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“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

 These are words of wisdom if ever I heard any, even if they did come from a piece of home décor. How many times in our lives (certainly in mine) have we wished we were stronger, braver, more clever? How many times has “life happened,” as I like to put it, and made us feel inadequate? Now look back on those moments. Did you survive? Are you still standing, still breathing? Hopefully, the answer is yes.

I have had many such moments in my life in varying degrees of severity but at the time they all seemed like the end of the world. When my favorite grandmother died I was crushed but I worked through the grief and it lessened. When I was going through that “fun” identity crisis most of us hit in high school I had to decide whether I could handle being someone I wasn’t to be liked or if being myself and finding people who liked the real me was more important. This one is a constant work in progress. They say God never gives us more than we can handle and sometimes I wish He didn’t trust me so much. But I am glad He also doesn’t make us go through life’s struggles alone.

One of my biggest challenges I had to overcome was discovering my mom, my best friend, wasn’t who I thought she was. When my mom relapsed into her alcoholism she hit it hard. Never once did she get violent with or blame one of us for what was happening. She took all of that resentment and hate and internalized it. She hated herself for what she was doing to us, for what she had become and she tried to end it. This, I couldn’t handle. This nearly broke me. I was losing my best friend, my constant and I couldn’t let that happen. This event really galvanized me. Now I had to rely on God to be my strength because I had to be strong for someone besides myself. I had no choice because the alternative, I believed, would kill me.

I bottled and hid my fear and pain and put on a brave face for my mom. Did I do everything right? Heck no. I’m still undoing the damage. But my mom and I both made it through, our family is still intact, and I have my best friend back. She has returned to her role as mom and supported me when I needed her most. You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have. Is it pretty? No. Is it hard? Oh yes. Is it worth it in the end? Absolutely.

Not only did I get mom and my life back, it made me a better, stronger, more supportive and sympathetic person. I got what I wanted, not the way I wanted it, but I got what I wanted. So be strong even when you feel like you have nothing left and this too shall pass. And when it does you will be able to look back with a secret puff of your chest and say I survived that, I can do anything. Be encouraged.