By Theresa Anthony, author of In Search of Gopher Hollow
Between the years of 2012 and 2014, I had a purpose - boy did I. But my purpose during that two-year period was not the same type of purpose that I had, say, when I became a mom or when I started a business. That kind of purpose tends to emerge and blossom from the event itself. Driven by purposed-fueled energy, you sail through your days feeling fired up and hyper-focused. In fact, when purpose is connected to something positive and exciting, working hard at it just comes naturally.
No, my purpose during that particular chapter of my life was heavy, heavy, heavy. Back then, my entire sense of purpose centered on helping two very special people survive life-threatening diseases. Looking back, I can see the extraordinary measures it took to actually serve this important purpose. During this time, my beloved son battled a most heinous disease called addiction, specifically alcoholism, wrapped in the relentless cloak of depression. And at the very same time, my soul mate was stricken with a deadly form of leukemia. Just like that, the two most important men in my life were very sick.
No one can prepare you for how you’ll respond to this particular type of calling—a purpose that hasn’t a dang thing to do with personal goals or interests but is completely, 100%, about self-sacrifice. We might think we know how we’d respond should something so devastating impact a loved one, but until it is at your doorstep you really cannot imagine how it completely redefines your world.
During that span of time, I somehow managed to get up each and every day and find the strength to face new challenges. Whether I was traveling to Colorado to get my son into rehab or driving to Stanford with my very sick man at my side, my purpose was very clear. I loved them both, and I would do what I could to help them.
As utterly exhausting, both physically and emotionally, as those couple of years were, God gave me what I needed each day to persevere so I could be their advocate, their cheerleader, their main source of support.
Some days, I admit, it was hard to rally. My son would relapse and be filled with shame and remorse, sobbing at his inability to stave off the monster; regardless of attending daily AA meetings and doing all he could to overcome the addiction. The relapses both angered me and broke my heart.
Other days, I’d enter my partner’s hospital room, wearing the required gown, mask, and gloves, to find him lying there gaunt and frail. It took every single bit of my acting ability to hide the sheer terror I felt realizing I might lose him. I would spend eight to ten hours at his side, expending so much energy just trying to act like I had not a care in the world, and that neither should he. Oscar-worthy performances.
I realized at the time that God had given me an especially important purpose. He showed me how to give of myself, entirely for the sake of another. He humbled me, bringing me to my knees on many, many occasions as they both fought valiantly for life.
And then I lost them. Both.
Suddenly, I was purposeless. My days had become so defined by their illnesses and needs that after they passed away I struggled to find any purpose at all. I was all used up. I felt traumatized and rudderless while struggling to process both the losses, and intermingled with the grief were also feelings of failure, as codependent as that sounds. Yes, those were dark days.
But out of the ashes of such tragic loss I eventually discovered a renewed purpose for my life. You could say I repurposed my purpose. Purpose is an intangible that presents itself for consideration now and then, and either you grab onto it or you turn a blind eye. After the dust settled, I was able to recognize my repurposed purpose unfolding, and I embraced it.
So, in 2015, in honor of my son, I made the decision to apply my writing skills within the fields of addiction recovery and mental health. In making this career shift, my hope was to utilize the heartfelt compassion and empathy I now had for those struggling with these afflictions to do some good. From that point forward, the bulk of the articles and blogs I wrote were designed to hopefully inspire readers to seek help before it was too late.
A few years later, in 2019, I published my first book, a memoir called My 13th Station that told my son’s story, our story actually, with the hope of helping other parents recognize the warning signs of trouble—including the spiritual battle that often goes hand in hand with addiction.
In 2021, I turned my sights to the aching hearts of fellow grieving mothers and published Hope Springs from a Mother’s Broken Heart. With this book I hoped to provide a helpful guide for mothers who had lost a child, to offer coping skills and encouragement to help them survive the worst thing that can ever happen to a woman.
Then, in November of 2023 I penned my third book, a memoir entitled In Search of Gopher Hollow. In this book I tell my story, my unique life journey punctuated with plenty of turmoil and loss, but balanced with tender, sometimes downright funny, moments—and all wrapped up with a big bow of inspiration. If I can survive all that, then so can you.
If I had to pick one word that drives my new purpose in life, it would be hope. Hope is the underlying theme found in all my writings, whether it’s a blog for a client, sharing my musings on Facebook, or writing a book. This, I realized was my new life’s purpose ... to encourage and inspire a sense of hope.
Check out my new memoir!
I decided to tell my life story, to share
about the struggles and losses with the hope that my book might serve as an inspiration to others who may be facing difficult challenges.
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