Peace, Happiness, Kindness and Grace

Wife of a Skyland Trail adult program graduate

Everyone has to be “all in” for things to truly get better.

A few years ago, my husband was willing to put his entire life aside, question everything he knew to be true, and go into treatment at Skyland Trail. I knew that if he was making such a tremendous sacrifice, then I had to do the same.

From the very beginning, I attended Skyland Trail’s Family STEP meetings. STEP was instrumental in and the cornerstone of building a community for me. While my husband was becoming part of a community with his peers in treatment, I was making meaningful connections with the amazing and supportive families in STEP. My family wouldn’t be doing nearly as well as we are today without the unparalleled support I received from the families and staff at STEP. The STEP community is so strong that many families continue to join the weekly meetings  for years after their loved ones graduate from Skyland Trail and continue to provide—and receive—support, connection, and encouragement. STEP makes such a difference for so many families, and it made an immeasurable difference for me.

STEP helped me understand that mental illness is not simply an individual issue. It’s a system-wide problem that needs a system-wide approach to achieve consistent and lasting change. Everyone has to be “all in” for things to truly get better. Everyone who’s part of someone’s system—their spouse, their family, their relatives—has to make changes, learn how to support one another effectively, become comfortable asking for help, and invest the time to work through incredibly difficult issues. STEP also taught me the invaluable lesson that the real road to recovery happens after Skyland. That road is long, winding, exhausting, and difficult, yet immensely rewarding. Recovery is a life-long journey that we take together.

After Skyland Trail, we both continue to engage in individual and family therapy, and we use what we’ve learned each day. Now we have a level of peace, happiness, kindness, and grace that we never had before. Of course there are still hard days. Life isn’t linear, but we can move forward with a level of hope, optimism, support, and understanding that my husband had long yearned and strived for but that I never even knew was possible.

Communication can be difficult, even in the best situations; however, we have the tools now that if something is bothering one of us, we can bring it up in a safe space with a common language. We have an ability to enjoy life in a way we had never had before.

For me, it’s foundational to stay connected to the Skyland Trail community and STEP particularly.  In addition to supporting other families through STEP, I look forward to giving my time to Skyland by volunteering for hands-on projects to connect with and benefit clients and families. This ties everything together for me because outside of treatment, the greatest gift Skyland gave me was connection. The pandemic has reminded us all that when everything else is stripped away, relationships and connections—kindness and grace—are all that matter . I will forever be thankful to Skyland Trail and the staff and families of STEP for welcoming me and my husband into this life-changing community.

This article was published in Journeys Magazine 2021