By Karena Gordon-Smith - Peer Advocate at Huther Doyle
Behind the Mask...hmm… what a title for a blog, right?! It sure makes me feel intrigued to read it, wondering what mask the writer might be referring to. The truth is for each of us, the mask is different. Let me tell you about mine. My name is Karena and I am a person living in long term recovery. For me, the answer for what is behind “Behind the Mask” is a layered answer.
My guess is, when you read that title, you probably thought about what every person is thinking and talking about right now…COVID-19…Wearing a mask…“The new normal.” Well, that’s only part of it…
For a person living in recovery and also facing a pandemic of Substance Use Disorder inside the COVID pandemic, I can tell you what “behind the mask” looks like for me.
It looks like a mother who is exhausted from working full time from home, while having her 3-year-old son at home with her. Every. Single. Day. It looks like anxiety ridden days, full of panic, as I kiss my fiancé goodbye every morning when he goes out into the world as an essential worker, technically putting us all at risk each day when he returns home. It looks like the fear of the unknown, second guessing my choices, and constantly battling my own thoughts. But you know what else it looks like? It looks like the opportunity to learn how to pace myself, set boundaries, and develop a schedule and follow it to the best of my ability. It looks like true love when my partner will stop at nothing to be able to provide for me and my child. It looks like having to admit to struggling with my own mental health and being brave enough to reach out and ask for help. Here’s the kicker....
This is exactly what it has ALWAYS been like for those that struggle with Substance Use Disorder. It was especially like this when I was actively using. The need to put on a mask in order for me to face the world all the while pretending everything was okay, was constant. The gripping fear I felt whenever I struggled to ask for help - fear of judgement or rejection – was a constant. Eventually, I faced the reality that I did, in fact, have a problem. One mask removed.
If anyone who is reading this blog and relating to what I am saying, I need you to know, it’s worth taking that mask off. Today, despite the challenges I still face, it is almost as if everything I have been through in my journey has prepared me for today. I know how hard it is to work up the courage to remove your mask. I know a lot about the pain, agony, and fear that may be preventing you from doing so. I encourage you to take your mask off anyway. I will even go so far as to promise you, it will be worth it. I promise you that on the other side of your fear is hope, and I promise you, that you don’t have to go through any of it alone. The first step is making the choice to take off that mask and reach out. Everything begins there. I say this because it was when I took off my mask that I was able to build a support network of people that I trust. This allowed me to reach out to let people know that I was struggling. And, if I had not spent time working on myself and with the people I now trust, I would not have been able to communicate to my partner the fears I have right now dealing with the COVID pandemic. It’s been a tough time for all of us, especially those of us who wear layers of masks.
My goal in writing this blog is to tell you as a person that might be just starting the journey of recovery OR a person who has been in recovery for some time but struggling with everything that’s going on right now, OR the person who is unsure if you even have a problem and don’t know where to start….you can start right here. This is the moment. This is the day. Choose to reach out to people you know and trust. Choose people who will help make healing possible for you. Choose people that will keep hope alive for you. Choose people that will remind you there is always a healthy way through the pain you are experiencing. One option is to choose Huther Doyle. Picking up the phone may feel like you’re picking up 1,000 pounds, but again, I can promise you if you pick it up and call us, the person on the other end will greet you with a kind, compassionate voice. The conversation will help guide you in your process. Together, we can get through anything.
There is no denying that the time we are facing is overwhelming, scary, and just plain crappy. At the same time, it has allowed families to grow closer and individuals, in moments of clarity, to find out what is actually important to them. The choice is yours. We all wear masks but through mine, I choose to see the light. I hope you are able to see the same.