‘Facing Adversity’ by Lorraine Wood published in Great Health Guide (Nov 2015). Do you feel like you’re facing a difficult situation but do not know how to get help & get yourself out of that situation? In this article Lorraine Wood, co-founder of a Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre, answers six key questions on adversity.
Read other Impact articles on Great Health Guide, a hub of expert-inspired resources empowering busy women to embody health beyond image … purpose beyond measure.
IMPACT: Facing Adversity
written by Lorraine Wood
In the face of adversity, what was it that caused you to dig deep and rise above your personal challenges?
I grew up in a family where both parents were alcoholics. I didn’t learn the skills necessary to deal with the feelings that I experienced as a result of their drinking. Issues went unaddressed for many years and impacted upon me in ways that I didn’t then understand. As often happens to children of alcoholics, I married a man who was also an alcoholic.
My husband Bill had been clean and sober for 12 months when we met. At that stage he was a shining example of the success of AA’s 12 Step Program. However, fairly early in our relationship there was a shift when he stopped attending AA meetings. Bill started experiencing symptoms of a condition called Dry Drunk Syndrome (DDS). This happens when recovering alcoholics/addicts don’t attend these meetings on a regular basis and don’t get the ongoing support that they need to help with their distorted thinking. He put up walls instead of healthy emotional boundaries and had issues of anger, depression and a mental obsession with drinking.
The partner of a person suffering DDS often blames themselves believing the resulting unhappiness is their fault. I was no different and went out of my way struggling to make things ‘right’.
DDS is a malaise of the spirit that can be as destructive as the alcohol abuse itself. That’s why it is critical for an addict in recovery to continue to attend regular meetings as part of their ongoing recovery. There’s a saying in AA that rings especially true here, ‘I went to AA for my drinking and stayed for my thinking.’
When this happened to me, I was no longer taking good care of myself. In addition to experiencing what I have described, I was also struggling with a work addiction. I had become extremely stressed and suffered migraines on an almost daily basis. I finally realized that something needed to change. There was a moment when I knew we needed to seek professional help. Then came the moment that caused me to dig deep and get the help we both needed. I knew that if my life was going to turn around, I would have to do it myself because Bill couldn’t fix this for me.
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I went along to a 12 Step Program meeting – one for the family and friends of alcoholics – and it was an amazing life-changing experience. People stood up and were telling their stories – and each one was my story too. For the first time, I felt I belonged somewhere. I knew that this meeting could help me.
With my interest sparked in my own recovery as well as that of my husband and family, we went to a well-known facility in the United States called The Meadows and entered treatment. At that time there was nowhere in Australia that offered this program.
What would you say to other women who may be facing adversity?
As a successful businesswoman and mother to five daughters, I feel that my life experiences have given me certain insights into facing adversity.
My first insight is to always trust your body. Your body doesn’t lie. If you are having headaches, physical pain or depression, you need to seek help and not deny that it’s happening. I didn’t understand the ramifications of my childhood experiences for many years until they slowly revealed themselves physically. My body was trying to tell me that I needed help and that I needed to stop and listen to it.
Luckily, we now live in a time where there are many options available if you want to seek help. If addiction is a problem, then I believe you need help from an addiction specialist. To invest in your own life is the greatest gift you can give yourself and the people that you love.
What are a few of the biggest ‘aha’s for you along your journey?
While attending family week as part of Bill’s treatment, I realized my own passion for the Recovery Movement. I later had a vision for a treatment center in Australia, one that could offer a similar program to The Meadows.
Through a combination of determination, trepidation, faith and entrepreneurship, Bill and I found ourselves owners of a small private hospital on the northern beaches of Sydney.
In 1993, we opened South Pacific Private (SPP) in Sydney and it continues to be the nation’s only equivalent of The Meadows and The Betty Ford Clinic in the United States.
The process of buying, owning, managing and sustaining this business taught me that I have the strength and inner resources to cope with difficult situations. There were times I doubted if we had made the right decision and questioned if we would succeed. However, I learned to trust and eventually our dream was realized.
You mention the Treatment Centre in Arizona called The Meadows that had a profound impact on your life. Are there any lessons from this Centre that are transferrable to other women who may be going through other challenges?
I had difficult times as a young woman and learned to rely on my own judgement at an early age. My greatest insights and support came from the principles of the 12 Step Movement.
I learned a philosophy of how to live my life one day at a time and absorbed the other 12 Step slogans such as:
how important is it?
there but for the grace of God
think, think, think
first things first
Did you ever feel prepared or ready to open a treatment center like South Pacific Private?
I learned to trust my gut reactions and to listen to my inner voice. I would recommend to any woman in a difficult or challenging situation to always listen to your body; it doesn’t lie. I am delighted that in the years that have passed since we opened in 1993, South Pacific Private has become renowned for providing the specialised care that people suffering from addictions and mood disorders need.
The family program is the cornerstone of our treatment. At South Pacific Private, we also have a weekly outpatient family education and support group. This means that family members or anyone can come along and begin the healing process; gaining a better understanding of the nature of addiction.
Since 1993, South Pacific Private has helped thousands of people into treatment for addictions, anxiety and related disorders. At the end of 2015, the facility will have almost doubled in size thus helping even more people and their families.
Lorraine, are you necessarily a strong person or do you feel that you became stronger along the journey?
If we had known what was ahead of us, we probably wouldn’t have started! To this day I remain immensely grateful for the path we took that led to finding our passion.
To put it into context, we shared an award-winning history in real estate but we had no collective experience in the medical field. And yet, there we were, owners of a private hospital. However, from my childhood I possessed an innate understanding of the multigenerational problems associated with substance abuse. I also knew that anyone, male or female, who has grown up in a family with a legacy of addiction needs expert help.
While I may not have been equipped to open a treatment center, it soon became a passion Bill and I shared. We forged ahead without knowing what we were doing or realizing what we were getting ourselves into. When your passion becomes your purpose in life, the universe moves into alignment and helps. There were many times I questioned whether I was strong enough to manage and to continue. However, all of my life experiences, as well as my meetings and my faith enabled me to draw on an inner strength.
The Twelve Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Dr Bob Wilson and Dr Bill Smith in 1935. There is a saying they instituted back then that still applies today: ‘If you follow the principles of the 12 Steps, you will find a life beyond your wildest dreams.’
Author of this article:
Lorraine Wood is Co-Founder and Owner of South Pacific Private which is Australia’s leading mental health and addiction treatment facility. It offers inpatient and day programs to treat anxiety disorders, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, behavioural addictions, alcohol addiction and substance abuse. Treatment at South Pacific Private offers the best possibility of recovery through its multidisciplinary, tailored programs which are designed to meet the individual needs of clients. Further information is available from the website.