Today is the final episode with Gloria Englund, the author of ‘Living in the Wake of Addiction℠. ‘ You will hear Gloria’s story of how she came to write her book and develop her business, Recovering U.
I ask Gloria how she maintains her passion and energy for others while navigating her grief.
Please tune in to hear her helpful tips and much more, including an excerpt from this beautiful book.
See full transcript below.
You’re listening to the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast, a place for real conversations with people who love someone with the disease of addiction. Now, here is your host, Margaret Swift Thompson.
Welcome back today, we’re with Gloria for one last time, where she will share how she came to the decision to write her book, ‘Living in the Wake of Addiction℠’ and began her grief, recovery coaching, with her business Recovering U. One of the things she offers is tips for self-care while doing the work she does that I think are so helpful for anyone living in the disease of addiction. Let’s rejoin Gloria.
The Embrace Family Recovery Podcast.
I was in a marketing business and had been doing that for 20 years. And I just found I could not go back to that old job. I just I just had no interest in it at all. I didn’t really know what I was going to do. And so, I just started praying. You know, what, what am I supposed to do? I’ve been a writer for years before I wrote my book. I started journaling when I was a kid. So, the journal and I have been friends for a really long time. And I had a lot of material that I had journal through Aaron’s illness and after his death, and so I was going to a Zumba class one day and you know, asking my prayer as I was driving “God, what would you have me do and be and?” And the answer I got back was that you need to write a book. And I thought, wow, I don’t I don’t want to write a book.
Gloria: And the more I prayed on it, it sounded and felt like the right thing to do. But I really didn’t know what the subject matter was going to be. And so, I kind of ended up with a compilation of all these journal entries that I had written about Aaron since he had died. A lot of poetry. And then I had some information in there about, you know, what I have learned since he had died and what I wished I would have known before he died.
So, it was this kind of mishmash of stuff. And I gave it to an editor, and she said, you know, you’ve got two books here.
So, this was 2012. You’re right, kind of on the cusp of when the opioid epidemic was starting. And she said, you know, there’s hardly any books out there for family members. Rather than write a grief book, I think you, you would do well to share with people, you know, all that you’ve learned.
And she said, I think you should do some coaching to you. You’ve got the skills. You got, you’re trained as a psychotherapist, and so I got trained as a recovery coach through Minnesota Recovery Connection. I did a lot of training around group work. As I was writing the books, I was also doing grief support group for people who had a loved one who had died from addiction.
And then a couple of years later, after my book came out, I started doing groups for people who had a loved one who was still in the throes of addiction or early recovery. And those were called My Courageous Caregivers Group.
The grief groups I still do. I’m moving into volunteering my time for my group works. I still do charge for private coaching for grief, recovery coaching and also for just recovery coaching in general.
But I also have a group my courageous caregivers group, I dissolved and I do a group through Minnesota Recovery Connection for family members who have loved ones that are still in the throes of addiction. And those are based on Robert Myers work with CRAFT Family Principles, which is very similar to the information that I was giving to folks through my Courageous Caregivers Group. It’s based upon a compassionate response to the person who was ill rather than cutting him off or tough love. Tough love was tough on me. It might not, I don’t know how tough it was on my son, but it was really tough on me because when I wasn’t in contact with him and didn’t know where he was or what he was doing, it didn’t matter to me I found out, that it didn’t matter to me whether it was using or not. I just wanted to be in touch with him. How do you do the work
How do you do the work you do? And keep the energy and passion for others through your grief.
I have a co facilitator now that works with me. She has been doing that for three years. I don’t think I would keep doing this without her, I feel like I can take vacations and, and, you know, not show up for a six-week session or only do half of it and know that it’s in good hands with her. I usually take two or three weeks between each six-week session. So, I just have time not to think about it. I use a professional consultant that I meet with once a month. And she helps me tremendously, I could never do this work without her. She’s my ear, she’s my go to, you know, although I’m not licensed, I don’t have to do this. I am registered with the board of unlicensed health care professionals, and I do everything I possibly can to be accountable, you know, in that way. And I read novels at night, I have a lot of fun. I have an electric bike that I love to get on I travel with my husband; I have a lot of friends that aren’t attached to the work that I do. I mean, I really tried to balance my life. But you know, Margaret to think about never showing up for a grief group forever, for the rest of my life. I don’t know, is it unhealthy to say, I don’t know, when I’m ready to let it all go?
No, I don’t think that’s unhealthy.
I think I feel connected to Aaron every time I, in those groups. Because I see myself reflected, I see him reflected back in their loved ones. So, I guess it’s it maybe it sounds really strange to people, but it’s a way I keep them alive. In my heart, you know?
Margaret: Yes, I do.
Gloria: His memory keep, his memory alive, not him alive. But it’s, it’s the way that I think is one of the ways I do that.
It’s beautiful. I’ve met a few people in doing the podcast, who through their loss have engaged in writing their story or doing work to help others. I curious. I believe in recovery principles being just an amazing way to live. I wouldn’t have chosen to get into recovery the way I did, if I could have had my way, which I think is true of all of us. Do you think having that foundation before Aaron passed helped in the grief process too?
Tremendously because I before he died, I really accepted that he had an illness? I’m trying to get them to separate the person from the illness. Because if they are stay wrapped up in the, why did they die? Why did they die? Why did they die, they never get to look at themselves so they can heal.
Gloria: They’re worked up in the why. So, when they, if I can get them to understand the what; this is what your person died from. And you, going back to the old Al-Anon thing you couldn’t cure it, you can’t control it, and it didn’t cause it. And then when they can separate themselves from that, then they can start to heal themselves.
And isn’t it ironic the parallels of how, in working with 1000s of people with a disease, substance use disorder, addictions of different kinds. The struggle to find the why, like that’s somehow going to help us figure out where to put the blame,
how we could have saved them,
how we’re going to save them, how they’re going to save themselves, how I’ll know the nice thing or the right thing to do to make this stop. instead of being willing to embark on the strategies to get healthy. We get so stuck in the history, the whys, who to blame.
I’ll just share a really quick little Aha I just had. So, there’s another person that’s very well regarded. She’s a certified family recovery coach. You know, she started a nonprofit. She’s been in recovery herself. She supported her son. I just felt like she was much more educated before her son died, than before Aaron died. And one of my things was well if I just would have only known this, maybe Aaron could have, would have lived right? But I, my husband and I were talking about it, and I said look at all that she so much more that she knew and her son still died. And that might sound futile to people. But the fact is the only part that we have, involved in with their recovery is to love them where they’re at. That’s it. And that’s all we can do. And she Oh, she’s so beautifully did that so well, and so much sooner than I ever did with Aaron. And yet, he didn’t make it.
It speaks to the powerlessness of people who love someone with the disease having any ability to make the story outcome different. It’s the person’s journey to find the path.
Exactly. My interest in Minnesota Recovery Connection was because they honor all pathways to recovery. And they offer recovery coach and telephone recovery support. I thought, if Aaron just would have had a recovery coach if he could have connect with somebody on the telephone, you know,
but I bet Gloria, if we sat down and we looked at everything you did, to make him well, to try to get him there. You probably, every resource possible?
I think so that was available at that time. I think so. You know.
And yet, what I hear you say, is what gives you the most peace, maybe the wrong word. Now is the recent years before he passed, where you got to the place of being able to love him and meet him where he was at, rather than try to control cajole them into whatever treatment.
That is so true. And I just want to mention one more thing here. I had several people read my book, you know, ghost readers and make suggestions for maybe something that should be added. And this person said, I think you ought to talk about one regret, what’s the biggest regret you have, that you wish you would have done differently? And it was the last time Aaron was in treatment. His wish was to get off of all of the medications he was on. He didn’t want to be on medication assisted treatment, and he wanted to be you know, it was just ridiculous. Of course, it was the addict brain talking right? Wanting to get off his antidepressants, because he said to me, Mom, if I have to take a handful of pills to live every day, I don’t want to live that way. And so, I kept saying to him, as he got off these medications, his anger would come up. And I’d see it when I visit him and treatment. And I’d say, you know, you just can we just slow this down a little bit. Well, he didn’t do it, and the treatment center, because he was 33 years old, you know, I couldn’t interfere. He always signed release of information. So, I knew I could do anything. And he said he had one caveat. I’m asking you, please don’t ever commit me. I’ll let you know anything that’s going on. But I just don’t ever want you to commit me to treatment. And I never asked why. I just agreed. And so, when he left that treatment center, I knew he was sitting on a bottle of anger. And I went to them and said, you know, Aaron has threatened, you know, I’m gonna kill myself or somebody if I don’t get out of here. Well, we haven’t heard him say that. I wanted to get them on a 72 hour hold, just long enough to see if I can. Here it goes again. I convinced him to stay on his mental health drugs at least. Right?
Gloria: And I didn’t do that. And two days out of treatment, he was dead. Now, I don’t know if it’s gonna make a difference. But I would say to any parent out there, you can break a promise to your loved one because God knows they broke many promises to us. When it’s going to make a difference between life and death, break the promise, do what you need to do, because later on, they’re going to thank you for it. But Aaron, and I never got that chance. So um, see I saw him talk his way out of that, he’d been committed before, and I saw him talk his way out of it. So, I thought, why do I want to damage our relationship when I’ll probably talk his way out of it anymore. Right. But it is my big it is a big regret I have.
It also speaks to some of the system issues that are so challenging to navigate for families and for the people who have the disease. We certainly don’t make it easy for people to get the care they need so desperately.
No, no, we don’t. I mean, if somebody that Aaron trusted, could just come in there and talk to him a little bit and say, hey, let’s just slow this down a little bit. Let’s just slow it down a little. You know.
This podcast is made possible by listeners like you.
Hello, friends. We know that this disease sadly can cause someone to lose their life. And the ripple effect of that impacts everyone in the family who’s been left behind. As you have learned Gloria’s son, Aaron, lost his life to heroin. So, Gloria and I have joined and forces, and we are so honored to announce that we will be hosting a retreat at the Renewal Center in Center City, Minnesota, the Hazelden Betty Ford campus, December 9 through 11th. This retreat is called ‘A Different Kind of Grief℠. Gloria and I invite anyone who has lost a loved one to this disease a minimum of six months ago, to join us for a place to be seen, heard and validated on your grief journey, while continuing to build a community of support.
If this is something that you feel could help you along your journey of loss and grief, please register through calling 1-800-262-4882, where you will speak with Peg or Georgia at the Renewal Center at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. And they will take your information and register you for this retreat. There will also be information in the show notes about the retreat. You can also find them on my website, embracefamilyrecovery.com.
You’re listening to the Embrace Family Recovery Podcast? Can you relate to what you’re hearing? Never miss a show by hitting the subscribe button. Now back to the show.
It’s interesting, though, I think on the other flip the coin right working in a treatment center for decades, when a client was determined to do what they were going to do I’m have no more power as their clinician to slow them down than a parent does or a partner does or a child does. If the disease is walking them out the door. I mean, well we try interventions, of course, will their peers try to intervene, of course, you know, like lots is done. And sometimes that works, in the moment, possibly the outcomes different. But other times, they’re still gonna go, if they’re gonna go.
You know, I really like what you said, if the disease’s walking them out the door because that’s exactly what was going on. That’s exactly what was going on.
And as a mother, I am sure I would revisit every scenario around that experience and think similarly to you. You know, when you talk about your read, I think I would also wonder, how could this have been different if I had done that rather than stick to the promise. And as you said, he’d been committed before and talked his way out of it. So, you don’t know the outcome could have been different?
It goes back to that, old, what and why question.
I am so pleased, we connected, and I am so grateful for your book, and I will be putting links to your website to your business to your book. Because one of my other passions than addiction is grief, which is very strange to say. It’s funny, I had a passion for grief before I ever got into the field of addiction. And I think it’s because I have been drawn to working with parts of our society that are either stigmatized, judged, or uncomfortable for people; even though everyone loses someone, and grief is part of our life. There’s still a lot of fear in talking about it, being open about loss.
Denial, non-acknowledgement person, you know, a loved one dies and you know, when the funeral is over, you’re supposed to be ready to go back to work and back to your regular life. And you know, we talk about this a lot in my grief groups that I wish people still dressed in black, to wear anarmband as long as they felt as though they were in deep grief. So, everybody would know what the heck was going on with them. You know, we have no identification, no identification of the people. My husband said the way that he felt is people would pass him in the street. And he would say don’t you know, and isn’t what he was going through since such deep grief and you’d say Don’t you know, my son just died, my son just died. I’m in deep grief. And you know, it’s one of those things where you that’s how you feel so alone,
Margaret: There’s no way to identify what’s going on.
I was reading a novel last night actually, as I fell asleep, and I want to take a quote from it and post it because I thought it was so aptly said. You know the world goes on and people will say life goes on and she’s like screaming because her son has passed in this book and she’s just like, I want it all to stop, and recognize how hard this is and how much this hurts and not for it to all just go on.
Yep. There you have it. That’s exactly the way that Bob Bell had that moment. went when he was walking down the street. That’s exactly it. Why doesn’t anybody know? No? Why can’t they tell? Don’t they know? This isn’t fair. I can’t go on.
And wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t pathologize grief?
Oh, that’s a whole nother thing. (laughter)
We could have another podcast on
that. Yeah, we’re gonna have a whole nother thing about, “complicated grief”. Oh.
So, I would like to end by reading those four beautiful statements, because I know there’s people listening to this who are in the depths of this illness and trying to show up for their loved one, whether they’re partners, kids, parents. And I just really love these four. And I mean, if you have your book and want to read them, I would be happy. And if not, I’ll read them for you.
Be my guest. I do not have my book with me.
You don’t have your book in your closet, Gloria?
No I don’t, I got everybody else’s was referring to but not my own (laughter).
So, these are the way, you introduce these were the following statement can empower caregivers who have a loved one in the throes of addiction, because it draws healthy boundaries for the caregiver without abandoning the loved one. That alone is beautiful.
But these are the four statements that Gloria offers in her book on page nine. I actually feel quite emotional when I read them. And I just want anyone out there who’s on this path, in this journey, struggling with how to show up for their loved one, to consider these.
I love you; I care about you. And I know you need help.
I can no longer help you with this problem. When you’re ready to seek help from someone else who can help you, I will be here to support you.
Remember, I love you. And I am here for you, when you’re ready to do something different.
To think that your son knew those were true with him and your relationship is quite magnificent, Gloria. Because yes, I would give anything for your story to be different. And his also, but to know that you had got to a place for your recovery, and your healing, to be able to show up for him in that way. Is amazing work on your part and such a gift to your son.
Thank you, Margaret.
Thank you, Gloria. Thank you for the work you do for so many others. And honor Aaron, in a way that I don’t know that he could possibly predict would have been the story. But just beautiful that you have chosen to give away so generously, your experience, your wisdom, The good, the bad, and the ugly, to help someone else, maybe do it differently.
I thank you for this opportunity. I know some of the people that you have interviewed and they’re right at the top of my list of people who are important in my life and who have helped me a lot. So, I feel very honored to be among the chosen few.
Well, I’m so honored. You said yes. And I know that people will get so much out of your book, Living in the Wake of Addiction℠. And I hope people who tragically and obviously never the outcome we would want for any family have lost someone might seek your services and your grief group because I think to know that the person who created it and the person who runs it with your co facilitator understands this to a level that you do having lived it, will bring comfort to them to know that that’s the person that’s caring for them and with them.
Thank you, Margaret, I appreciate that.
Thank you, Gloria England, for being a woman who survived the unthinkable for most of us who are mothers to imagine, and continue to give away everything you can, in the hopes that people out there will know something that you might not have while you are on your journey around your son’s disease.
One of the byproducts of hosting this podcast has been some of the incredible people I have met along the journey such as Gloria. I am humbled by their strength, courage and generosity, their resiliency and willingness to be of service to others. Wherever they are on the path. Please check out Gloria’s website, RecoveringU.com Look into her grief groups. If you are someone who has lost a person to this awful disease of addiction, one of the hardest parts of this disease no matter where we are, is isolation. And I know and can speak for Gloria and absolutely for myself that the one thing we hope is you find a community of support, so you don’t have to suffer alone. One more day.
I want to thank my guest for their courage and vulnerability and sharing parts of their story.
Please find resources on my website, embracefamilyrecovery.com
This is Margaret Swift Thompson.
Until next time, please take care of you!