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Conversations with the Inspiring Megan Aronson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Aronson.

Megan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I live by one rule: we can always rise again. I have been knocked down more times than I can count, experienced more suffering in ten years than most will in a lifetime, and it has taught me how to save myself, time and again. It has taught me how to be a master at getting back up from rock bottom.

I was a typical middle-class Mom, living in the idyllic red rocks of Sedona, AZ when the recession hit, and we lost everything – our home, my job, and a baby, to a devastating miscarriage. But, that was just the beginning. Over the next five years, twenty-one people we knew and loved would pass away. Most of them were under the age of 50. One was my daughter’s five-year-old best friend.

I nicknamed myself The Grim Reaper Girl after death #12. I felt so alone in my grief because in American culture, we really don’t talk about death, instead, we send messages to, “Stay strong,” “soldier on,” and, “put on a brave face.” I found out the only way to go is through, not around the pain. If you don’t allow yourself time to express your sorrow and honor your losses, that pain finds a way to get the attention it needs from booze, sex, addiction or self-numbing on the smartphone. I took the time to pay attention to the grief, to walk myself through it compassionately. I decided I would take the pain and use it for good, to help others going through similar losses, so I started writing to share the wisdom I had gained.

Then, in 2013, I discovered that my husband and soulmate of ten years had been hiding a deadly addiction to opioids. The strength I had built up over five years of tragedy had born in me the courage to finally make a stand for my family. After a decade of failed interventions, I finally kicked him out and became a single Mom to three kids overnight. Left to recover our lives from the effects of his addiction – ransacking my own home for drugs, filing police reports and Protection Orders – I was determined to divorce him. But, the moment I saw him again in court I recognized my soulmate again, sober forty-some days now. I hated him, I loved him – could I ever forgive him?

What happened next is proof that we can always rise again. Proof that inexplicable changes can come about, even when we least expect them. My family survived America’s opioid epidemic, and the story of how we did it is now my forthcoming memoir, Rise Again.

In all I’ve been through, I’ve learned that rockbottom is one of the best places to be, because surrender always ignites rebirth. I’ve learned that “No one is coming to save you,” and so, we must learn to save ourselves. The choice to save yourself is just that – a choice that says, simply, “I will not accept this anymore, I will push for more.” Putting that choice into action, as Tony Robbins says, we find that, “Emotion follows motion,” and we can save ourselves.

I lived so long in the sorrow, it almost killed me. When I finally stood up and decided to fight for my joy, I found the greatest strength of all. With lots of help, I pulled myself out of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating seizure disorder, depression, anxiety and chronic illness. This year, I have traveled to Maui and San Francisco, attended a major writing conference to share my story with the world, and bought my dream home!

The hits really have not stopped coming since 2009. Last year, a loved one committed suicide, two of my beloved friends passed away, and a close loved one was diagnosed with cancer. But, I keep writing, I keep fighting, I keep making the choice to get back up and try once more because all this has taught me, we can always, always rise again, and honestly, what we find in ourselves in the process of rising again, can only be found there.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The best advice I could give other women, especially young women just starting out on the journey is, “No one’s coming to save you.” Life is not like the fairy tales we grew up with. Learn to be your own best friend. Train yourself to have compassionate, empathetic, uplifting self-talk. Build yourself up, don’t beat yourself up. Get up every morning and take an hour to yourself, or at least fifteen to thirty minutes, to be still, to exercise, to go for a walk, to start your day off by filling your own inner well. Own your morning and you’ll own your day. Take time to nurture your creative talents because they will carry you through the hard times. Never forget to incorporate rest and play into your schedule, and constantly ask yourself, “Am I trying to meet my own standards or someone else’s?” In this day in age, it’s so easy to compare ourselves to others, especially on social media. Set your own standards and strive only, to better than you were the day before.

There have been a lot of points on my journey that have been extremely isolating, where I felt like no one understood me. When I was diagnosed with an unusual seizure disorder, no one I knew had ever dealt with something similar, much less while raising four young kids. I think as women, we have to be the tribe for each other and when we see someone going through a similar struggle, we must speak up and say, “I’ve been there, too, and I’m here to walk alongside you in your journey if you need.” The first woman I met with the same seizure disorder changed my life, just by being herself and sharing her story.

Living a life of service to others is essential to finding contentment and serenity. Being a part of a tribe is the second most essential key to happiness. If you don’t have a tribe of people who “get” you, go hunt them down or build a tribe of your own. There’s nothing like being in a room full of people who understand exactly what you’re going through, who can walk alongside you through it.

Last, but most importantly, take the red “S” off your chest. You do not need to be Superwoman. Be willing to go against the grain of our “do it yourself” society and ask for help. I survived my husband’s addiction, the deaths of 28 people, PTSD, depression, anxiety, a seizure disorder and four kids, because I asked for help, consistently, because I fought my own urge to prove something to the world by “going it alone.” I’ve found that we are always better in collaboration. I know it’s hard – we often build our identities, unconsciously, around how much we can accomplish single-handedly. It feels like a failure of character to need help; a weakness. In truth, the people you surround yourself with are your greatest strength, and allowing them to give to you is a reward for them as well.

I like to think of myself as a “Recovering Everything.” I’ve found my greatest freedom in being willing, to be honest, and vulnerable, sharing my struggles, and my triumphs, equally. I encourage other women to do the same because you’ll find out you’re not alone in feeling insecure, overwhelmed, stressed or outdone. Everyone’s always recovering from something – a loss, a disappointment, a setback, a failure – if we speak them out loud to each other, they transform from shameful secrets and private lives to open hearts and meaningful connection.

What should we know about Rise Again? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am the author of the forthcoming memoir, “Rise Again: How to Save a Life.” Told with electrifying honesty and suspense, “Rise Again” is an unlikely story of forgiveness and redemption that speaks to an ever-growing epidemic of opiate abuse in America. For every one addict/alcoholic, there lies a trail of many left in its wake: family members, friends, spouses, and children who have also been altered by addiction. A recent survey showed that over half of Americans have a loved one who suffers from or has died from addiction. I was a typical middle-class Mom of three, and I became one of them. Because I had faced so many tragedies and challenges before meeting the beast of addiction, I was prepared to use hitting rock bottom as a launching pad. Now, I share my story to inspire not just addicts and their families, but humanity, that we can turn any loss – mental illness, divorce, job loss, the death of a child, the devastation of addiction (all of which I’ve experienced) – into a launching pad, not a docking station.

In 2008, I was a woman who just wanted the recognition and validation of success in her career as a TV Show Host and Advertising Executive. I wanted the nice cars in the driveway, the new home, the 2.5 children and 2.5 dogs. After we lost everything, I didn’t care about any of that anymore. I cared most about the value I had in other people’s lives. I wanted to be to others what an exceptional few had been to me through the darkest days of my life. Love saved my life a million times – in the guise of empathy, understanding, compassion and generosity. People who showed up in my life and said, “I see you, I hear you, I understand what you’re going through,” gave me the will to keep fighting, to keep getting back up again and again.

Now, I’m on a mission to show up for others in the same way, to use the written and spoken word to encourage, inspire, uplift and empower a generation. Whether it is face to face, one to one or through letters on a page that come together to deliver an underlying message of understanding, I write and speak about how it hurts to fall and what it takes to rise again, encouraging others to live, grieve, and love out loud.

Last year, I shared a talk titled, “I Don’t Need Help” at the international This My Brave show in Sedona, AZ highlighting mental health awareness. The video of that talk has received thousands of views and led to an invitation to open the 3rd Annual Mental Health Summit at Cliff Castle Auditorium. Even more importantly, it helped a dear friend of mine who stumbled onto it just after her son had attempted suicide. I chronicle my ongoing journey of recovery very openly on my blog, “A Writer’s Journey Inside Out” and through social media. I am most proud that many people see me as a face of hope in these tumultuous times.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
The greatest advice I could give to a young woman just starting out in her career is to be willing to be uncomfortable. Whatever is put in your path, instead of cursing it, embrace it. Instead of, “I can’t handle this,” say, “I can handle this.” One of the keys to success is believing in your ability to figure things out. Think back to a time when you struggled and came up against the wall after wall – you thought you’d never figure it out but then, bam, you had a breakthrough. Believe that you can do that again and again. You can find the resources, the inner strength, the education, the community, to help you learn and overcome. Discomfort serves a purpose – it propels us to grow and change, to become better than we were before. So, when things get difficult, trust yourself, know that with time and patience, you can and will figure it out. Believe for the best, expect the best, yet be willing to adjust yourself to whatever comes and use it to turn your breakdowns into breakthroughs.

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Image Credit:

Megan Aronson, Larry Kane

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Veronika

    July 24, 2018 at 1:37 am

    You are just so incredibly inspiring, Megan. Thank you for sharing your story and your heart with us. What a powerful message that so many of us need to hear! Its a lifesaver to know that we are all in this together. 🙂

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