"When I was younger, I never imagined I'd end up where I am today. Life has a way of unfolding in unexpected ways. Though the path has been winding, I've learned that embracing uncertainty and having an open heart can lead to a life filled with meaning, purpose and joy. By letting go of expectations and trusting in the journey, we open ourselves up to life's beauty and wonder."Life is often full of unexpected twists and turns, and sometimes our waking dreams and aspirations take us down paths we never imagined. Looking back on my journey, I realize how much my life has been shaped by the experiences I shared with my sister, Cheryl, with whom growing up, I shared a room, and the lessons I learned from her struggles with addiction.

We lived in many houses before our teens, but our last shared living situation was at a small bungalow at 253 Abbott Street in East Forest Park, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Our home, a post-World War I house built for returning veterans, was where my mother made her first property purchase. It was a place filled with both good and bad memories, where we weathered the storms of life together.

Cheryl was already a year and a month older than me. When I was a young child, she was my protector, shielding me from the chaos of our parents’ drunken brawls. Our childhood was not easy, and we faced traumatic events that left indelible marks on our lives. But despite it all, Cheryl still took on the role of my guardian.

However, as we grew older, our paths diverged. Cheryl’s life took a different turn, and she spiraled into addiction, seeking solace in substances that only brought her more pain. It was heartbreaking to witness her struggles, and my resentment towards her grew. As a younger sibling I felt inadequate compared to her and tried to be as smart and beautiful as she was, but it seemed I could never measure up. So for her to “waste her life away”, my judgement, made me dismissive of her for years.

In the midst of my own journey, I had a reading with a psychic named Liza, who urged me to make peace with Cheryl and the past. Taking her advice to heart, I initiated a final conversation with my sister that lasted for several years. As I opened myself up to her, I learned about the pain she carried, the battles she fought, and her dreams that never came to fruition.

Despite her hardships, Cheryl loved me deeply. In her own way, she had been my protector, cleaning up the aftermath of our parents’ fights and being there for me in times of need. She once told me about a book she was writing, titled, “If You Had Asked Me What I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up, It Was Not This!” These words now echo in my mind, reminding me of the dreams she once held and how life took her on a different path.

Cheryl’s life took a tragic turn when she suffered a massive stroke. Her health declined rapidly, and she blamed my mother and me for her struggles, seeking someone to hold responsible for her lack of purpose and direction. Despite the pain, I remained by her side, making time for her as she had asked.

A few weeks ago, I had a profound experience. My sister, who had passed away, appeared to me as an apparition in a dream. She was alive and vibrant, and it seemed that postmortem, her vitality of spirit was returned. Her life had been filled with struggles, and her final battle came in the form of a stroke that crushed her spirit and pride. Before her passing, she had been living in a “rehabilitation” nursing home in South East Boston, which was likely a difficult time for her. Prior to that, life had taken a heavy toll on her, leaving her essentially homeless, sleeping on the couch of an ex-partner. She lived in her car, a Honda gifted to her by our mother, until an unfortunate accident resulted in the car being confiscated and impounded. Our mother had made numerous attempts to help her get back on her feet, but my sister’s struggles with addiction prevented her from finding her way in life.

In the end, we made peace, and I cherish the last decade of her life, during which we found understanding and compassion for each other. Cheryl was a spiritual and sensitive soul, but life’s hardships had left her vulnerable to addiction. I, too, had faced temptations and challenges, but I was fortunate to find mentors and support that helped me avoid a similar path.

Cheryl’s addiction battle had a profound impact on me, prompting me to confront my own demons and seek a better life. I struggled with being judgmental and self-righteous, but her journey taught me to be more compassionate and open-minded. Through introspection and healing, I realized that we all have our battles, and we should strive to understand and support one another.

Today, as I write this cathartic piece about Cheryl’s visit to me in a dream, I remember the last time we spoke, and she assured me that we were good. That memory fills me with a sense of closure and peace.

Looking back, I am grateful for the lessons I learned from Cheryl’s life. Her struggles reminded me of the importance of compassion, understanding, and the value of seeking help when needed. Life is not always what we expect it to be, but through our challenges, we can find strength and a deeper connection with ourselves and those we love.

As I continue on my spiritual path, I hold space for my sister’s memory, recognizing the pain and suffering as an empath that she endured. As I work with others on their healing journeys, I draw upon the lessons learned from my sister’s life, striving to offer empathy and guidance to those who are battling their own demons. I will carry her love and our shared experiences in my heart, always striving to be a better version of myself, one day at a time.

It is important to remember that addiction is a complex and challenging issue that affects many lives. As a shaman, I have come to understand that addiction is not a simple matter of willpower, but rather a multifaceted struggle that requires compassion, understanding, support and Grace. While my sister’s journey was fraught with hardships, it is crucial to acknowledge that addiction is a disease that can take hold of even the brightest spirits.

In my role as a shaman, I seek to create a safe and nurturing environment for those who come to me seeking healing and transformation. I understand that each person’s journey is unique, and I approach my practice with an open heart and mind, recognizing that we are all connected in this intricate web of life.

Join Renee at the Global Exchange Conference in Orlando to learn how she recovered using Nature Based Interventions,

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