The ebbs and flows of our everyday being can at times, become difficult. Life can get overwhelming, and it can be really hard to maintain basic responsibilities. For the longest time, I took pride in the fact that I was able to overcome my issues with alcohol and mental health, all without treatment. I was strong, right? I thought that I had things figured out and under control. The bottom line, I did not have control.  An alcoholic never does. What I had done, is kept busy. I had filled my life with things that kept me and my mind in motion.  This, in turn, made me neglect the most important part of myself… me. I have yet to tell this story, but what better platform than the one I love the most?

Lauren Fagan in front of the water.

Three and a half years ago, after seven years sober, my mental health tanked. I started drinking again, and I really bottomed out. I never found out for sure, but I assume that my undiagnosed postpartum depression, mixed with an abundance of alcohol, fueled me into a downward spiral almost as fast as gasoline to a flame. I knew better, and yet, I still can’t explain why I thought I was bigger than something that I could never match. I can’t tell you why I was sad. I can’t tell you why I didn’t feel like I mattered enough. I can’t tell you why I couldn’t see that I was worthy. To me, it’s all a fog. The depths of my depression are, I guess, important to understand. I may regret putting these words on paper, but here we go. If my ugly and battered story can help someone rise above the ashes, I am here for it.

I would hide liquor. I would hide cans. I would go to bed sometimes, usually, passing out and not making it all the way there. I was totally incapable of taking care of myself. I was even more incapable and unworthy of caring for my children. I would wake up and start drinking. That’s right, what’s better than a 7 am vodka and whatever, right? I had no purpose that I could pinpoint. I was a disappointment to myself, to my kids, especially my oldest daughter. I was a disgrace to my family, I was a terrible friend, I was killing myself. I just didn’t care. And I knew better because I had already been here before. I know somewhere deep down, I did care. When I say that I don’t know that shell of a woman, I don’t. The woman who takes care of herself, who makes sure to get a workout in, who fuels herself with healthy food, who has a heart for others and for God, who lives to educate and nurture children, that is who I know. That is who I am, truly. Thank God for second chances and the humility to know better, even if we must tack “eventually” on the end. If you’re still breathing, it’s not too late, my friend.

I suppose we all have someone in us that we don’t care for. I had initially written this blog and finished it because I wanted to spotlight this amazing human being who gave me the tools and resources to live again. But I can’t highlight how important mental health and care are without telling a tidbit of my story. My story has ignited my passion to pursue a degree in Psychology. But that is only after I saw the amazing things and works that my (now) friend and mentor, Clarissa Kussin, offered me.

Lauren's Friend and mentor Clarissa KussinSo, let’s talk about her for a bit. Only after we connect some dots, though. First, I have to preface how I even met Clarissa. I met Clarissa through a friend of a friend, Ashley Kundrat. I had done a feature blog on Ashley back in 2019 about the death of her husband Billy, her family, and the traumas and beauty that come with being a Gold Star Family. Ashley is now one of my greatest friends, and when she found out I was at a breaking point, she stepped up and immediately introduced me to Clarissa. Talk about a “full circle” moment. HOPE has helped me in more ways than I could begin to explain.

Now, on to who I call a “Life Magician.” Clarissa is an N.D., FMCHC, E-RYT 500, and just an amazing human being. In my darkest days, even when she wasn’t supposed to be, she was a phone call away.  She helped me out of my hole.

Clarissa works at Warrior Wellness Solutions and Wellness Solutions Group, LLC With her husband, Elijah Sacra, a service-disabled Marine Corps Veteran. Warrior Wellness Solutions runs the first functional medicine-based nonprofit program for veterans struggling with toxic exposures, digestive health issues, chronic pain, and TBI. Wellness Solutions Group LLC spearheads the first functional medicine health coaching program in the VA Healthcare system at the War Related Illness & Injury Canter (WRIISC).

Clarissa helps Veterans and their families with various resources, such as Traditional Naturopathy, Functional Medicine Health Coaching, Meditation and Sound healing, Psychedelic Preparation and integration Coaching, Addiction Recovery Coaching (TA-DA!!!), and Spiritual Coaching. Clarissa says that the biggest mental health struggles she witnesses in both the active-duty and retired military community are ” the pressure of not being able to be transparent on how they actually feel for fear of judgment and believing the lie that they are broken and there are no solutions.” Clarissa loves to help people remember their greatness, and she is wonderful at it. She says that the most effective plan to address the issues in the Military and Caregiver communities is to take “a root-based approach, one that includes mind, body, and spirit. “Traditional Naturopathy and Functional Medicine excel at this,” she says.

While it is so important to listen to Doctors’ orders, it is also so important to realize what other options you have at your fingertips and the importance of whole body health. This is where I realized that I was lacking. I had totally derailed, and by being able to be open and honest about the problems that I was having and the obstacles that I had, I was able to get the help that I needed from someone that I trusted. I ended up going to a detox program and receiving outpatient treatment after that. I attended AA meetings and started doing things that I knew I needed to do to get healthy again. I gave myself grace and credit and realized that God was in charge of it all, and I needed to trust Him wholeheartedly in order to be the woman that He designed me to be.

Lauren and her kids.

Is there shame in this? Absolutely. There is still shame in this for me, and that is just me being honest. It’s embarrassing, it’s hard to talk about, and it’s something that I would never want to relive. And while I know that I am always a decision away from disaster, I have the tools and resources to make the choices that prevent that from happening.

I am so thankful for Clarissa. I am so thankful for this platform, which I have been blessed to use to tell my story. Coming out on the other side of this alcoholism and depression has saved my life. It has shown me a life that is so beautiful and so worth living. It has shown me that when there is a problem, crumbling and finding an excuse to derail is not an option. It has made me a better wife and shown me that I am only in control of myself. I cannot make my husband be anything he is not. It has shown me absolute beauty in being a mother that I had never seen before, even in the chaos that overwhelms me. It has made me slow down and appreciate the life that I have been blessed with. It has also made me quickly find the things I love! Not what the folks around me love, to appease or make them happy. It’s ok to be selfish with yourself when you’re healing!

I am here to tell you now that this life is worth living, and I mean, really living. I suggest having a mentor and/or a professional to help you navigate the hard stuff for anyone who is struggling. Admitting that you have the problem is not the shameful part. It’s sitting in solitary and doing nothing about it, that is.

The thought that this is the only life we must live, that this is our only shot at making the best of it, hits me hard to my core. I want to leave a mark on this world through my children, words, actions, and abilities. I don’t want to leave this world with the people I love feeling sorry for me because I lived a sad life and drank myself to death. What’s fun about that? I owe Clarissa so much. She helped me figure out who I am, and I love me. “Me” is the one thing I have total control over, and so do you.

Moving forward, think about what changes are on your radar. Make a list of some things that could help you improve who you are into who you want to become. My faith has played a huge role in my list. I could go on all day. I want to motivate anyone who is struggling to try something different. You deserve it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Fagan and family. Lauren Fagan is a veteran spouse and caregiver. Her husband, Osee, was an active-duty Reconnaissance Marine for 17 years and has multiple combat-related injuries. They have been together for nearly fifteen years and have four amazing children. Lauren is a schoolteacher by trade and loves reading, writing, creating, living the mermaid life, and being anywhere with her family. She is an active member of her church, and you can usually find her working in the Children’s Ministry there.

Lauren has a strong passion for helping veterans and has advocated for her husband and others through the non-profit she and her husband founded in 2017 in NE Florida called “Operation Barnabas, Inc.” The Fagan’s relocated back to North Carolina in 2021 and continue to assist veterans and their families through the “SpearIt Veteran Spearfishing Project.”

Lauren has written several blogs for Hope For The Warriors and hopes that in sharing her experiences as a caregiver and veteran spouse, the positive impact on other caregivers will be helpful and encouraging in some of their most trying times.

Lauren’s outlook has drastically changed with the seasons and transitions in her life. Seeing the beauty in each one has been pivotal in her mental health and the happiness of their family.