Wife of a recovering addict – part 2: we look just like you

This is part of a series: Wife of a Recovering Addict. If you haven’t read the introduction, click here to catch up!

Chris and I were your typical 1st generation Filipino American couple in the late 90s to early 2000’s. He was bald, listened to Bay Area hip hop, lived in Daly City, and drove an old Toyota Corolla. I wore tube tops or something that showed my mid-section, mastered the black cat eye liner look, lived in Milpitas, listened to Wu-Tang and DMX; and drove an old Toyota Corolla. If you know anything about the Bay Area during that time, you know that basically all the Filipinos lived in two cities – Daly City and Milpitas. Our matchmaking was conceived on an AOL chat room by one of Chris’ friend, Jeff. He had a ‘friend’ who was going to San Jose State and pitched that he needed someone to hangout with. As a newly graduated high schooler, I was open to anything especially meeting a guy from ‘DC’. So we met in my parents’ driveway and went to the every mall in The Bay. From that point on we were inseparable.

At 22 years old, we got married at our home church in San Bruno, California surrounded by our family, friends, and the church congregation. We also dedicated our daughter to the Lord the same day. It was a day full of commitment, hope, and love. Our lives were on the fast track to a large family, we had four kids in a six year span. At one point we had three kids in diapers. I basically breastfed babies for nearly 4 years. I was in the depths of child rearing while Chris worked full time and completed the rest of his bachelor’s degree online. We were both pushing towards a better life for ourselves and our family.

While we looked like everyone else, our lives were anything but ‘normal.’ What people didn’t see was the torment of real life emotions as young adults who were just overwhelmed by life, work, and constant relationship dynamic changes. My day to day was engulfed in keeping tiny humans alive and providing some type of structure. During these formative years, Chris was shouldering the burden of financially providing for six people on a meager salary. We only really saw him for a couple hours on weeknights and a few hours on the weekends. Most nights after work, he looked exhausted but tried his best to spend time with the girls before he sat behind his laptop for the evening to finish his latest course. It was an exhausting season where we didn’t connect on a deeper level of communication.

It was right there

Looking back, there were red flags that indicated Chris was using. Obviously during those early years, I was focused on the four people that depended on me. Chris never really drank alcohol on a normal basis and drugs were something that I never really thought about but the signs were there right in front of my face. There were times when ‘money was missing’ from our joint bank account or somehow we would ‘miscalculated’ our expenses and we were short for the month. It never dawned on me that our money was going to anything else but to our family’s needs. There were also times when I would ask Chris to go to the store. It would take him a long time to find the product at the grocery store and get back home. He used the excuse that the grocery store was overwhelming and it took ‘a long time’ to find the specific thing I was asking for. I chalked this as a ‘normal’ occurrence since he didn’t do the groceries. I was the main grocery runner – ‘of course he would get confused or overwhelmed.’ Why would it be anything else.

We look just like you

An addict isn’t always someone who is homeless, looks grungy or couch surfs from house to house. Most of the time, addicts are people who can carry on a normal life while using on a consistent basis. These individuals are dubbed “high functioning addicts.” These addicts “don’t fit the standard definition of an addict. They may not drink or use drugs every day; they may drink only the finest wines and liquors; and they may have avoided the serious consequences that befall other addicts and their families. Because they don’t fit the stereotype, high-functioning addicts can spend years, even decades, in denial. If they manage a family and career and fulfill their daily responsibilities, they reason, there’s no way they could have a drug or alcohol problem. Even if they acknowledge that they drink or use drugs more than they should, they may feel entitled to indulge as a reward for their hard work.” – Psych Central

While it may be hard to accept a loved one is a high-functioning addict, here are some symptoms of a high-functioning addict:

  • they make excuses for their behavior
  • using more than intended
  • their friends also have an addiction problem
  • appearing ill in the morning
  • losing interests in hobbies

Intervention

As per the advice of American Addiction Center, “if you want the high-functioning addict in your life to get help, discuss your concerns at an appropriate time. Wait until they appear remorseful over bad behavior…not while they are inebriated or recovering from a hangover. If you think it will help, you can also stage an organized intervention where a small group of loved ones can let the addict know how their behavior makes them feel. This should be done calmly, but firmly. Although it is up to the individual to admit they have a problem and seek help, your influence can help steer them in the right direction. Knowing they have people who care about them could be all the motivation they need to seek appropriate treatment.”

Through the years I have had many hard conversations with wives and girlfriends about their significant others’ bad habits. The first question they ask me is always the same – “Are you sure he’s an addict?” My answer is always the same – “You wouldn’t be asking me these questions if you thought otherwise.”

Trust your gut.

Lean into the uncomfortable truth that they need help. Lean into the hard feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment. Reach out to those who have walked this road before because you can’t go through this alone. Just as substance abuse is [usually] a group activity, recovery must be a group effort because we cannot be left to ones’ own will to stay sober. I have added resources to help you support yourself or someone you care about.

Resources

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
AA Meetings in your area
Celebrate Recovery meetings in your area

Remember…It’s ok to NOT be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!

What resonated with you the most in this post? What other information can I provide you to help you?

Join me next time, I will share what Celebrate Recovery looks like for a codependent and how I supported my husband during his relapse.


Why: Strength training

Never in my entire life would I have thought that I would say, “I like going to the gym.” Guys, I do. I really do and it’s not because of the most obvious reason. If we’ve never met IRL, you would be surprised how vertically challenged I am. All 4 feet, 11 inches of me. At the gym, I feel even smaller around all the meat heads and testosterone. Imagine little me at the free weights station, attempting to deadlift. The bar is longer than I am tall and the weights on each end are wider than my torso. I truly don’t look like I belong there but I do it anyways. 

At the beginning of my self care/self love journey, my therapist would tell me to workout at least three days a week to help with my mental health. I used to laugh at what she would say. Three years later and I am now consistently getting to the gym twice a week to at most four days a week. What has changed? Strength training. 

Strength training

Weight training – or strength training – is truly why I continue to go to the gym today. Strength training has allowed me to challenge my mind in what I ‘believe’ I am able to do. For example, the plate loaded barbell is forty five pounds on its own. ON ITS OWN. When I first started to attempt to bench press, I could barely – like shaking arms barely – push that sucker above my head. Today, I am able to bench press a full three sets without breaking a sweat. How? I kept at it every week until one day, I decide to put five pounds – 2.5 pound plates – on the bar. For me it was a momentous occasion because I did what seemed impossible. *insert happy dance here*

Once I started to see results in my increased weights on the machines and in the free weight station, I began to challenge my mind even more. I would purposefully add a little more weight each time I went to the gym. From there, I began to try a different strength training machine each time I went to the gym. I gained so much confidence that I would put my headphones on, play some 90’s hip hop, and move through each station as quickly as I could. At the end of my workout, I would do some yoga to 90’s R&B and wait for my husband to finish his workout.

Gym dates are the best dates

The main supporter at the gym is my husband. I expressed to him that I wanted to attempt to use the strength training machines and possibly the free weights but I was intimidated because everything looks complicated and honestly, I didn’t want guys to be staring at my butt while I worked out. It actually brought a lot of anxiety for me to attempt any machine or station. So my sweet husband would help walk me through each machine as well as how to use the free weights station properly. 

Three months later, I am confident in my abilities enough to move through the machines without his help and only ask for him to spot me in the free weights station. This is huge for me! If you were to imagine little ol’ me in the free weights station deadlifting 95 pounds while surrounded by muscular men who deadlift 300+ pounds, it is a sight to see. My husband is usually close by – or at the station next to me deadlifting 200+ pounds – just in case I need a spotter.

These evenings spent together have become our favorite times together because we are able to get in some exercise, encourage each other during our workout and also talk through our day. We have dubbed them our “gym dates”. What we also love about “gym dates” is that they are free since we already pay for the membership monthly. So all we need to do is show up and be each others’ cheerleaders. We have been doing this since we’ve started at the gym and I can honestly say that it has helped us reconnect in a way that I could have never imagined. I am so thankful for this time because we are both so busy and carving out time for each other is so important. 

How to start strength training

If this post has peaked your interest in attempting to strength train, here is what I suggest:

  • Utilize the new member orientation
    • There is a reason it is included in your membership. Take advantage of it!
    • Orientation usually include some of the following:
      • A health assessment
      • Body fat analysis
      • Instructions on how to use basic strength training machines
      • Help in choosing exercises, reps, and sets
      • How to use different cardio machines
      • Heart rate and intensity information
      • General workout guidance
  • Go with a friend
    • This is great for accountability and encouragement.
  • Try the group classes and find the one that works for you
    • When I first started at the gym, I used the treadmill and elliptical machine only. I became bored really quickly. I knew that I needed more in order to keep coming.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the gym staff for help
    • I have seen many patrons ask a staff member to spot them. 
    • I have also seen staff members take the time to explain how to use a machine properly.
  • Keep coming back
    • In the beginning, it will seem really intimidating but over time you will become comfortable with the environment and “zone” everyone out. 

Mind over matter

The biggest change with adding strength training to my self care routine and the encouragement of my husband was my mindset. I began to believe that I could do ‘impossible’ things. On rough days, going to the gym was an outlet to release my stress. It also challenged my negative self talk and inner critic because there was nothing for those statements to stand on if I could prove them wrong.

This mindset has overflowed into other parts of my life. I have more courage to try new things and take small steps to reach a goal. There is more evidence of success than failure. So I keep adding on weights, I keep challenging myself to do new things, and I keep moving forward. 

What is your favorite workout at the gym? Comment below!

If I haven’t done it, I’d love to try. 


Why: Life coaching

The beginning of the year has a connotation of becoming your best self. With this feeling in mind, I want to share the reason I started this new chapter in my life; my personal experience with a life coach; and a special offer. 

Many have asked why I am becoming certified life coach. The explanation for this really goes back to what I’ve done my entire life – giving sound advice. This all started with my mom. She was the person who always gave advice to relatives and friends. My mom honestly still gives me really sound advice today.  This naturally rubbed off on my siblings and I. As a seasoned mom of five, I have experienced a gamut of child rearing and marital issues. I am nowhere near an expert in any subject but I can give you my testimony in hopes that you don’t make the same mistakes as I did.

In the past few years, I’ve had multiple conversations about what I will do with my time now that most of my kiddos are pretty self sufficient. One of the most common occupations brought up was a counselor or therapist. While I am honored that many people believe that I should be paid for helping people with their problems, I knew that would not be the best route for me. Helping others triggers my codependency which then become unhealthy. It would not be healthy for my own mental health, so I knew those honorable occupations would work for me. It would also require years of schooling and my mind is basically jello at this point as well as my time is still solely the domestic manager and I don’t want to take anymore time away from family right now. 

Soon after one of those conversations about the next chapter of my life, I stumbled upon life coaching on the interwebs. It intrigued me and I began my research of if this act of service was right for me. A year and some odd months of researching, talking to family, friends, and other life coaches, I decided to take a leap and get my certification in life coaching. The past few months have been quite stressful as I have learned that becoming a life coach also means doing intensive inner work so that I may help others become the best versions of themselves. 

What a life coach isn’t

Before I share my experience with a life coach, I wanted to explain what a life coach is NOT. Contrary to the current popularity of life coaching, this profession has been around since the 1980s.

Thomas Leonard, an American financial planner, is generally acknowledged as the first person to develop coaching as a profession in the 1980s and the history of life coaching today really starts with him. Leonard observed that his clients, though emotionally stable and hardly needing therapy, wanted more from him than just the usual tips on how to invest and safeguard their incomes. They wanted help in organising their lives better and planning and achieving their goals1.

A life coach is not

  • Life coaching is not the same as having a therapist. 

A therapist unpacks your past (and current situations) and helps you heal from them. A life coach focuses on your current abilities and believe that you can attain your goals, dreams, and aspirations with all that you currently possess.

  • A life coach is a consultant or mentor.

A life coach is not the person you go to for advice. The main goal of a life coach is to help individuals be their very best self without enabling or fixing the individual.

  • A life coach does not helps you solve your problems. 

A life coach communicates without judgement or preconceived notions that everyone is more than capable of finding their life’s purpose. They help you unpack current belief systems that no longer help the individual to grow into their best selves. They are here to help you take actions forward in your life without any personal agendas. 

  • A life coach shares your sessions with others. 

Coaching sessions are safe spaces where individuals can be transparent because the coach will hold their conversations with sacred confidentiality.  

  • Life coach judges the client and their life choices or behaviors.

A life coach is simply a person who will actively listen to you without judgement or evaluations. They are there to support you and offer encouragement to move forward towards the client’s life goals.

As life coach, Nicole Cruz, states a life coach is your own personal cheerleader that is solely focuses on your goals, aspirations and dreams. A life coach is there to help you put action in what is most important to you. I knew from this point on, I needed to attend a seminar in order to see if this was something I could do. After a full day at a local vocational college, learning the fundamentals of life coaching, I knew it would be the perfect way to help others find their own paths without having to trigger my own codependency. 

My life coaching experience

Let me just start by saying that meeting Nicole Cruz was absolutely by divine appointment. Similar vibrations attracting other similar vibrations. The universe listening. Whatever you want to call it. I cannot believe I met her when I did. I was on a journey to figure out what I was going to do with my life now that my kids are pretty self sufficient (not independent – those two things are to different things). I knew I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life but I didn’t want to go through years and years of schooling. 

I stumbled upon Nicole’s Life Coaching Instagram and was intrigued. Nicole was from San Diego and a fellow 1st gen Fil-Am, so I knew that we would relate on many levels. So I decided to reach out to her about her experience as a life coach. Guys, we really hit it off. Our energies vibed. I cried to her about my self esteem issues and mental illnesses. She held space for me and it was so comforting. She spoke at great lengths at what it took for her to become a life coach – mentally and physically – and her journey was so inspirational. She gave me some great advice on how to become a life coach and we kept in touch on Insta. A week later she launched her FREE one month of coaching giveaway and guess what – I WON. So I decided to take this insane perfect timing month of coaching seriously. 

One month of coaching

Our initial session was about expectations, my belief systems, and my ultimate goal. Nicole walked me through an inner critic exercise and talked me through my belief systems with such compassion. She also gave me suggestions on how to start to change my belief systems and also gave me an action item (which I hated and dreaded) to push me forward. I remember leaving that session invigorated and ready to tackle the world. We met weekly via Zoom and the next three sessions were about my “wins” for the past week and specific exercise that would again propel me forward closer towards my goal. At the end of the four weeks of meeting, I felt like a different person. Nicole urged me to celebrate my victories from that month and it was the first time I really celebrated working on the inner parts of myself. Let’s face it, outward success is easy to identify but working on your belief systems and breaking them down is no easy feat. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I couldn’t have done any of that inner work without Nicole cheering me on and helped me take the actions I am taking today. Also I didn’t reach the goal I initially had for the session but I think I gained so much more than that particular goal. Truthfully, I’m not even mad that I didn’t reach it because I knew I learned so much more about myself.

As of today, I have helped co-create a group coaching program with Nicole as well as helped co-create content with all Asian company. What I have gained is even more perspective about my belief systems and have even passed that knowledge out to those around me. I am also halfway through my certification for life coaching and I am learning so much. What I didn’t realize when I started this was that I would also be doing some deep inner work as a life coach.

Special Offer

Are you still with me? Great! I need your help. I am in need of volunteer clients for my life coaching classes. My goal is to help 30 people in the next 30 days! This will allow me to practice what I’ve learned in my certification as well as help you move towards your best self – whatever that would be. If you would like to schedule a FREE 30 minute magnify session with me, please click on the link below to schedule your FREE session – HERE.  

Thank you for being here and continuing to support my blog. It means the world to me and I am so grateful to have this opportunity to help you on your journey.

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


Believing in me

The last 10 days have been rough on me – mentally. I have been dealing with balancing all of my commitments – required and volunteer – and unspoken expectations – of myself. To be very honest, there were many times when I had intrusive thoughts going through my mind and that is when I knew I need to shift my focus on tangible aspects of my life. Do not be alarmed, I am in a safe mental space, not a harm to myself or others and have supportive individuals around me.

The reason I am sharing this raw part of me is because this is what happens when you challenge a belief system that no longer serves you. Your brain wants to fight you tooth and nail because it 100% believes that the current belief system is the only truths in your life. So I am challenging myself and it hasn’t been going well.

HOWEVER, today I woke up feeling empowered and ready to tackle today’s challenges. What changed? My mindset. I allowed myself to feel all the feelings and move through them. Then I talked myself through those feelings, acknowledging that these beliefs have kept me safe for 39 years of my life BUT they are no longer helping me evolve into the best version of myself. They have helped me survive but not thrive. Friends, I want to thrive and be the best version of myself. This transformation will be the hardest thing I will ever do for myself but I know it will be worth it.

So if you are struggling through a transformation, know you are not alone. You will get through it because you are strong, courageous, and capable.


It’s happening!!!

I interrupt this regularly schedule blog post to announce our first sticker pack!

Guys, this is insane!!! I have tried to keep this news under wraps for as long as I possibility could. I can NOT contain my excitement any longer.

Proceeds from this sticker pack will go directly to my American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) – Out of the Darkness Walk. I am so excited for you to see it and donate to an amazing cause so close to my heart.

sneak peek

If you are not a sticker collector or would like to donate directly to my team page, click here. My goal is $500 and every dollar counts! If you are able, please visit my page and donate generously. 

I will only have a limited amount of stickers, so if you want one, contact me ASAP. An official post of how to purchase this pack will be announced on Thursday, but for now. Do a happy dance with ME!!!