I never saw this part of my life coming.
In 2011 I was a teacher, and Chris came in to speak to the students at the high school where I worked. I remember thinking: ‘wow, what an unbelievable story and what an amazing family’ but at that time I really didn’t understand addiction, and I certainly never thought it could happen to us.
Fast forward to 2016, and I was living in chaos due to my husband Dan’s addiction and didn’t have any clue what I was dealing with. Things got as out of control as they could get. I’m a mother with five young children, including one-year-old twins, and when I realized what was going on at first I was thinking ‘no way’. I had an idea in my head that an addict is a homeless person – someone on the street corner begging for drugs or crashing cars or something.
So once I knew the full scope of what we were dealing with, it was one of the most terrifying things that ever happened.
When he went into detox the first time and I was struggling to figure out how to navigate this, I remembered a friend of mine had grown up with Heather Herren. I asked my friend to reach out to her.
By the next morning I had a phone call from Kevin Mikolazyk. He was so helpful and he worked with my brother-in-law to help make all the arrangements to get my husband help. This was before Herren Wellness existed. It was incredible because they were so helpful, and I finally had some hope.
Kevin was great. He navigated a treatment plan for Dan, trying to find the best situation possible for him, and Dan proceeded to go to a treatment center and a halfway house, and then when he came back from all that everything was good for a while. We really felt that we had a new lease on life and everything was great.
Dan wasn’t using, but we never dealt with the behaviors that caused him to use, and over time these behaviors began to rise up again until they were controlling his life as much as the drugs had been. All of this really began to hurt our marriage and the whole family.
At this time, I was introduced to a Herren Project online support group facilitated by Rebecca O’Dowd, and she connected with me in person as well. Everything was at my comfort level and my pace. I finally had a group of people to connect with who understood what I was going through, as well as someone I could call anytime. It was exactly what I needed.
I still didn’t understand addiction, and I’m thinking I can’t wait to rip into him in front of our therapist for all the things he has put us through. That’s where my understanding was at the time.
Through the help of the people at Herren Project, who reached out to see how I was doing, I gained a completely new understanding of addiction and received support to work through what we were going through as a family.
A year and a half later after things had been going well for a while, Dan started to struggle again, and I was thinking ‘we couldn’t possibly go through this again’. I had been thinking it was all behind us for good.
It wasn’t as chaotic as things had been before, but I knew something wasn’t right, and this time I knew more about what to look for. After a drug test, I realized Dan was using again.
So once again I sent a message to Kevin Mikolazyk and told him: ‘we need a reset’.
Kevin arranged for Dan to go to treatment in Florida.
Once Dan was safely in treatment there, it was a breather for me, and a time to regroup. I didn’t want anything to do with him, and we didn’t want to talk to him at all. I was still really struggling with everything.
After Florida Dan went directly to Herren Wellness, and this was a huge relief for me. I knew Dan respected Chris. I also knew that because it was a Herren program, the help would come right away.
I remember my brother-in-law telling me, “Chris is going to pick Dan up at the airport, and he thinks he can really get through to him.”
I still hadn’t talked to Dan, but a day later I received a phone call from Chris. He was totally great, and understanding, and he talked to me about Herren Wellness and how it was different and how it was really welcoming to the family. The whole family, including our five kids.
I wasn’t ready to speak with Dan yet, so I arranged to meet with Chris and the family resources there first. He made that happen right away. It was very emotional, but you could see right away that it was counseling for BOTH of us. It was redirecting, explaining, and helping to understand. In my head I was thinking, ‘nobody wants to live like this’, but I began to understand where Dan was at, where he wants to be, and what they were working towards. It was more about the behaviors that were being explained to me and that was a dramatic difference than what I had experienced at any other treatment center.
Shortly after this meeting, I brought the kids there, and we were all welcomed with open arms. Everyone did whatever they could to help.
Heather Herren was so helpful. She was so straightforward with me – as she had to be. I would come there, guns blazing, and she would reel me back and talk me through it.
Looking back on things, I didn’t learn everything as she was saying it, but it was a healthy outlet for me to handle all my emotions. I’m in a totally different place now, and everything she told me is always in the back of my head.
The fact that Heather had been through the same things I was going through made such a difference. Anything I talked to her about she had experienced and was on the other side of it and could help. She helped me learn not to dwell on things, and to live in the solution. She would say, ‘I understand, Meg, but do we want to stay here or do we want to move forward?’ (laughs)
At any point in time, but especially when I was struggling or emotional, I could make a call and reach out. Someone would get right back to me. Something that felt life-altering on my end could be addressed or solved immediately. Herren Wellness was always there, for both of us. It was therapy for all of us.
My family had all been through the hurt with me, so their perspective – at that point in time – was different than someone like Heather, who totally understood what I was going through. I had someone who had been in my shoes and could totally relate.
A million life events happen when a loved on is in treatment, and you still have to deal with them, and she was there for me. Dan had to focus on his own recovery, so I needed someone who could be available. In the end, what’s more important? Having him come back sober, or him being there for a kid’s doctor’s appointment?
I don’t know how many times I heard, ‘this isn’t a sprint, Meg’. (laughs)
Everyone there was looking out for Dan, for me, and for the kids.
It wasn’t all pretty, and of course we all had our moments, but they were there to help me understand what was helpful and what wasn’t. For everyone.
In the other places Dan went for treatment, I would pick him up on the last day and try to implement the suggestions given for him, but I didn’t know what to do. At other places, I got a lot of information, watched all the videos, but there were no tools for the family.
Coming to Herren Wellness, we all dug into the ‘why’. We were dealing with things that probably should have been dealt with years ago. We began talking about things that had been there for a long time and never addressed.
It’s continuous, ongoing support.
We all share our stories. The message is: ‘Don’t bury it.’ We talk about things, and we help each other. I can’t imagine if I had to deal with everything on my own shoulders. It’s not possible, and it doesn’t work.
The support – from everyone – is so important.
Where I am today, from where I used to be, also gives me a chance to give back and help others.
All the support I continue to get from Herren Project is amazing as well. The online support groups give me people who are there with me through all the highs and lows, who celebrate with me for the successes, and who offer support during the hard times. I know I’m not in this alone.
Together we DO recover, and if you or a loved one are looking for a new path of sobriety and wellness, we can help. You are not alone. When you come to Herren Wellness, you become part of a vibrant and thriving community that doesn’t end when your stay ends. You become part of the Herren Wellness family.