How the BALM’s approach to Love restored the relationships in our family
By Lori Bolen
BALM® Coach and recovering family member
In 2002, our girls were in a car accident. Alyssa was 17 and driving. Megan was 15 and the passenger. They were on their way to drop off some items I had picked up for the day care at our church, where I was the director. Then they were meeting some youth group friends for lunch. The entrance ramp to the highway was built at a weird angle (that has since been reworked) but Alyssa was going too fast for the angle and started to go off the road. She panicked, overreacted, and when she jerked the steering wheel back the car flipped over and skidded upside down across a guard rail. It literally sheared the top off my car – it looked like a convertible. Alyssa had a lot of cuts and bruises but nothing serious. Megan was thrown from the vehicle (they think out the windshield) and sustained a traumatic brain injury. Side note that we don’t make public too often because the highway patrol asked us not to, but the investigation showed that had she been wearing her seat belt she would have been decapitated. But God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that and so she had just taken it off to look for something in the back seat when the accident happened.
Her brain injury was extremely serious because when her skull fractured, the pieces went inward into her brain in a V-shape. They did emergency surgery to get the pieces out and inserted a plate in her skull to form it back together. They placed an ICP monitor in her head to measure the intracranial pressure because that is a key indicator of brain swelling and they would have to open her skull back up if it got too high. There were a couple of occasions where we had to call and rally prayer warriors to get that pressure down.
Dale was a truck driver at the time and was out of state. He had just transferred to a new division and I did not know his dispatcher so I called his old dispatcher who promptly got the new one on the phone and they proceeded to work together to locate Dale, send someone to pick him up and bring him back to the closest terminal, and then they paid to get him back to Ohio. He was literally dropped off at the hospital emergency room door!
Another absolute miracle – her trauma doctor was one of the foremost in the United States and he had recently moved to our small neck of the woods in Ohio from Chicago because his family wanted to slow down. So here in our little town is one of the best known trauma docs in the country because God had placed him there at just the right time to manage Megan’s care!
God placed His people all around us – nurses, X-ray techs, respiratory therapists, etc – people would see us praying and would share that they had their own faith communities praying for our daughter!
It was a long road of learning to do everything all over again – walking, talking, eating, brushing her teeth, everything. We were several weeks in the trauma unit of the hospital and several months in the rehab hospital and another year in outpatient rehab. There were some broken bones that were missed in the ER because everyone was focused on the brain injury and once she went to the rehab hospital and started walking and using her arms and legs the breaks were discovered and taken care of.
I’m sure you can imagine there was a lot of pain and not knowing what we know now about opioids, she was prescribed pain killers for a very long time. Although we were cautious about following the dosage schedule, her battle with SUD began here at the tender young age of 15. It progressed from alcohol to marijuana to prescription painkillers and ended in the hell that is meth. She has struggled with meth for 10 years now, finding brief pockets of recovery but nothing sustained more than 10 months.
Through all of this our family has been torn apart. Alyssa, who was driving, had the highway patrol in the emergency room telling her that if Megan didn’t make it, they were going to charge her with vehicular manslaughter. She struggled with the guilt for many years. And we were so focused on Megan’s care that Alyssa was often short on attention because she is so smart and so self-sufficient we didn’t see she had her own struggle going on. My husband and I could not agree on how to help her and went from doing everything for her to trying to force her to “be responsible” to letting her go. We argued and disagreed and almost lost our marriage. We ended up giving in to the myth of “tough love” and she was homeless several times for many years. My heart still hurts to think about those times. How utterly alone and unloved she must have felt when what she needed most was love and community.
That is what I love the most about the BALM … we don’t amputate our loved ones who are struggling. We meet them where they are; love them unconditionally; and work our own program of recovery so we can become their best chance at recovery. I am absolutely IN LOVE with the C’s that were added to the Al-Anon 3 C’s:
- We can contribute to their recovery.
- We are connected to our loved ones on a deeper level than their SUD (one of my favorites because it gave me my daughter back!)
- We can learn to communicate effectively.
- We are always at choice. (another favorite because it is so empowering! I am not a victim.)
The 7 Steps have had a huge impact on my communication, not only with Megan but across all areas of my life. Learning to be the peace in Step 1 was life changing for me! Learning to script and have BALM conversations (mini interventions) is so much more powerful than hysterical, emotion-filled begging, yelling, etc. Learning the difference between leverage and manipulation enables me to approach my interactions from a place of strength and confidence rather than weakness and fear. Realizing that boundaries are actions I take for my own health and well-being rather than demands I place on others has totally changed how I think about boundaries.
I think I’ve referred to most, if not all, the 12 Principles throughout this testimonial. They are truly a way of life!
In the BALM, I’ve learned how to be the peace I want to see in my family. I’ve learned my daughter is not weak, irresponsible, short on faith, or any other shaming attribute often cast upon our loved ones. I’ve learned I can absolutely love her unconditionally right where she is on her journey. I’ve learned to speak to her with facts not emotions, hysteria, or judgment. I’ve remembered what it’s like to just have fun with her without any expectation of what I want her to be doing with her life. And most of all I’ve learned the choice is always mine – I can choose drama and chaos or I can choose peace and love. I can choose to contribute to her SUD or to her recovery. I can choose to cut her off or love her unconditionally. I choose life and love and therefore I choose the BALM!!
If you would like a complimentary coaching session with Lori or learn more about how you can enroll in the BALM® Family Recovery Program, call 1-888-998-BALM (2256) option 5.