What My Sister’s Experience Helped Me Realize

May 26, 2023

I had a conversation with my sister last week, and it’s something I wanted to share because it was really profound for me and has a lot of relevance to the work we do here at Tipping Point. It reminded me of how tender we want to be with each other, in life generally, but particularly in this space where we show up with pain, shame, sadness and a myriad of other feelings that come from living close to addiction.

My sister was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a year and a half ago. Currently, she’s participating in a research study with the Michael J. Fox Foundation called the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative. It’s a study that happens to be taking place close to where she lives, so she decided to jump in.

As it turns out, it’s a lot.

Her participation in the study is intense, which she goes to every six months. While they offer her a ride to and from and food and everyone supporting the initiative is so kind, the testing and experience is rigorous. She gets poked with needles, has fluid drawn from her spine, does a host of cognitive tests— invasive stuff physically, emotionally and mentally.

And as I was listening to her share this experience of what it’s like to come face to face with the reality of her disease and its progression, I was reminded of what I ask of you, the family members who come to me.

Let me explain.

When you call me and you tell me your loved one is struggling and that the wheels are falling off, and you think you want to do something different about it—an intervention or a family contract to get them into treatment or help them stay in treatment longer—I am always eager to share with you the exact service we have that will get you the result you want. I have the solution you are looking for, but suddenly all these feelings come up for you around, “You mean I have to do something?”

It’s really scary.

It’s really scary for my sister too. Similar feelings have come up for her as she’s realized the depth of what this study is asking her to give and to face. She’s volunteering to do it because a part of her is compelled to be a part of the solution, to contribute to the research in some way, to learn, to meet other people.

I don’t think it’s a big part of her that wants those things; I think it’s likely a small part. But what my experience tells me from witnessing people do hard things is that that small part of her that said yes to doing this is going to grow. It grows when you’re in a community. It grows as you become educated. It grows when you really feel the impact what you’re doing is having on you and on others.

Because when we’re in pain, we can either stay trapped in that pain or we can start to peek out.

My sister’s next round of the study is coming up, and she’s putting resources in place for herself to help her not feel as trashed this time around. She said, “I’m telling my husband what I need. I’m getting food ready ahead of time so I have it when I get home. I’m getting bath bombs to really relax at the end of it.” She’s putting things in place to strengthen her and to provide comfort and care in a difficult time.

And that’s what we do here in our programs. We ask you to come in, roll up your sleeves, pull out a mirror and look at your stuff. We ask you to do hard things. But we also help you to gather the support you need to care for yourself while you do it. To put together your personal board of directors. To figure out what will be helpful for you. To find the courage to ask for it. To lean on the strength of others who’ve been there.

We can all do hard things. My sister goes to those meetings and learns about her disease, just like you come into our programs and learn about how addiction either gets worse or the person finds recovery. It’s a lifelong chronic illness. It’s not going anywhere. When I say those things to you, you’re like, “Thanks a lot, Kate.”

But isn’t a hard truth better than the chaos and the lies and staying in the dark?

You’re at choice all the time. You get to decide, “Do I want to ride the roller coaster that is the problem of addiction?” Or do you want to step out of that pain, even if it means doing something that feels scary and will be hard?

Remember you don’t have to do it alone. Enrollment for our upcoming Recover My Family 12-week Addiction Recovery Program is starting soon, where you’ll be surrounded by empowering education, community, and resources to help you get off the roller coaster and onto a different path. You can book a call with me through the link above to talk through if it’s the right fit for you and your family.

If that seems like too big a step, start in our free community, Friends of Tipping Point — A Hub For Recovery Conversations. It’s the perfect place to dip your toe into the work we do and start feeling the support you need to make the choice that’s right for you.

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1 Comment

  1. Julie Higgins

    Bravo for your sister and thanks for sharing her story and likening it to what we are going through as families. My Dad had Parkinson’s and we all had to show up for it which was not always easy. He was my hero, though because he did the hard things, the exercises, the walking, the smiling even when it was hard. He learned what he had to ask for and I, his primary caretaker, learned to ask too. In a way, Dad prepared me for the idea of moving ahead with life, even when it hands you lemons, especially when what you do will make a difference in your life and someone else’s. Showing up for my loved one by staying in my lane, detaching with love, and holding space for his thoughts when we are in conversation, is not always fun but it sure makes a difference.


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