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BALM | February 17, 2018

Marissa Arber, CBC
Grateful Be A Loving Mirror Mom
Certified BALM Family Recovery Life Coach

I am the mom of a person recovering from a substance use disorder. For several years, my beautiful, brilliant son was caught up in a world I was unprepared for and horrified by, and I woke up each morning just wanting to know if he was still alive and how I could help him.

By the time I found BALM, he was finishing up a third or fourth treatment experience, this time at a world-renowned center. They insisted that we completely cut him off from all contact with us, though he was sober. Their tough love approach had been successful up to that point but did not sit well with me.

Wanting more than anything for him to stay sober, we did what they said, and I cried pretty much all day every day, waiting for this severe version of boundary setting to end and our family to return to the unified unit it had been so long ago.

This was not the first challenging experience in my life. Years ago, I had lost my mom and brother to cancer and had experienced my own bouts of cancer myself. As a result of years of chemo and many alternative treatments, I slowly returned to myself.

I was and am a strong woman of faith, but the fear of losing my son was sapping my emotional strength immensely. All the manipulation my family members had fallen prey to was depleting me. My son later told me that in those days, he would go to whoever would hear him about how bad I was, and they believed his lies, while I was believing my eyes and ears.

During that last treatment stint, I sat in a family group, and I looked at my son and said aloud, “I have dug six feet of ground and now I am sitting in it, and the last thing that is left is for them to put the dirt over me. I am done.” I remember the looks on my family members’ faces. I did not realize how bad things were within me until that moment.

The next weekend, they asked us to write down five things we had not completed that we intended to accomplish in the next five years of our lives. Since I had recently talked about being done with my life, at first it took me aback. But then, as I thought about it, I realized that what I had always wanted to do was become a life coach and help others with the wisdom gleaned from the challenges of my life, and so I wrote that down.

A few weeks later, by divine design, when we were about to completely cut our sober son off, I received a text from someone who knew our son well.

She simply wrote, “Here is a number to someone I believe could help you. May I give her your number too? I gave you her number a few years ago but I don’t think you called her.”

And when I looked at my phone, I did see there was the text from three years before with the same number.

Since things hadn’t gotten better for me in those three years, and my son had been sober and lost it twice since then, I decided to make the call. Bev and I talked for at least an hour, the first thirty minutes of which were nothing but her listening to me cry.

I couldn’t see spending money on a family program when we had already invested so much of our time and resources on treatment centers, but I knew we needed help, and I intuited that this would be money well spent.

The first thing that happened was she told me to go into a live online 12 Principles class (called the Daily BALM) and listen, to see how it hit me. There was no BALM book to read at that time, so I really knew nothing about the program.

Suddenly I was finding out there was another approach to loving my son besides the tough love approach the treatment center insisted on. I had tried to go to Al-Anon over and over again, but it, too, was too harsh for me. Until finding the BALM, I had found only one person or program willing to listen to my perspective and talk with me, but she was no longer our counselor. Everyone else talked at me, telling me I had to give up my perspective for the one they had.

BALM resonated more with my own affectionate approach and also included leverage and boundaries, and it guided families away from enabling behaviors. Finally, I was home.

I chose to sign up for BALM Family Recovery Education, BALM Family Recovery Life Coaching, and eventually BALM Family Recovery Life Coach Training. Bev said to take as long as I needed to recover before starting the life coach training .

I didn’t think I would start for a year, but I felt so much better so soon that I was ready to start preparing for my new career within a few months.

My tears began to lessen as I studied the BALM and worked with my coach. We met twice a week for the first six months and soon moved down to once weekly as I began to find my solace, answers, and strength within myself, the BALM, and the BALM community.

For the first time, I was being heard. People cared about me, my growth, and my feelings, and they understood the compassion I wanted to have for my son. This alone was revolutionary for me. It changed everything for me and my family.

My husband joined me for some of the coaching sessions, and together we shifted our relationship with each other and with our son to one that was good for us and simultaneously good for him. Even my other children had a session or two as we shifted our collective stance from distance and anger to healthy boundaries based on love and respect for ourselves and the man my son was working to become.

Over time, we watched our son grow up. With Bev’s help, we built a team that included his own coach and therapist and a local team who helped him through his initial independence and continues to be there for him today. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having the right people on the team. In our case, the two people who have worked with him have understood and supported him as lovingly as the BALM has supported us.

As Bev always says, recovery has different faces for different individuals and families. My son found his recovery through his work with his team. We found ours through the BALM and our work with our coach and BALM community.

This process of building a loving team to help a family and loved one grow in recovery is one of the most powerful benefits of BALM that I have seen. No one is left out, and so the family stays intact, even through the most difficult days.

Behind the scenes, my coach worked with us to be his best chance at recovery and does to this day.

It hasn’t always been a smooth path. Growing up never is. But with the BALM, my coach, and the BALM community, my life has meaning deeper than I could have imagined.

Today I am a certified BALM coach, working with families and helping them the way my coach helped me.

I am so thankful for the BALM and all it has done for us and for the training that is empowering me to be there for families all over the world.

Even though, Marissa’s husband, Isaac, isn’t a BALM® coach, he sent us his BALM® story, and we wanted to include it with her testimonial. Read it and many others in Bev’s new book: BALM – The Loving Path to Family Recovery. CLICK HERE to pre-order YOUR copy!

If you would like to learn more about the BALM® Family Recovery Education Program CLICK HERE.