I hit a deer once. A momma deer.
She was running beside the road, a beautiful graceful being, and just as I whispered “no, no, no” hoping to hold her place alongside, she impulsively zigzagged into the front bumper of my rental car, slid across the hood, and frantically wobble-walked away. Whole, then wounded. Just like that.
I prayed she’d recover from our impact.
Her fawn peeked its little head out of the weeds of the ditch and darted into a nearby field. I could not hold back. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I felt the fullness of what had just hit me.
Deer make irrational decisions when faced with potential impacts. They dart, or when light disrupts darkness, they freeze. Neither is good. Both invoke tears.
September is Recovery Month, a month in which I want to hold space; a month deserving respect, awareness, and worthiness. I know this month well, as I have been navigating, with a Loved One, its illogical course through all its months—January, February, March, and April; May, June, July, and August; October, November, and December. Year round, we navigate. How we choose to face its complexities can present like a deer in the path of an oncoming vehicle—disoriented and darting or frightened and frozen.
I have been learning how to face potential impacts differently. To not dart. To not freeze. My “Big Project” as I called my sabbatical in Momentous Living’s November 18th post, has led me to extraordinary places—both inside and out. I want to share some of my inner travels with you in this Recovery Month, and to speak to its astounding statistics. For example, this one from 2021:
Nearly 1 in 3 adults had either a substance use disorder or (any) mental illness in the past year, and 46 percent of young adults 18-25 had either a substance use disorder or (any) mental illness.
—Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Substance use and mental illness, mental illness and substance use (it doesn’t matter which comes first); they affect all of us, whether it’s up close or in our communities, or as a nation. We must embrace larger perspectives and strategies that go beyond worn out stigmas rooted in fear, ignorance, and indifference, and instead focus on evidence-based practices that provide hope and healing. We simply must become more acquainted—“Every person. Every family. Every Community.” as this month’s tagline heralds.
As a first step, may I suggest we begin with a divine poem? Carol Bialock’s words suggest how one must learn to live in the presence of any nonsensical, slow moving, yet too sudden of a life-altering impact.
Let’s begin with “Breathing Under Water,” a call for recovering from impact.
“Breathing Under Water” by Carol Bialock
I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.
And then one day
—and I still don’t know how it happened—
the sea came.
Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning
and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew then, there was neither flight, nor death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling you stop being neighbors
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance, neighbors
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.
Welcome to September. Welcome to…
“Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery from substance use and mental health, just as we celebrate improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.
Each September, Recovery Month works to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible.” (Faces & Voices of Recovery)
“Every person. Every family. Every community.”
Whatever you choose to do this month, in whatever fashion in whatever you face, I invite you to not dart or freeze, but to instead, breathe underwater.
Call to Action
To become more acquainted with Recovery Month check out:
- Volusia Recovery Alliance (VRA)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Faces & Voices of Recovery
And…in support of National Read a Book Day on September 6 (yay!!) may I suggest you join me in choosing a book to read or listen to this month that will increase your awareness and education of the “flowing like an open wound” issue of substance use and mental illness? I highly recommend Richard Rohr’s book, Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, which I will highlight on Wednesday in a Bonus Blog. It’s a quick and easy read with only 127 pages, yet packed with much to ponder.
Here are a few other books I recommend, as well as some still on my reading list that come highly recommended:
- Beyond Addiction, Jeffrey Foote, Phd, Carrie Wilkins, Phd, and Nicole Kosanke, Phd, with Stephanie Higgs
- Dopesick, Beth Macy
- Finding a Purpose in the Pain, James L. Fenley, Jr., MD
- Get Your Loved One Sober, Robert J. Meyers, PhD and Brenda L. Wolfe, PhD
- Wellness Recovery Action Plan, Advocates for Human Potential, Inc.