consulting company; run a blog utilizing multiple social media platforms; enrolled in a 6 month certification program (and graduated as of April 2020); launching multiple project/business ventures at the beginning of the year; dating my husband; hangout with friends; and all the while making my self care a priority. 

WHAT!?! Yea when I list all the things I have my hands in, its overwhelming to see.

Do you have the same 24 hours in a day that I do? ABSOLUTELY.

Here’s the biggest secret – I DO NOT DO IT ALL. Over the past year, I have had to create an environment for myself to work towards a life I want to live. This new lifestyle isn’t perfect. I still need to tweak things but overall I feel like I am living more authentically now than ever. Yes, I am going to share how I’ve done that. It’s not complicated, expensive, or unattainable. It’s not even really an exact formula.

Here is how I’ve created “more time”:

  • I have voiced my aspirations, goals, and dreams to my family.
  • I have limited my time on screens for entertainment purposes.
  • I hold space for myself to rest.
  • I give myself grace when things don’t go my way.

I will expand on these bullet points in hopes it given you ideas of how to prioritize your time even more. Again, I am no expert on time management but I want you to know that there is time for you to do what you dream about. You are capable and equip with everything you need to create the life you desire. 

Be intentional

In order to “make time” for the goals I want to attain, I needed to be more intentional with my time. For me that means limiting my time on social media, watching tv, and falling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube. I realized once I decided that I wanted to start my blog that I needed to prioritize time for creating content, learning how to scale my blog and engagement. It hasn’t been easy. There have been many late nights as well as short spurts of time that I intentionally use to benefit all that I am attempting to accomplish in one given day. 

Fo example, as I edit this post, I am sitting on the floor in the Phoenix Convention Center while my oldest walks through the college fair asking all the questions she wants. I’m here as moral support even if she doesn’t need me to walk around with her. She has vocalized that she would like me here but would like to walk to fair alone. So I brought my laptop and charger with me to utlize my time while allowing her the time she needs. I brought a charger for my phone so the toddler can watch his favorite shows if he become extremely irritable – which is often – and snacks because everyone – except me – gets hangary. Yes, I know it sounds crazy but it works.

Cut myself some slack

Creating an intentional life takes time and a lot of work – physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am learning new concepts and beliefs. Which in turn means that I must let go of old concepts and belief systems that no longer benefit me. This is no easy feat. In fact its probably the hardest part of this journey. I must allow myself the time to let go of concepts, expectations, and beliefs I have about myself. These belief systems have been an integral part of how I have succeeded and failed in life. It takes time to change. I’ve accepted this transformation will probably take the rest of my life and that is OK. Moving forward is better than staying stagnant and unhappy. 

I have also allowed myself time to rest and reset. Yes that means naps and breaks from creating content, doing homework, and replying to emails for work. This is a marathon not a race! So I must be realistic with my mental and physical capabilities. If I am exhausted, I am not able to adequately write social media posts and blog post. I won’t have the energy to attend networking events and coaching sessions. Rest is essential. I have learned to listen to my body to take breaks and be ok with being still. 

Letting go of mom guilt

When I first pitched the idea of a blog to my immediate and extended family, I was nervous about their belief in my abilities and fear of judgement. Little did I know that my family was extremely supportive of anything and everything I aspired to do. I am very blessed in that sense because there are others who are not so lucky. Once I knew I had their support, I had to voice my concerns on what I needed to succeed. You see, my mom guilt is a very prevalent feeling I have at all times. I had to let go of that guilt and listen to the true statements my family was saying. 

“I believe in you.”

“Go for it.”

“I will support you.”

Once I believed in factual statements instead of mom guilt, I was able to inch towards my goals. It hasn’t been easy letting go of the guilt. It’s a daily practice but I am getting better at it. One of my teens recently expressed that I exude more self confidence lately. I asked her to tell me what she sees and she says I seem more “sure of myself”. It was nice to hear – especially from a teenager, my teenager – that I am externalizing the confidence I have in myself.

Here is the affirmation I have given myself when I have extreme mom guilt is:

I am a great mom and I can…

  • be a successful business owner.
  • a devoted wife.
  • a flawed Christ follower.
  • make mistakes.
  • encourage others as a Mindset Coach.
  • create a safe space for other’s to heal from generational trauma.
  • be a mental health advocate.
  • serve my community.
  • help other moms find their worth outside of motherhood.
  • live my life, unapologetically.

Moving forward with grace

As with any change, there will be uncomfortable transitional periods. I am constantly reminding myself that it’s ok for things not to be perfect and that there is no expectation but to try. The house will be ok even if it’s not as tidy as it usually is. Those important to me understand that my attention is occupied for only a period of time. Most importantly, I am capable of all I would like to accomplish. Extending grace to myself is not easy but I know it’s necessary in order to move forward with change.

Small steps forward

My biggest secret to getting to where I am today, taking small courageous steps forward. YES! It may sound simple but it is absolutely true. I didn’t get here today by sure luck, I have worked tirelessly on days and evenings when I didn’t feel like it would matter. What I’ve learned is every small step forward matters. Each of those steps have brought me to the next incredible opportunity and the next lead for a client. It all matters!

Give yourself permission

I would love for you to dream big.

Nope. BIGGER!

Your dreams, aspirations, goals, and life purpose do not have an expiration date. Let me say that again.

Your dreams, aspirations, goals, and life purpose do not have an expiration date.

I want to offer you permission to move closer to your life purpose.

If you had all the time, money, and resources in the world:

  • What would you be doing right now?
  • How would you accomplish it?
  • What small step can you do today to move closer to that?

You will find a permission slip graphic to the right. Click on it. Download it, type/write down what you give yourself permission to do, and tag me on all social media platforms – @thefilipinomom.


Its not just you – Mentally healthy mom

This post is part of a series on sharing individuals stories to help others realize, they are not alone. If you haven’t read the introduction to this series, please start here. This week’s post is from Criselle. When I read through her story, I cried because it resonated so deeply with me. If her story is familiar to your own, please know you can ask for help just like Criselle.

Tears were streaming down my face; I was sobbing and couldn’t control my breaths. “I can’t. None of it matters. We live and die, and that’s it. None of it matters, there’s no point.”“It’ll be okay Criselle, living life and being there for your boys is what matters.”

I was sitting in my car in a Target parking lot, 34.5 weeks pregnant with my second child, and I was in the midst of a mental breakdown, a severe panic attack, plagued with existential thoughts. My little sister, 24 at the time, on the other line, trying with all her might to help me get through the several months of anguish, anxiety and depression that I had been experiencing through a majority of my pregnancy. I had finally filled the prescription for Zoloft that my OBGYN had given me eight weeks prior. I told him two months ago I had been experiencing dark, suicidal thoughts. He explained that Mom comes first in pregnancy, and that the Zoloft could offer me the help I needed; then he also wrote down the number of a therapist I could call and set an appointment up with.

I took only one Zoloft while pregnant, while sitting in the car, crying to my sister, feeling all the pains of my diagnosed anxiety and depression. On top of that, the guilt I felt for possibly hindering the breathing development of my son; that’s a side effect of Zoloft while pregnant. I only took one because the next morning my water broke, most likely due to the panic attack. My son, Clayton, was born 27 hours after that. He was premature and weighed 4 pounds 11 ounces. And, of course, I blamed myself. 

Fast forward two months later, Clayton is still a tiny, little thing, but he’s gained about two pounds. I was finally feeling better mentally, two months worth of Zoloft and the endorphins of breastfeeding will do that to a person. 

I didn’t realize it then, but I HAD to take that medicine to not only help myself, but to help my unborn son, too. To help my four year old son. To help my husband. They were losing their mom and wife to a sickening hormonal imbalance, and I HAD to take medicine for all of us. Without it, I may not have made it past that day in the Target parking lot. 

Once out of the fog that is mental illness, I began to see how all the people around me were fighting in my corner with me. My sister, talking it out with me over the phone. My doctor, letting me know that I had to help myself and giving me resources to do so. My doula, who would check in on me during pregnancy and postpartum. My family, for understanding that I wasn’t able to fulfill my duties as a mom and helped me until I could. My friends and acquaintances, who after reading my post on social media regarding my mental health and early birth of my son, reached out to me with kind words and love. 

It’s been almost 2 years since that day in the Target parking lot. I have always known I would do anything for my children, but the most important thing I can do for them as a mother is to be mentally healthy.