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We are not the sum of our experiences but they are a major molding factor. I’m not very old yet and I have been very blessed. But every life has its hurts and hang-ups. These are the worst times in our lives but they are the most formative. These are the moments that make or break us.

I’m a survivor. I always have been. I don’t know how to be anything else. My mom was an alcoholic during my middle school and high school years. As if those years aren’t hard enough her illness didn’t help. My dad worked two jobs to support us and mom was falling apart so I became the adult. I became the parent. My brother rejected this role change. We grew apart. My mom failed to commit suicide twice in 30 days. I blamed myself. I had failed everyone I loved. I wanted to give up. I was only 16.

My mom, my best friend, was killing herself some days more aggressively than others and I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t fix it. She wasn’t the only one who couldn’t deal with her life. I wanted to die just to make the pain stop. I wanted the ground to swallow me, to find some shadow to hide in, to stop being me. I won’t say the only thing that stopped me was the fear of ultimate failure but that was one of the biggest reasons. I think God decided no one was getting a free pass that year and kept us all alive. I knew I was a failure but if I took the cowards way out I knew with every aching fiber of my miserable body that I would be responsible for my mother’s death. I couldn’t stand the thought of doing that and leaving my dad and brother alone. I couldn’t do it.

When God created me he made me stubborn. It’s a family trait and I have it in spades. I’m pretty sure he made me stubborn beyond reason. Looking back I know now that my mom’s illness was not my fault nor can I claim her sobriety my victory. It’s always been hers. People have told me all my life that because of how I handled things I was strong, that I was a trooper. My silent response was always, “was there a choice?” I never said it out loud because with stubbornness came pride and my struggles were my own. I had to be strong for the people around me. I couldn’t admit to failure or defeat. I soldiered on because it was all I knew how to do.

What did I learn since then? I learned that I can’t control other people. Their actions are not my fault. I learned that God is always there no matter how dark my life gets. No matter how alone I feel I know he’s there. I learned that I don’t have to deal with my pain alone. It is ok to admit weakness. It is not defeat. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Failure isn’t always bad. Failure kept my mom alive. I learned that you never know how strong you are until being strong is all you have, and when that isn’t enough God is there to carry you through.