Thirty five years ago, this month, I joined Mary Kay as a young woman married to an alcoholic and the mother of an 18 month old son.
I was raised in a violent home, the eldest of five children and never learned how to take down my guard much less trust another human being. I felt alone and frightened so when the Mary Kay world wanted to open their arms and welcome me with loving hugs, I wanted to turn and run for the hills.
I was scared beyond words. But I knew there was something for me here so I stayed. Over the 35 years I have grown into the woman I am today. Strong, confident and self assured, most of the time.
Growing up in Mary Kay was not easy. There were times when I felt so incredibly vulnerable that I would have to run into the bathroom and cry until I was beyond exhausted and the fear would finally break free of me. I had to force myself out of my comfort zone over and over again so I could begin to heal.
Learning to trust you was almost impossible. If the people who loved me the most had harmed me as a child, how could I possibly let you in close enough to feel your warmth? How could I look into your eyes and accept the love looking back at me.? I couldn’t. You see I didn’t understand that you could love me if I hadn’t done enough to earn it. It took years. Many years to learn that the essence of me was good and that I could count on you.
I yearned to be just like you. Successful, pretty, smart. I was desperate to fit in, to feel like I belonged. I wanted Pink Cadillacs and bar pins. I wanted Star prizes and Team Members. I wanted it all. And when I finally did get some of those things I found it wasn’t enough and I wanted more. Not more because that was the next step, but more because I was desperate to fill the hole in my soul with outside things.
Money, diamonds, cars and ribbons. These prizes, on their own, are good things but when I began to hunger for them more than I hungered for God, then the demon of “More” grabbed me by the heart and wouldn’t let go. I demanded more from myself and others and without knowing it, I became a bully. Not the kind that punches but more the kind that might withhold love and appreciation if you weren’t doing what I wanted or needed you to do.
I was ruthless in my quest to appease the emotional hunger that lived inside me. There was never enough and my constant companion was the fear that no matter how hard I tried or how much I did….it would never be enough.
What I learned along my journey was not that there wasn’t enough outside of me but rather there wasn’t enough inside of me.
I WAS NOT ENOUGH.
By whose standards did I compare myself to? Was it your standards? Were you the ones who wanted me to be more? Have more? Do more?
No. It was the feeling I carried in my belly since I was old enough to walk. It was the wound I carried with me that you couldn’t see. It was the battle scars I wrapped myself up in daily to protect myself. From what you ask? I couldn’t tell you.
I was a grown woman who owned her own business. How could I be scared of someone who simply didn’t want to take my business card? Or of not achieving a goal. Or of maybe not qualifying for the Pink Cadillac.
Later on I discovered it wasn’t the adult me who was freaked out. It was the small child that lived inside me. The one who craved attention of loving people who she would frantically push away when you got too close. The child who never felt loved and didn’t have a clue as to how to receive.
This little girl deep inside who I hid from all of you was tenacious and fierce. She knew how to work. Working like a maniac was what she did best, throwing numerous balls in the air and trying not to let any of them drop. Only in this way was she sure of not being still long enough to have the feelings of fear eat her alive. She could never allow herself the freedom to relax and have fun. She didn’t know how to laugh or even how to play.
She cried when you weren’t looking and sometimes acted out when you were.
Growing up in this business has never been easy for me but along the way I got comfortable letting you smile at me. I thawed out and leaned into your kindness. I stopped being so restless and fearful of not getting what I wanted or losing what I had. I began to breathe.
Breathing in the love you had to offer while I breathed out the fear I had become such good friends with.
My life changed because of Mary Kay.
You supported me through two more pregnancies, one putting me on bed rest the last two weeks of DIQ and the third one nine months after I became a director. Then two divorces, one when my husband left me for another woman and then the second one when I put my husband in jail for attempted manufacturing of meth in our garage.
But more than that, you carried me through raising my drug addict children. You see all my children are drug addicts. They are all grown now and have lives of their own, seeking their recovery and a personal relationship with God. We are intact as a family and we love and cherish each other. We are a miracle.
I thought I would grow up in Mary Kay and be an NSD. What happened was I took the lessons I learned along the way and with God’s direct intervention and guidance I wrote a book about my experience raising these children while I prayed you would never find out. How could I be driving a Pink Cadillac while my son was selling marijuana at high school during lunch and on the verge of being expelled his senior year?
I raised my children in Mary Kay and while others cheered for their sons who went to Harvard, I cried when my son went to jail.
Today I understand that addiction is a disease, not something I caused or taught my children. They didn’t ask to be born with this. But life threw me a curve ball when I realized that they would all suffer for a lifetime with a disease I had only hoped would pass them by.
My book, “Letting go of Shame. A Mother’s Journey raising Addict Children” is my way of reaching out to all mothers who struggle with addict children so they will know they are not alone and that there really is hope beyond the heartache.
It is my hope that we can all let go of our shame so we can walk with our heads high and our hearts intact and realize that, although this journey may break our hearts, we are incredible women who simply love addicts.
Thank you for walking this road with me for the last 35 years. Happy Anniversary Susan. Well done!