To my mother: You are shatterproof

Jenna Stewart
Tell us about your (or your loved one's) recovery journey. What has been the most rewarding part?

This story is about my mother. As a daughter it is easy to feel embarrassed of and critical of your mom. I have felt both. But as I get older, and have gone through my own hardships, I’m beginning to realize that everyone is just doing the best they can with the resources they have.

Like my mom for instance. When she was 20 years old she fell off a cliff, 30 feet down into jagged rocks on the Northern California coast. My mom almost lost her life that day, and her physical body seemed shattered. She spent months in the hospital in agony. Laid up on her back unable to move her limbs. But in those months she made the resolve that she would push through this and become a nurse. That’s what she did.

Fast forward two decades, my mother's previously shattered body carried my sister into this world, and then me. Shortly after my birth, my father came out to my mom. He said he could no longer live a lie. After 10 years of marriage, her emotional world seemed shattered. She spent years angry at my father for pulling the rug out from underneath her feet. But in those years she made the resolve to push through this and devote herself to the two little girls my father helped give her. And that’s what she did.

Fast forward two more decades and my mom had raised two women, held a roof over our heads, and completed a 30-year career saving lives as a registered nurse. But after years of self-medicating to push herself through, addiction got the better of her. The disease took hold, and it was clear my mom was going to lose her own life to the very thing that was keeping her going.

In those dark days, her spirit seemed shattered. I’ve heard various stories about hitting rock bottom and I know it looks different for everyone. Some people don’t get to hit that place and bounce back. But for the lucky ones, like my mom, hitting that place you never thought you’d touch can be the place that saves your life. In that place, my mom found her resolve to dedicate her life to healing old wounds.

No more pushing through. My mom has been sober since Mother’s Day of 2012 (her greatest gift to my sister and me). She is on her 7th year of recovery, and it has been very hard work. But through that hard work, not only has she discovered a newfound physical, emotional, and spiritual strength, but she now helps others to do the same. And this woman, the one who seems to have shattered time and time again throughout life, is absolutely whole.

My mom did the best she could with the resources she had. I see that clearly now, and I’m glad she has found the resources that won’t just mask her pain, but help to resolve it.

Coming full circle, at 67 years old my mom is going to sail in the North American Hobie Championships, a national sailing competition. Using her body, her mind, and her spirit to sail off on the horizon and show the world that she is shatterproof. And as a daughter, I could not be more proud.

The years of being critical and embarrassed are gone. Going through those years and coming out on the other side helped to shape me into a more compassionate person. I am now a health educator working in substance use prevention for youth, teaching yoga, and trying to share healthy coping skills with as many people as I can reach. Although the journey hasn’t always been easy, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you have a message for the Shatterproof community?

Happy recovery month to those in recovery, and the families and friends who have stood by to support them. I know it’s not an easy road. I know, “sometimes we wish our lives were free from pain, that our dreams would not lose their luster, that our bodies would not undergo aging, injury, or disease. But when we look closely, we probably wouldn’t want to be the person we might be if spared these sorrows. A person without scars who is perhaps more careless in their actions and words, more oblivious of the heartache of others, or unaware of the gifts life offers in every moment.” -Anne Cushman