Thanks, GROW, for Being There
In May of 2000, I hit rock bottom. I thought I was doing society a favor by getting rid of myself. My parents had passed-on, and my family didn’t know what to do to help me. I had so much negativity in my life. I lived alone, which was not good. I thought I had no friends. So, one day I decided to get rid of myself. But for some reason, I realized I didn’t want to do it. So I called my sister-in-law, who lived out-of-state, because I felt like she understood me. I told her what I did.
Somehow she contacted my friends (as I said before, I thought I had no friends). They said something to me about going to the hospital. I said, “I can sleep it off. I’ve done it before.” My friends didn’t know about that.
I finally decided to go to the hospital if it made my friends feel better. Once I was there, I realized I was in the right place. While I was there, Jane, a GROW Fieldworker, held an orientation group. Jane explained how the program works – we help each other. If I would have had GROW before, I wouldn’t have been in the hospital. Though at the time, I really didn’t think it would work, but I thought I would give it a try. I was cynical.
It was a couple of weeks before I attended my first GROW meeting. That first GROW meeting made me feel so much better, as somebody else had a problem that was familiar ground to me. Also the confidentiality was something that “right struck” me. Like the Blue Book’s “Comforting Paradox” on page 9 says, “Mostly, when things go wrong, they’re meant to go wrong, so we can outgrow, what we have to outgrow.”
One of the first things that caught my attention in the Blue Book was on page 14, Number One of the “Five First Keys for Understanding Feelings”, “Feelings are not facts,” since I was frequently going by my feelings.
When I first came into the program, I did not like the First Step of the “Twelve Steps of Recovery and Personal Growth,” “We admitted we were inadequate or maladjusted to life” (Blue Book, p. 5).
At that time, I thought it was other people who could change, not me. Also, for a long time I thought that the “Principle of Personal Value” applied to others, but not me. It reads:
“No matter how bad my physical, mental, social or spiritual condition, I am always a human person loved by God and a connecting link between persons. I am still valuable; my life has a purpose; and I have my unique place and my unique part in my Creator’s own saving, healing and transforming work” (Blue Book, p. 7).
I didn’t tell everyone I was attending GROW meetings, but everyone could see the difference in me. At first, when I felt down I could call a friend from GROW, and they knew where I was coming from. I still get down sometimes, but I am not suicidal anymore. I know I have friends who will support me.
Some people with strong personalities get to me. There was one person who liked to tell me what to do. With the help of the group, I learned to speak up and get my point across without raising my voice. The group encouraged me in this area with the GROW wisdom, “Talk to rather than about your problem person” (Blue Book, p. 52).
My family and friends have seen the “Three Basic Changes” (Blue Book, p. 13) take place during my recovery. They are:
1. Change of thinking and talk.
2. Change of ways.
3. Change of relationships.
I’ve found out “the best in life, love and happiness is ahead of me, not behind me”. Through it all, I tried and still continue to renew my will to change with the support of GROW.
There are some GROW wisdoms that helped me through my recovery and continue to help me. They are:
“Those who matter don’t mind; those who mind don’t matter.” (Blue Book, p. 72)
“Be sorry for those who don’t understand (instead of resenting them).” (Blue Book, p. 6)
“God doesn’t make junk.” (Blue Book p. 21)
“Growth is painful – but permanently rewarding.” (Blue Book p. 27)
“If the rough road gets you there and the smooth one doesn’t, which are you going to choose?” (Blue Book p. 32)
Also, there is a personal motto of mine that I go by, and I think GROW does too:
“Don’t go in front of me, I might not follow. Don’t go behind me, I might not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
I attended the group faithfully for a couple of years until it closed. The group challenged me to change, but also stood beside me (which I wasn’t used to). The support from the group was excellent, as they realized where I was coming from.
My family relationships turned around, and it’s all because of GROW. The communication is better, and it has restored some unhappy relationships. The understanding is much better. I just want to thank GROW for it. It is a real blessing, and it seems that I can’t be thankful enough. The only thing I would want to change is finding out about GROW sooner. It’s hard to believe that anyone has had faith in me like GROW has, and I couldn’t have done it without GROW. I want to tell others about GROW because I have attended other kinds of groups, and none came close to matching the GROW program.
Thanks, GROW, for being there!
Never Give Up
I became mentally ill during my senior year of high school. I began to self-abuse, and then went to the other extreme of spending all of my money. I became very depressed and tried to kill myself. In and out of hospitals for many years, finally I was diagnosed with a mental illness and placed on medications. I started to feel better, went on to college and graduated. Obtaining a job as a special education teacher, I taught for three years. It was during this time that I was putting myself in unhealthy relationships. It finally caught up with me, and I became extremely depressed and ended up driving my car into a tree at 80 MPH. I broke my neck in two places. I recovered physically from that accident over a long period of time, but mentally I was a wreck. I’ve had more than thirty ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) treatments over the years. I ended up in a nursing home, and knew that this wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I had gone through all the services in the community and was written off as someone who would never get well.
I heard about the GROW Residential Center in Kankakee. After numerous contacts with GROW, I was finally accepted into the Residential Program. The structure and staff helped me right away. I realized I had to take responsibility for my illness. My doctor helped reduce my medications to half right away, and I started to feel better. Many parts of the GROW Program have helped me to gain insight and change my life. The “Three Practical Points for Control” (Blue Book, p. 32) made me realize I had to weigh the “pros and cons” and just do it. The “Emergency Measures” (Blue Book p. 32) helped me to learn to control my thinking and to think positively. The “Three Basic Changes” (Blue Book, p. 13) helped me realize that I could turn myself into a better person, giving me hope. I knew I would have to self-activate and practice the GROW Program over time to get well.
The friendships I made at GROW have gotten me through a lot of tough times. I got well because of their love, patience and commitment to me, and seeing in me what I couldn’t see in myself-- a person who has value, who could get well and live a better life.
Now I work full-time with developmentally disabled adults, and have held this job for over twelve years. I live on my own in my own apartment. I handle my own finances, and it feels great to be independent. GROW prepared me for the real world, and I feel I can handle life now as it comes to me. GROW SAVED MY LIFE, and I will always cherish the GROW Program. Recently I am realizing the value of giving back to others, and have been volunteering weekly at the GROW Residential center over the past year, sharing with others what has been given to me. I am finding this a very rewarding experience.
Mostly When Things Go Wrong…
I started GROW in 1985 after being hospitalized from a very dysfunctional marriage with physical as well as mental abuse.
It was about four years into the marriage that I realized that my husband was into Satanism, and I was slowly and progressively becoming sick, having hallucinations and delusions. It turns out, as I found out much later, my husband was drugging me with PCP. He and his family slowly started making me crazy, kind of like a brainwashing.
I started hearing voices and totally lost it. I went completely out of touch with reality. Bob said he’d have to take care of me forever and keep me because my mother wanted to send me to the mental hospital and never see me again. It was all like a big dream. It seemed like it wasn’t really true.
I thought that I was in hell at one time, and I actually thought that my ex-husband was Satan. I thought God was punishing me for everything that I’d done wrong. I’d hear voices of familiar people. My voices didn’t tell me to do things. I’d hear people talking, and it would sound like my sister, and I’d think it was her, or I’d think it was my best friend. They were more of outward voices rather than inward voices.
It got worse and I ended up in the hospital - my first hospitalization. My ex-husband was able to see me there, and he was still drugging me with PCP while I was in the hospital. My mother and my minister tried to tell the hospital that he was the problem. He was so good at what he did; he looked like he was the person who was on top of the situation. He actually convinced them that my minister and my mother were the people who were trying to destroy me. So he took me out of the hospital. He took me to his parents’ house for a couple of days and proceeded to beat the crap out of me. I can’t remember exactly what happened. He ripped the phone out of the wall so that I couldn’t use it because I had tried to call my mom. I couldn’t sleep of course, because of the PCP and the dreams. Every time I’d close my eyes, I’d hear voices. I finally got my ex-husband to take me to my mother’s house.
When I was able to get away from him, they took me to the hospital. They found massive amounts of PCP in my blood stream, and because Bob didn’t know where I was at, the PCP stopped going into me. It slowly worked its way out, and I started thinking straight. I’d gone probably close to a month without sleep. I was wired. I never did sleep in that hospital, but at least I got my brain back to where I could think again. I had counselors there. But I still hadn’t figured out that I was in the hospital. I thought that I was in hell for a long time. I thought that my mother and brother had driven me straight to hell and that I was done for.
I started attending GROW while I was in the hospital.
At first, the GROW meetings seemed weird, but of course everything was weird. But slowly after I started attending the groups, I started realizing that the people there were people; they weren’t just my imagination.
I didn’t say much in meetings, and when I did, it usually had nothing to do with the Program. I had very low self-esteem, so talking in front of people was really hard. It still is somewhat, but of course it’s gotten easier over time. But at that time my self esteem had gotten about as low as it can get, and I was on my way back up. I went down through the stages of decline that we talk about in GROW.
I had a really bad temper. I decided that everything the Program said needed to be changed. For the first three to six months, hearing the part about “being inadequate or maladjusted to life”, I thought, “This has got to go.” I remember sitting in groups and not listening to what was being said. People would give me practical tasks, and I considered them more of a put-down than a challenge. Slowly I realized that the temper was my problem, and being unreasonable was a way I had learned to cope with things.
I started realizing that the only way to get well was to cooperate with help. I came to meetings because I was getting something out of it. I had friendships, and that was the most important part in the first year or two I was in GROW. The real understanding of the Program came later.
When I was first asked to lead a meeting, it was totally devastating. When you’re up there starting with the half minute‘s silence to collect your thoughts, you’ve forgotten everything. So when they say, “We’ll help you,” I thought, “Yeah, right. They’re probably thinking I don’t know how to do this.” But I got though that meeting, and everybody told me what a good job I did. I realized “if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly at first.”
Slowly I worked into being comfortable leading meetings and actually enjoying it. When I think back, I actually wanted to lead, but I wanted other people to say, “Oh, come on, you can do it.” Well, GROW taught me that if I really wanted to do something, I was the one who was going to have to speak up and say, “I want to do that.”
My favorite part of the Program was the “Principle of Personal Value” (Blue Book, p. 7). I wanted to believe that I had “my unique part in God’s work”, but God was one of my major problems. At the time I believed that God was punishing me for everything that I’d done wrong. I held on to “Personal Value” for a long time.
I have a whole different and much better view of God now. I believe God is a loving God. The Blue Book says that God is “a supreme healer”, and I believe that. Before, I thought that everything was me, me, me. Now I see I can’t do it, and I put a lot on God’s shoulders. It sure makes life a whole lot easier.
I liked the part in the Program about friendship being “the special key to mental health”. Through change in my relationships and change in my thinking, everything started falling into place. I started working on healthy relationships and realizing that I’m not just a problem person, but a solution person too. It built my self-esteem to the point where I was talking and working with people. I learned “to have a friend, be a friend” (Blue Book, p. 72). I had to learn how to be a friend and what the different types of friendships were. Then, with those three things—“change of thinking and talk, change of ways, and change of relationships”-- everything started falling into place. I changed my attitude toward people; I learned what it takes to survive. You either survive healthy or unhealthy, and I knew what I wanted.
I left GROW to have my second child. I also quit because I thought I had it together. About one year later, my life started going in different directions, and I realized I could use the group to keep me on track. When I came back, I was on a level where I could understand the Program, apply it and use it in my life. I wanted to do something with my life. I was working. I was out in the community. I had a nice home. I had a family, but there was still something missing. That was “Myself”.
I took on the responsibility as Organizer and thought, “Oh, God.” I was scared. But after I got started, I found it was fun. I enjoyed it.
Responsibility was the first thing I got out of being an Organizer. Of course I thought the group was my group; the socials were my socials; the people in the group were my people, and if they were sick, I’d take care of it. I learned the meaning of “carry the message, not the person”, and how far it could drag me down as a person if I didn’t do that.
I started attending Leaders’ Meetings and writing papers. My approach was to write it like you see it. I went ahead “doing the ordinary thing” and realizing that “if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly for a start…” (Blue Book, p. 32). It taught me “sufficient care and sufficient risk”.
I got support from a lot of good leaders in GROW. They “knew the way, and were going the way, and showing the way”. There are many things I couldn’t have done without them telling me, “Hey it’s okay; I‘m going to be behind you”. I did things I never thought I could have done, like walk into an orientation, make an appointment with a newspaper, do a newspaper article, provide transportation, make phone calls, and all the things an Organizer does. With the support and understanding of other people, I could do it. I think one of the first things we come into is that we don’t have “understanding, confidence, control and love”. Sometimes the people who are the leaders are the ones who give you that. They hand that to you and say, “You can have this. It’s a part of me, so it can be a part of you.” GROW works slowly. It takes time. The reason it takes time is it took time to get to where we were, so it’s going to take time for us to get where we want to be. GROW gives you the opportunity to start getting there.
There comes a time when you stop centralizing on yourself and start helping others. You start taking “your responsible and caring place in society” (Step 10 – Blue Book, p. 5). You become a solution person, not just a problem person. Just seeing that gives you another part of your life that you need to grow into. I think that’s where the spiritual level came in for me. I saw I was starting to grow into the “Five Foundations of Maturity.” (Blue Book, p. 6) I was starting to grow into the last one, which was love and caring for one another.
After some time I started being part of Regional and State Program Teams. Then I was asked to become a Fieldworker. As a Fieldworker, I sometimes get put on a higher level. I can remember having looked up to other Fieldworkers; the one thing I didn’t want was for other Growers to put me on that higher level. I never wanted to become so much a leader that I ceased to be a companion. I can remember that “Friendship is the special key to mental health.” I’ve tried to keep that in mind in the time that I’ve been a Fieldworker. I’m still growing.
GROW can and will always be able to help anyone who needs help and is willing to be helped. I’m glad to be part of an organization that is so well structured and well put together.