Lisa’s Story: A Clear Springs Ranch Mother’s Day Special Feature
When Lisa Holliman talks about her four kids, she radiates with the kind of love any devoted mother can understand. Lisa’s journey through motherhood to the healthy destination she’s at enjoying today, however, has taken some hairpin turns.
“Sobriety is my favorite thing,” says The Clear Springs Ranch Recovery Advocate who is thrilled to share her story with anyone who will listen in hopes of encouraging others.
She shows two photos of herself — taken 12 months apart– to help illustrate the contrast between active addiction and the beauty of sobriety. Although the same blue eyes are present, the joy evident on Lisa’s face in the more recent picture is undeniable. In the individual photos she shares of herself with each one of her kids (Keaton, 19; Logan, 17; Maxon, 10; and Cecily, 8) her smile is completely contagious.
Lisa says until a couple of years ago, she was always the picture of a successful wife and mother with a supportive extended family, honor student kids, a huge home, and an expensive car in the driveway. Hands-on and active in her kids’ lives, she was helping with homework, driving them to activities and volunteering at their schools. She was incredibly productive, accomplishing more in 24 hours than most people get done in a week. Never once, she says, did she even need to hire a babysitter.
Lisa’s ability to be so effective, however, was directly linked to her usage of methamphetamines. “I never used drugs when I was pregnant, but the minute they were born, I would start immediately back. I would often binge drink. At one point I actually got kicked out of Mexico – not just a bar in Mexico, but the entire county.”
Lisa remembers several times she had her stomach pumped due to alcohol. So she switched from alcohol to marijuana – her age of first use had been in junior high school — then back to drinking before moving onto pills. She says she eventually switched from daily weed back to meth “because I didn’t want to do two drugs at once.” It was the meth that gave her the ability to stay awake and be productive.
Once she became a single mother, Lisa partied even harder but made up for it by being an even better mother to her kids. She says she never considered that she was in active addiction. “My disease was wounding and progressive, but my kids’ love was unconditional. They were just along from mommy’s roller coaster ride.”
Last January, during her oldest son’s senior year of high school, the family’s world came crashing down. Lisa was drinking, driving and using drugs constantly within the framework of an unhealthy, toxic relationship. Her boyfriend at the time relapsed and went on the run while on probation. Lisa walked away from her kids to follow him. Eventually, the police killed him. At the end of her rope, Lisa began to seriously contemplate suicide.
Until that point, Lisa’s extended family had always bailed her out. This time, they began working on a plan to get her into treatment. Interestingly, the girlfriend who helped her family make arrangements was the same one (several years by then into her own recovery) Lisa had smoked pot with as pre-teen. “When I finally agreed I was sick and needed help, an hour later I went to treatment in California. Until then, I thought that Alcoholics Anonymous was a cult and meetings were weird. I was very closed off until I accepted during treatment that I was broken. I began working through some deep childhood traumas that had peaked with my boyfriend’s death.”
Lisa found a newfound joy and hope that came from admitting she had a problem. She describes the most beautiful spiritual awakening that happened after her first breakthrough during treatment
It was through her 12-Step work that the changes began. “Journaling helped me realize all the things I didn’t have control over. I was so stubborn. Even though I was raised in a Christian home, I wanted my higher power to do what I wanted. In treatment, I finally wept and cried for God to take this addiction from me because I realized I wanted my life and my kids back. I wanted to be healthy, and I needed help. Boom! Just like that I started feeling better and getting through my 12-Step work, peeling away the onion layers and letting out my authentic self.”
Lisa says her life benefited from becoming accountable for her actions and telling people she was sorry – and meaning it. She began to let go of grudges in place of offering forgiveness. She worked on righting her wrongs with others, telling the truth and restoring friendships. “Recovery doesn’t mean that my life will be perfect but that I have been given the tools to become a healthy adult. The 12-Steps are not meant to be worked individually, but as a whole; they’re a recipe for life.”
Lisa likes to use the example of her hair as a metaphor. “I have naturally curly brown hair that I have tried to change my whole life, like my soul. Similar to my hair, I was chemically treating my soul: drinking, taking meth and smoking weed. But when the drugs wore off – like hair coloring — I was still the same Lisa underneath.”
She says she’s stopped fighting who she is and addressed the issues below the exterior surface. “I just love who I am. I’ve never been able to say that.”
“You get the help you need. I always struggled with healthy boundaries and was very co-dependent. I am finally learning how to talk to people. In the past, I enjoyed playing the victim and my behavior indicated it. I was sick and didn’t know it.” Lisa says she knows now it was the spiritual disconnect that had her filling her life with temporary highs and fixes.
Lisa recognizes her tendency to isolate from others so she stays active within the recovery community by looking for picnics and concerts in order to have fun and bond with others. When she gets too stuck in her head, she says she gives it over to God and goes out of her comfort zone to help someone else. “In recovery, the goal is to stay sober. This seems exhausting but so is living under bridges and running from the cops. I know I can’t be lazy because that’s fuel for a relapse.”
It’s important to Lisa for people to see what she’s been through and where she is today. “I agree that the past is the past, but I don’t want to forget it. I want to remember because forgetting would make it easier to go back.”
Lisa says her kids got their healthy momma back, not the one who was unsure and struggling. “My past is my testimony. I don’t have to be ashamed of my story.”
What she’s learned as a mom in recovery is that life isn’t supposed to be smooth sailing; otherwise we wouldn’t need a higher power. “Take the moment to pause and breathe. Inhale the good. Exhale the bad. Let it go. Make it your purpose not to be reactive.” Lisa now understands that things are not supposed to all go her way.
Although she lost custody of her kids, she does get to see them every weekend, and for that, Lisa says she is incredibly grateful. She’s very open with them about her commitment to her recovery and invites her kids to meditate and pray with her. When they text her to check in during the week and she doesn’t answer right away, they know she’s in a 12-Step meeting. When she does her nightly inventory on the weekend, the five of them talk over their days. Lisa’s goal is to model for them the way to get through life without the use of substances.
She encourages other moms to support themselves emotionally, spiritually and physically by setting aside time doing things that minimize stress. As an outdoor enthusiast, Lisa loves grabbing her bikini and relaxing by the water, reading, painting her nails, listening to the birds and meditating. She also enjoys staying physically active by doing 12-Step yoga, walking, and putting on music and dancing around the house to help her stay mentally clear. “Don’t be redundant and boring. Enjoy who you are and have some fun. Get some girlfriends together and head to a new environment. Have some fun!” she says.
Lisa says she’s learned that if she puts all her effort into everyone but herself, it will wear her down. “If God isn’t first in my life, I don’t have my recovery. If recovery isn’t second, then my children and the rest of the world don’t have my true authentic self.”
Lisa has some final wisdom she wants to pass onto other moms. “You are absolutely worth the life that is waiting for you. You – and especially your kids — deserve it.”