Updated: Aug 5, 2021
By Theresa Anthony, author, My 13th Station
Between the years 2012 and 2014 I had a purpose - boy did I. But my purpose during that two-year period was not the same kind of purpose I had, say, when I became a mom or when I started a business. That type of purpose seems to emerge and blossom from the event itself. You sail through the days fired up and hyper-focused, imbued with that purpose-fueled energy. Hard work is motivated naturally when purpose is connected to something positive and exciting.
No, my purpose during that chapter of my life was heavy, heavy, heavy. Back then, my purpose was entirely 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 sick.
No one can prepare you for how you are to respond to this particular type of calling—purpose that has nothing to do with personal goals or interests, but is completely, 100% about self-sacrifice. We might think we know how we will respond should something so devastating impact a loved one, but until it is at your front door you really cannot imagine how it can completely redefine 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.
Some days I would 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 neither should he. Oscar-worthy.
God gave me such an important purpose during that time. He showed me how to give of myself, sacrificially, entirely for the sake of another. He humbled me, brought me to my knees on many, many occasions while 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 I struggled to find any purpose. I felt traumatized and rudderless while struggling to process the losses. Intermingled with the grief were feelings of failure, as codependent as that sounds. Those were dark days.
But out of the ashes of such tragic loss I eventually found renewed purpose for my life. Since no one actually gives you purpose, per se, I tried to be open to discovering it. Purpose is something that presents itself and you either grab onto it or not. When the dust settled, I was able to see my new purpose unfold, and I embraced it.
I made the decision in 2014 to devote the majority of my writing career to helping others by writing blogs and articles in the addiction and recovery space. I had a heartfelt compassion and limitless empathy for those who struggle after what my son, and our family, went through. I had been a freelance writer since 1996, but felt by focusing my writing skills on informing others about mental illness, addiction, and suicide prevention I could do some good. I now write about 50 such pieces every month for various clients and periodicals in this niche.
In 2018 I penned a memoir telling my son’s story entitled My 13th Station. Through sharing his journey I hope to help individuals who battle the disease of addiction and/or a mental health disorder--as well as their loved ones who live each day in fear and anguish about what is happening to their child, spouse, sibling, or parent.
My purpose now is to reduce the stigma surrounding these heavy topics so that people won’t be ashamed to discuss them and get help. My goal is to help increase awareness about suicide prevention. But most of all, my purpose is to inspire people to get closer to God—because, news flash, we need Him. I wouldn’t be still standing if it were not for my faith. Period.
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