We don’t always think about them, do we? Many times, we just do what we want and assume nothing bad will happen. We all make mistakes. Consequences are supposed to occur. We learn from them.

Allowing consequences to happen is one of the ways I teach my son. If he talks back to me, he doesn’t get to watch Garfield or ride bikes with me before bath time. It devastates him when I tell him no. It’s as hard for me to say no as it is for him to hear it. It’s challenging to let someone you love feel pain when your instinct is to protect them. I often ask myself, am I teaching him to change or enabling him to continue his bad behavior? I wondered this too, during my marriage, when I tried to help my ex-husband as he struggled with an opioid addiction.

A couple of weeks ago, I learned a lesson of my own. Around 9:00pm, I was driving home from the Clay Center. The sun was setting, I was tired, and I wanted to get home to my little boy. As I pulled onto my street, I noticed there were two cars stopped in front of me. My road was flooded. These cars were sedans, both smaller than my SUV. There were other vehicles behind me too. I couldn’t turn around. I was stuck. We all were.

After about 10 minutes of waiting, the vehicles in front of me decided to chance it. I watched as one car after the other drove successfully through a 20 yard stretch of muddy standing water. Without a second thought, I followed suit. Only I didn’t make it. Halfway into my pursuit, my SUV began to steam and grumble. The engine hissed and clanked and my vehicle came to a stall.

I managed to get my car out of the water, but it wouldn’t go any further. It was dark and I was alone. A phone call later and my dad and brother came to my rescue. Upset that I caused such an inconvenience, I fought back tears. I felt so stupid. Why on earth did I drive through that water? I really didn’t think anything bad would happen. Everyone else was doing it. But that was no excuse. This wasn’t like me. I knew better. I was frustrated with myself.

The following morning we took my car, whom I call Daisy, to the auto repair shop. Turns out Daisy would need to stay there for a while.

Recently I had a meeting at Recovery Point in Charleston. Recovery Point in Charleston is a 100-bed program providing women with long-term residential treatment from drugs and alcohol. When I arrived to my meeting, I was flustered and in a hurry. I’d forgotten to eat lunch and was still upset about my vehicle being in the shop. The car I was driving didn’t have Bluetooth and I couldn’t listen to my podcasts. Yup, I showed up to an addiction recovery center FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF. What? Thank you life, yet again, for another shift in perspective.

As I stepped into the facility I was greeted with warmth and happy faces. Every resident and staff member of Recovery Point has been through, or is working through, the recovery process. Some of the women are in long-term recovery, some are peer mentors who recently graduated, and some are just starting the detox phase of the program. The length of stay in this facility is 9-12 months.

These women have been through so much. Many of them have lost their jobs, homes, families, children and independence…and somehow, they were smiling at me. I felt selfish. I had a lot of compassion for these women. They were facing some difficult consequences. My heart broke for their families, too.

I realized, about 10 minutes into the tour, that this visit was the first time I’d stepped foot into a recovery facility since Thanksgiving Day 2014, when I took my infant son to see his father at an out of state treatment center in North Carolina. The family visitation room at Recovery Point was lovely and peaceful with pink and yellow paint on the walls, a comfy sofa and many toys. I remembered what it was like when my son visited with his dad. There was no special room for us. It was a challenge to find privacy and the whole visitation process was uncomfortable and emotional for everyone involved. I was grateful that these women (and their families) had such a nice room for their visits.

I cried as I looked at the bunk beds and the women’s personal belongings…nail polish, brightly colored blankets, pictures of their loved ones. I watched the women as they cleaned the industrial sized kitchen and prepped for upcoming meals. Cooking for over 100 people is no easy task. I stood in the doorway of the laundry room and played with one of their three house kittens as the women folded clothes and placed them into personalized laundry bags. I heard them giving support, love and encouragement to one another. It was inspiring to see.

I’ve been working on a master’s degree in clinical and mental health counseling. One of my recent assignments was to write a paper on what makes me a resilient person. This was a difficult paper to write. “Resilient” is not a word I used to describe myself.

The American Psychological Association describes resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”

I thought about the women at Recovery Point. How many times had they lectured themselves the same way I did when I drove through that flood water?

I didn’t think anything bad would happen. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Everyone else was doing it. This isn’t like me. I know better.  

I learned, as I wrote my paper, that my ability to bounce back from my bad decisions has a lot to do with my level of self-compassion. The more critical I am of myself, the less resilient I tend to be.

The women at Recovery Point – those women are resilient. They inspired this blog post. Think of all the “bouncing back” they’ve had to do. Witnessing their resiliency reminded me that I am resilient too…because I am learning to treat myself with kindness and compassion and I’m beginning to accept that my mistakes do not have to define me.

Erin Stroup has been the Development Director at KPCC Counseling since 2014. She’s the author of the First World Problems blog and a Families Motivating Recovery support group leader.