Two topics largely weigh in my heart and on my mind this week: my 2-year clean anniversary, and the death of a legend, connected by the famous mindset coined by Kobe Bryant.
“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity to rise. Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses. It is focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most. It has grown into something embraced as a mindset.” – Kobe Bryant
A man of remarkable talent, arguably the greatest of his time, our world is currently mourning the deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. It is not difficult to see by the millions of social media posts and countless tributes; he inspired many both on and off the court. Despite having obstacles and negativity due to poor decisions in his past, Kobe moved forward and pushed through to become a role model to young and old alike. He never let the pain and strife of his life hold him back or keep him down, and he encouraged many others with his notorious “Mamba mentality.” The one which saved my life. The one I strive to live every day myself. Much like Kobe, I have faced my own obstacles and judgement due to the decisions of my past, but I continue pushing myself to be a role model my children and peers can look up to and respect.
Our pastor recently preached a series on the seven deadly sins, and I can’t help but apply it here, “Killing the Killer.” Kobe has referenced Mamba Mentality as one of a killer, and its exactly what I have used it for – to kill my addiction. You see, if you don’t know, addiction takes everything you love away and leaves nothing surviving, I had no choice but to kill it. It killed my relationships, with family, with my ex-boyfriend, my job. And I allowed it to come between my son and I. I still live with those consequences to this day. Two years ago, I’d had enough, and I began a journey to become the best version of myself I could be, always better tomorrow than I am today, with a mindset to keep going, keep pushing, and keep fighting. I had to make sure the killer addiction is in my life, stayed dead.
Friday night was exceptionally emotional for me as I looked back on photos of myself during active addiction. Tears welled up and fell uncontrollably while I stared at the stranger on my phone in front of me. Why was I reacting like this? I had no clue. I expected to feel grateful, celebrating the milestone yesterday brought. But I didn’t. I was brokenhearted seeing just how far I had run from myself, my pain, my life. Remembering how I spent those days brings such a deep sadness, its often hard to express in words.
This has been difficult for me to compose. To honestly, and publicly admit who I used to be, when so many still don’t know. Strangers I meet see the woman I am today. I am proud it is no longer who I am. But this is the face of addiction, MY face of addiction. The face of numb and running. I was grieving, hiding inside myself, instead of addressing the pain I felt and lived. I mindlessly stumbled through my days, barely sober enough to survive the unmanageable life I was living.
I had hoped to write something positively proud today, telling my story and embracing others who are still battling. I’ve made so many changes and come so far. I wanted to show there is hope for a future, I am living proof! But something in me doesn’t feel at all celebratory. I feel triggered. I feel sadness, almost grief again in a sense, for all I lost through my addiction. But where is this coming from?
Maybe it is the events of the past few weeks. It wasn’t until a few days ago Bryant’s death really resonated with me. Of course I was saddened when I heard the news, but I guess I wondered how and why a celebrity’s death should have any effect on me, aside from being sad at the loss of great talent. I didn’t know them personally. I had never met them. We prayed for his family at church group that Sunday afternoon after hearing the news, but past that, I didn’t think I had any connection to the tragedy. I was wrong.
I watched my oldest Aubree pick up a ball for the first time in years this past week, and suddenly, the answer hit me like a ton of bricks. As a mother, I pictured how losing my husband and child all at once could feel like. And then the flood of memories began. Aubree and her father as a young child watching Laker games and shooting hoops. It was a big part of their relationship. The main part of it to be honest. And it was a connection to the life I left behind and worked hard to grow out of and away from. The one I grieved, leading me into my addiction and lowest point of my life.
Maybe his wife Vanessa’s grief somehow relates to mine. She lost her husband and family in a separate, but similar circumstance. I lost my ex-husband as well, or rather, he made choices forcing my hand to leave him, while hers was taken from her. I often feel like I didn’t have the choice but to leave. And she certainly didn’t have a choice, she did not choose for her husband and child to die at the same time. We both grieve a deep and profound loss, a loss of our family.
I recently began attending a recovery group at the addiction center I volunteer at, and last week we discussed triggers. One very specific trigger of addiction is grief, and many don’t realize the wide variety of grief you can experience. Yes, there is more than one type. While Vanessa Bryant and I both experience grief at the loss of a spouse, mine still lives while hers is deceased. Nevertheless, she currently faces the process I’ve already been navigating, one of the most emotionally painful things a person can go through. Grief and addiction are tragically linked, with one often provoking or exacerbating the other. In my case, addiction caused the grief I felt, which then caused my own addiction to form. A vicious cycle. I can only pray addiction will not touch the Bryant family as a result of their grief stemming from this tragedy.
I believe the death of Kobe and his daughter Gianna triggered residual grief I still cling to, despite actively trying to work through it in therapy and recovery. My children and I went through a lot of damage and pain during the time I separated from their father, but that cannot negate the good memories we all hold in our hearts. When Aubree picked up that ball, I saw the smile of her father flash across my mind, and my heart hurt intensely. Remembering all the years they sat on the couch watching the great Kobe Bryant, his idol, play with the Lakers and win championships, wearing the jerseys I purchased for him on those days. I saw the joy on both of their faces as she scored baskets during her own AAU games. Watching videos of Kobe and Gianna over the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but see those memories replay in my own mind.
It’s time again for me to kick my own Mamba Mentality back into gear and not let this cause me to stumble backward. I have made it this far and despite the pain it has created, I need to look forward, not backward. It’s my opportunity to rise, no excuses. Other circumstances of the past weeks have caused me to stumble a little as well, but I must refocus and trust my hard work because now when I am triggered is when it matters most. I cannot be proud of the next milestone, if I allow myself to be held back.
I pray Vanessa and her girls, as well as the rest of the Bryant family, and the families of the other victims whose lives were also lost in this tragedy, can take a lead from this mentality too. I pray they can navigate the massive grief they face ahead in a healthy manner and they know there is still hope ahead. They are not alone, Kobe and Gianna are now angels sitting with the Lord above.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. — John 16:33