The Peaks and Valleys of Mental Illness; let me count the ways – By Jeanne Foot

Image from pixabay by avi_acl


As a regular monthly contributor of I love Recovery Café, I had promised to submit a blog about Addiction Recovery and how sobriety is the doorway to the discovery of you!

I have a unique role as a mother of a young adult who has severe mental illnesses, and must manage his care plan as well as my own for my recovery from substance abuse, depression, trauma and family dysfunction.

My son has struggled since the age of 14 and I have also addressed the impact of having a loved one who struggles with mental illness in a previous blog called “no one brings you casseroles when you’re loved one is mentally ill”. So what does this have to do with Addiction and Recovery, and why have I chosen to write about this topic again?

As I write this blog, I am required to stay home as my sons’ therapist has reached out to me a couple of times in the past weeks regarding his high-risk behavior around his thoughts about suicidal ideation and that the two of them have come up with a “safety plan” to keep him safe.

Help, I am not trained to deal with this!

He suffers from bi-polar disorder, generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder and although he has made tremendous progress in his personal and professional life, we are far from our destination, if I am getting calls about his safety.

It is terrifying as well as heartbreaking to watch someone you love struggle with the everyday tasks of life that so many of us take for granted. He has made tremendous progress and we are so proud of his accomplishments, but setbacks which are part of life for all of us, are truly debilitating to the point of self-harm being a serious risk for those who suffer.

There is a feeling of desperation, loneliness and sadness for the person who is inflicted with the illness as well as the family members who also suffer in silence. Often, people really do not understand how to help and what to say, which is why I have chosen to write about our family experience and believe recovering out loud is an important step to breaking the stigma.

Mental illness is not the flu, you will not catch it from being close to it!

People may even think mental illness is a moral failing and make judgments, not recognizing that mental illness is a “brain disorder”.

Typically, mental illness lacks the respect and compassion that is given to physical illnesses, which is why we need to talk about it!

I have learned that this is something that will never go away and we all must learn to live with.  We were taught a long time ago not to ride the wave, otherwise we will be tossed along the stormy waters with it.

Sure, I am sad and scared for the real threat that we live with, but had I not dealt with my own depression and issues I would never be here to write about it.

I don’t think this is the club that I want to belong to…

But what I didn’t understand at the time was that Recovery was the admission price to get me in the game of life. You see, I was alive but not fully living. Everything for me had to be done under the veil of a haze of using for me to do life. Now there may be many good reasons how one can end up this way but that is another topic for another blog, which I promise I will address another time.

The important take away here is that recovery leads to the discovery of you! You can reach your true potential, if you are willing to hold the mirror in front of you. In sobriety, you become a reliable and responsible person who says what you are going to do, and do it!  It may sound so fundamental for people who haven’t struggled with mental illness and/or addiction, but truly this is what drugs and alcohol can do to people, they will literally hijack your executive functioning of your brain and all common sense is lost, and will not prevail.

How many illnesses do you know, that offer an upgrade in life?

If you are reading this blog, it is more than likely that you understand what I am talking about. You or a loved one’s formative years may resemble a train wreck after years of using and not paying attention to the important areas of life.

Disappointments, broken promises in careers, relationships, finance, and health are some of the areas that are the casualties of our behavior. I have experienced these same challenges with myself, my family and I have witnessed firsthand the intimate nature of the challenges when trying to define a new lifestyle without drugs and alcohol!

BUT, there has never been a better time to be in Recovery as there is so much choice and I believe we are in the height of an industrialized revolution.

Change is everywhere; reducing shame and stigma, breaking anonymity, neuroscience, diet, yoga, multiple pathways to recovery, new and emerging support groups, online meetings, sober coaching, and peer mentoring with lived experience. So there never has been a better climate suited for trying newer and emerging best practices, while offering us the goal, true happiness and sobriety!

So, after the party is over, what are some of the gifts of sobriety?

Peace, resilience, integrity and gratitude along with an appreciation for just about everything in your life to name just a few.

The gifts of sobriety have been endless for me with a serious upgrade in life beyond what I could possibly have imagined. This has been my experience for myself and my peers, time and time again.

Because if you are not getting an upgrade from your old life, why the hell would you want to hang out here? I promise if you stick it out,  you’ll see that it’s worth it.

Being sober is cool and hip today. Show the world that you can cope with your life no matter what challenges are thrown to you without running from your problems.

About Jeanne Foot

I am a mental health advocate, a Certified Addiction Counsellor (CCAC) and an Addiction and Recovery specialist, with over 10 years serving individuals and families in the Toronto area, across the globe, and online. My own struggles with the nature of addiction and years spent navigating the mental health care system as an advocate for members of my family, has enabled me to become a change agent and a mentor in transformation for others. Witnessing gaps in the system and how a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery fails too many people, I became passionate about synthesizing information, and clearing up the misinformation about how individuals can achieve sustainable recovery, regardless of the approach they take. The Recovery Concierge was innovated out of the necessity because not all recovery services are timely, efficient, or effective at producing long-term, sustainable change.With a strong pulse on the industry and a tenacious, yet spirited, approach, I am passionate about treating chemical dependency and addiction as any other illness and empowering long term transformation in my clients. Jeanne can be reached at
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  1. Gordon Murray

    My situation is different in that my wife suffers from deep depression (polar) and my adult daughter is bi-polar.

    My wife’s depression got much worse when she was in her early 40’s, through intensive therapy, she was what I call, in remission, until the sudden death of our son nearly 4 years ago. My daughter was diagnosed about 10-12 years ago after going through a bad break-up.

    However, I do appreciate the Blog. It was helpful.

  2. I love the concept “double winner”, thank you Deborah for your feedback!

    Sending healing prayers and gratitude your way!

  3. Thank you for this blog. As a “double winner” and Mom of a “double winner” I thank you for so clearly talking about this topic that we so often, still, try to avoid.

    My recovery is amazing. My adult child continues to struggle. Bless us all.

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