Here’s blog John wrote on the importance of people getting help for their addictions before it’s too late.
Thanksgiving In Treatment: A Major Holiday Away From Family
Nearly one year ago, John graduated from our Texas campus, The Treehouse. This is his first-hand account of spending Thanksgiving at The Treehouse – away from family for the holiday.
This time last year, I was receiving treatment at The Treehouse, Addiction Campuses’ facility in Texas – hundreds of miles from my Tennessee home. Being in treatment on Thanksgiving, away from my wife and three kids, was a terrifying thought. But the thought of continuing to spiral out of control in my disease of addiction was equally terrifying.
I have found through personal experience, the absolute best time to go to treatment is right now – whenever ‘now’ is. I learned this through a very painful loss: Several years ago, when my brother was struggling with his own addiction, he didn’t go to treatment ‘right now’. My brother died from addiction on December 6. He did not make it to Christmas that year.
“My brother died from addiction on December 6. He did not make it to Christmas that year.”
You may be thinking you will just get through the holidays and get help when things calm down. If you are considering going or sending a loved one to treatment soon, keep reading. This blog could save someone’s life.
For me, when I’m not actively working a recovery program, just the thought of the holidays causes enough angst to want to start using again. When I’m in active addiction during the holidays, I mentally check out and any hope of actually being present around the people I love the most is smashed. I either justify the stress as an excuse to use or I rationalize the celebration and festivities as an excuse to use. Either way, I add chaos to my life and the lives of everyone around me. It is a miserable place to exist. It is lonely, depressing and potentially fatal.
Thankfully, I was not given the choice to stay home for Thanksgiving last year. If it were up to me, I probably would have rationalized that I was not that bad and made excuses not to get the help I desperately needed. My family knew it was a life or death situation and bravely made the decision to put me on a plane to The Treehouse as soon as they saw I needed help. They didn’t want me to die, end up back in the hospital or in any other way ruin the holiday for everyone else. Of course, I was angry about getting sent away. But what I discovered later was that I was really angry at myself and the detrimental choices I made that lead up that point. I could not blame them for only wanting the best for me.
I made some great progress at The Treehouse. But, as Thanksgiving Day approached I hit a low point in my treatment. All of the great memories of holidays past came flooding back. I had countless memories of home cooked meals at my grandparents’ house, playing and watching football with relatives and looking through old photo albums with my cousins. My addictive mind has a great ability to forget all the horrible things I have done and only remembers the good stuff. Conversely, my family primarily recalls the chaos I created in the past and is less apt to remember the positive memories. While at The Treehouse, I was faced with feelings of guilt, shame and remorse. However, I vividly remember the staff telling me and all the clients that the Thanksgiving spread they had planned for us was going to be a memorable one. I figured it was just something they were saying to keep us all from feeling depressed that we were in treatment for such a big holiday. I was not looking forward to it. But sure enough, the loving staff and cooks came through in a huge way.
“Being surrounded by others going through the same struggles as me, I felt a part of God’s great plan for my life.”
It wasn’t just the amount of food that was so impressive; it was the quality and care that went into preparing and presenting the meal. It felt like I was diving into a buffet at a country club. Like my family and I would do back home, we prayed over the meal, went back for seconds and thirds, threw the football around outside and watched football on TV. I was able to call home to talk to my wife, kids and parents. I fought back tears after getting off the phone with them, but at least I knew they were safe and everything was okay at home. In fact, things were going more smoothly than if I was there.
In retrospect, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be with a genuinely caring group of people last Thanksgiving. There have been times at family gatherings where I felt alone and separated when in active addiction. Last year, being surrounded by others going through the same struggles as me, I felt a part of God’s great plan for my life. For being away from my home and family on such a big day of the year, I couldn’t have been in a better place. It was nice to see how much care and precision went into every detail of that day for all of us. The staff at Addiction Campuses definitely exceeded my expectations.
“Recovery is the best gift I’ve ever given and received.”
If you or someone you love is considering putting treatment off until after the holidays, I encourage you to get help while you can. My brother did not get the help he needed several years ago and passed away between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We would give anything to have him with us today. Do not keep putting treatment off. This year, give yourself and your family the gift of sobriety. Recovery is the best gift I’ve ever given and received.
Check out the latest blog by Bulow Orthotic & Prosthetic Solutions. A huge thank you to Matt Bulow and his team, who have taken care of all of John’s prosthetic needs for the last 7 years.
For John Mabry, the hardest part of being an amputee was overcoming the mental and emotional effects—the physical part was the easy part.
He became a below-the-knee amputee while still in college. During a ride in a friend’s SUV, a right rear tire blew out, causing the vehicle to roll twelve times. John’s legs became crushed from the impact.
“I literally envisioned the remaining seconds of my life as a scene from a 1920’s-style movie reel,” he said. “However, instead of thinking my movie would end in true love and conquest, the reality was looking more like a conclusion of indescribable fear, terror, and pain.”
John was faced with the choice of another year of surgery and therapy with no guarantee of complete recovery, or to amputate his right leg below the knee.
“Nothing can really prepare you for the moment when you first look down and see an empty space where your leg used to be,” he said.
He said what helped him the most was being able to talk to another amputee, who showed him that life does go on. Just six weeks later, John walked across the stage to receive his bachelor’s degree.
John went on to earn his master’s degree and married his wife, Sarah. He acted in Hollywood for a while, appearing in movies and TV shows as Superbad, NCIS, E.R., JAG, and numerous commercials. He is also credited with inventing a revolutionary product for the prosthetics industry that allows thousands of amputees around the world to live healthier, more active lifestyles.
However, in spite of all these accomplishments, he wasn’t addressing the mental and emotional impacts that his amputation was having on him. He fell into alcoholism, which caused much strife within his family.
Eventually, he sought help for his addition. Today, he says being sober and having a loving family is a greater accomplishment than his inventions or acting ever were. He documents his wacky day-to-day life with his wife and kids on his blog, www.mabryliving.com.
In 2009, he and his family moved from California to Nashville, where he works at Addiction Campuses to help others who struggle with the same issues as he did. When he knew he was moving, he called the first amputee he ever met and asked if he knew any good prosthetists in Nashville. That was how he first came to Bulow Orthotic & Prosthetic Solutions.
To other new amputees, he says, “It isn’t always as easy as they make it look on TV when they show the elite athletes competing. There is a rollercoaster that we go through, both physically and emotionally, that the average person doesn’t understand.”
This post makes my heart smile.
Less than a year ago we were the ones in the ER talking to Addiction Campuses to seek further help for John’s recovery. Fast forward 10 months and now he is speaking at one of Addiction Campuses’ centers about being in support of a life saving legislation for people struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues alongside Mississippi State Senator David Parker.
I am glad to see people speaking loudly for such a silent epidemic. Sobriety is a beautiful thing.
– Sarah Mabry
Our Mabry Living room has been a place where we have RE-corded many of our memories. There have been RE-actions to unforgettable moments like when we were RE-warded with healthy children and brought them home from the hospital. It is where we have RE-told joyous moments like seeing the kids scamper to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. It’s here where we can RE-count funny moments like when we thought our dog ran off with a dirty diaper and ate the goods inside (he didn’t, thank goodness). And, there have been seemingly irREconcilable moments such as telling the kids that daddy is going to be gone for their birthdays and Christmas to seek help following a RE-lapse.
When John RE-gressed in his sobriety this time last year and RE-admitted into one of Addiction Campuses’ great facilities, called The Treehouse, I knew I had to stay strong for myself and my kids. It wasn’t a choice to crumble. I HAD to RE-evaluate new ways to keep finding HOPE and JOY. Art and creativity have always been things I’ve RE-turned to as therapeutic RE-leases. So, what better way to RE-kindle hope and joy than RE-decorating my family room with my artwork?
I wanted to RE-create a room full of light, full of hope,full of encouragement and beaming with love. I started by painting my walls with a RE-freshing color, appropriately called RE-flection, by Sherwin Williams. This lightened the room drastically. With all the decorations down and new paint RE-applied to the walls, I had the blank canvas I needed to RE-create a new beginning for my room, but also for RE-newing my hope and RE-igniting my joy. It was time to RE-create, RE-fresh, RE-juvenate, RE-do and RE-claim ME through my creativity and love for decor.
While John RE-entered treatment, I spent time RE-evaluating “Sarah.” I RE-cognize that through the busyness of raising three kids and the RE-occurance of addiction in our marriage, I often lose pieces of myself. To RE-engage with my innermost self, I RE-flected on these simple questions:
- What brings me JOY? Dogs, kids, art, family, nature
- What brings me HOPE? Scripture, anything angel themed- white feathers, angel wings, halos, rainbows.
- How would I describe my FAITH? RE-newing my trust in GOD when times are difficult and trying to obey his RE-direction of my continually unfolding life.
- What does the word LOVE mean to me? This is a very difficult one to RE-call when your world gets flipped upside down. I try to RE-member that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I wanted to RE-create an atmosphere that incorporated my answers to the above questions through RE-decorating. My goal for this project was to RE-build and RE-store my broken spirit by RE-designing our Mabry Living room.
- I created a cozy dog bed for my RE-scue pups by placing a sheep wool rug under our coffee table. I mixed and match pillow covers from Pottery Barn (sale rack of course).
- I RE-purposed a stick I found on a nature walk as a statement piece for my mantel. I decorated it by stringing multi colored beads from it. The teal green jar looks like beach glass. It RE-minds me of my summers spent hunting for colored glass “treasures” along Lake Michigan. My abstract painting was inspired from the Michigan beach where I spend my summers, which I often call, “Heaven on Earth”. Can you tell I love Michigan beaches?!?
- I designed the LOVE sign to RE-mind me of the 1 Corinthians scripture.
- My angel feather painting allows me to RE-call that God’s angels are always watching over me. I RE-placed our old entertainment center with one from Wayfair.com.
- I REad the following quote and knew I had to make an arrow themed piece of work: “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.” This quote RE-news my HOPE for better times ahead.
- Canvas painting with a family rule: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”Joshua 24:15. I found this piece at Hobby Lobby. I RE-placed the mirror with mirrors from Ballard Design.
- Angel candle holders from John’s grandmother, plus a picture of Michigan that says, “Happy Place,” very fitting.
- I added a shell covered end table (Home Goods), an ottoman (West Elm), and changed out our old rug for a new jute rug (Wayfair.com).
- I found these angel wings at Hobby Lobby. They were turquoise but I RE-painted them white.
Now for the fun part, BEFORE and AFTER pictures. Who doesn’t love RE-decorating transformation pictures??
Like RE-making an old, darker room light again, we have the ability to chose to RE-invent ourselves. If these walls could talk, my HOPE is that they would tell you a story of continued RE-commitment, RE-demption and the RE-vival of a soul that has RE-ceived, through God’s grace, the willingness to RE-main open to RE-conciling a marriage following RE-lapse.
Addiction is a family disease. One person uses but the whole family suffers. This statement holds true for our family. I may not be the addict, but addiction has messed with my thought process. I know I didn’t cause the addiction, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. However, addiction has often times left me feeling like a worthless failure of a mom and wife because my family was deteriorating in front of my eyes.
My heart was broken back in November when active addiction sneaked back into our home. I knew it wasn’t a choice to crumble as I had three kids who needed me to be strong. Hitting my rock bottom gave me a solid foundation to start rebuilding my life. I was determined to direct my energy to an area in which I believe I am gifted in, art. Art is very therapeutic and something I thoroughly enjoy. No longer was I going to allow addiction to hold me prisoner of JOY. I was set free with my big dreams.
So here I am two days away from launching my ‘Sarah Turnbaugh Mabry’ paintings at a local craft show. These paintings were all inspired from the HOPE, FAITH, and DREAMS I leaned on during a low season in my life.
“On Christ the rock solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
Last night when I was laying in bed I found myself anxious about our upcoming wedding anniversary. So many thoughts and questions crossed my mind:
“What a year it’s been!”
“Do I really even want to acknowledge our anniversary?”
“Of course we are celebrating! We made it through another year.”
“What if I write about our anniversary and then an addiction bomb drops on our family again? I would be so embarrassed!”I shared my thoughts with John and he calmly responded with, “Practice what you preach. One day at a time.” There is so much truth in that statement. I try really hard to take life one day at a time and to not worry about tomorrow…BUT sometimes it’s just hard and I need reminders! It’s easy for me to let the fear of the future take over my thoughts rather than embracing the present. I constantly have to remind myself that today’s curtain closes when I lay my head on the pillow. Thinking of each day of my life as an act in a play helps me live one day at a time. Sometimes I have to sit and mentally imagine that this day,s ‘act’ will be ending soon. 24 hrs is a lot less overwhelming and worrisome than picturing the rest of my life story.