When Experts Don’t Have Personal Experience

When Experts Don’t Have Personal Experience

There will come a point in time (if you’re not there already) when you’re ready to work with professionals, be it a therapist, a lawyer, some help supporting your children, a mediator, among others. The list goes on and on. In my experience, choosing the best professional to fit your situation is pivotal. Knowing when you need to hire, who you need to hire, and how to hire them is essential. And maybe even more importantly, when you need to fire them.

If you have been listening to the recent podcast episodes in order (or reading the accompanying blog posts), we’re going to take a little bit of a break this week from learning about covert aggression. We’ve been doing a series of teachings on that, which you can go back and check out here and here. The reason we’re taking a break from that is because I had a topic come up that I really, really wanted to talk to you about.

For those of you that follow me on Instagram, you may remember I went and spoke on a panel in New York City a few weeks ago. It was absolutely fascinating. I loved it so much. It was a wonderful experience that I was scared to death of, but I managed it.

It was a beautiful setting with a room full of women who are suffering and going through a divorce because they love someone that has a problem with addiction.

The panel of experts were all amazingly impressive people.

We had a professor who teaches a class at Columbia, there was a woman who is a psychologist, a lawyer, and a mediator. It was massively impressive.

I had so many takeaways from this experience, and one of them was this: None of the experts, who were absolutely brilliant people and had tons of insightful information to share with those women, none of them had experienced loving someone suffering from addiction.

Their advice was incredibly powerful, and here’s the “but”, and this is the reason why I wanted to write this post. Although their information served the audience so well, there were some of them that gave advice that would be terrific for the typical divorce, but not terrific when you’re dealing with the bully called addiction.

Addiction will do anything to get us cornered and scare us so that we’ll back down from asking for what we really need, and what we really deserve. It will use desperate attempts to intimidate us and will go to very scary lengths.

Sometimes very well meaning experts do not understand this.

They think we’re just mad, angry women who are out to get revenge like everybody else.

I remember I had to get a restraining order when I was getting a divorce. My lawyer said to me, “Michelle, you are going to have to go in there and prove to the court that you need a restraining order.” This was shocking to me because I thought, “What do you mean? I’m having the courage to come forward and say, ‘I need the court to protect me.’ That’s huge, that feels incredibly scary to me, and now I have to go prove that I need this? Are there women that go in there and fake this? Why would that possibly be?”

I remember waiting in line at the courthouse. There was literally a line to get a restraining order, and you had to go into this small, little, tiny room with this very nice, lovely lady who had one lamp on so she created a very intimate setting. It was dim, there wasn’t overhead lights. We had to wait in line to go see this lady, who basically had the authority to judge our stories and decide. She would either say “yes” we can walk out with a piece of paper that says, basically, the person we’re trying to get protection from cannot come within a certain amount of feet from us. Or she can say, “No, your story does not sound convincing enough. You’re on your own.”

The reason I mention this is because it was eye-opening to me that there are experts, authority figures, people, lawyers, therapists, decision makers out there that don’t get what we’re going through.

They’re way too analytical about it, way too logical.

They’re judging us, but they’ve never been in our shoes. And, the truth is, they might even be biased. There was a time I remember going into a therapist’s office, and it was a man, and I was telling him what was going on in my marriage. He basically told me that it was completely normal behavior, and that I just need to be more tolerant. I remember walking out of his office and thinking, “Never again. That’s not the guy for me.”

That’s what I want to encourage you with today. I want to encourage you that if you are having the courage, if you have found your voice, if you’ve been advocating for yourself, and you’ve taken the step to go to an authority or an expert… and they do not respect your feelings, you have options. If you feel like they’re not on the same page as you, it’s completely okay to fire them.

There are plenty of lawyers, mediators, litigators, and/or other professionals out there for you to choose from.

There are plenty of therapists that you can go to that are good. They’ll listen to you, and be on the same page. Don’t settle for somebody who doesn’t get it.

Now, I’m not sitting here saying that you need to find somebody who’s going to tell you exactly what you want to hear and back you up entirely. Because that makes it super comfortable for you.

The experts that I hired, my team of people, they said some things that really challenged me, that prickled my heart a little. But I knew they were coming from a place of caring. I knew they were honest and truthful things that would ultimately benefit me and my kids.

I was completely naive about how to get a divorce. And so the first lawyer that I ever went to I walked into her office not knowing. While I was going up the elevator into the building, I thought I’d sign a piece of paper and then I’d be going down the elevator a divorced woman. That’s how naive I was.

Not only did this lawyer talk down to me, but she said, “Look Michelle, you’re going to have to get a job.” Because I was a stay-at-home mom at the time. She asked what I planned on doing for income. And she was an expert. One of the best of the best.

I said, “Well I thought I would, you know, I was thinking about becoming an interior designer. I love design, it’s always been a passion of mine.” And I am a good interior designer.

She said, “Ugh, I can not tell you how many women come in here during a divorce saying they’re going to be an interior designer, and you got to get realistic. You got to think of something else. Don’t waste your time going back to school for that.”

I remember feeling so defeated, because here’s the truth: Maybe she was right, maybe that would be a waste of time. But maybe she was wrong.

Either way, it wasn’t her place to say that. I needed a different professional. She should have looked at me in that room and said, “I think that’s a wonderful idea that deserves you to explore more. Go and find a local college, see how much classes are, take a look at some interior designers that you think you would be interested in following. Do some research to see what a day in the life of an interior designer would be. Maybe consider an option B, or an option C. Either way, you seem like an incredibly smart woman who is very capable, and I am sure you will find the perfect job for you.”

That is what support sounds like. It doesn’t sound like somebody who rolls their eyes and goes “ugh” to me. So guess what I did? I went home, and I felt a little hurt. I felt a little worried, and I fired her.

And I found a lawyer that supported me, and I went through about four or five therapists until I found one that changed my life. That made the entire difference, and was so instrumental in my life for so long. The therapist I found, the right one, she actually married me and my husband. My second husband. Her name is Carol. For those of you in my programs, you may have heard me talk about her there in some of the stories and teachings.

So here’s what I’m saying: be picky.

Find somebody that honors you. Don’t be afraid to walk away, and do not … And hear me now, I say this with total love and kindness in my heart… do not beat yourself up or think there’s something wrong with you if you didn’t find the right support team the first time around.

It’s normal to go through a few different experts to get to the one that fits your needs. It’s not your fault.

While we’re on that topic, I want to say something really quickly. This is another loving reminder: Nothing that is going on in your life that has anything to do with addiction is your fault. I promise you. You’re a good, loving woman. A kind wife or partner.

And if you were with somebody who wasn’t struggling with addiction, I’m positive you’ll have a very happy marriage. You will be very safe, and very secure.

This disease brings a lot of drama, a lot of trauma, a lot of chaos. And you’re learning how to deal with that on a regular basis, and that would drive anybody else (the average person) crazy.

You’re not crazy; you’re actually just trying to cope.

Your experts need to understand that too. Whether you decide to leave, or whether you decide to stay, because we do not do judgment in our community and I do not push an agenda one way or the other. Both have a place, staying and leaving, in our community.

But the fact is, if you decide to leave, or if you decide to stay, you’re going to have to do the work if you want to be happy. Whether that’s with a professional expert, on your own, So keep doing the work. I believe in you. I’m your greatest cheerleader, and I’m here to tell you, you can do this.

Set yourself some goals and follow through. Do not give up on yourself. Do not doubt yourself. You are wise. Trust your gut, listen to your instincts, you’ve got this.

I love you guys, and I’ll be back next week.

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.

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