The Red Robin Got Me to Counseling


A couple Sundays ago, Tony and I had a date night.  We were looking forward to having a little dinner after a long week with 5 blending kids home over Thanksgiving break.  Lord, have mercy!  So, we settled on a quiet, little, quaint restaurant called, “Red Robin,” (how we ended up there, I’ll never know), with a drink menu in front of us.  And in that moment, a drink sounded pretty relaxing and adult.   

Now, I’m what I like to call a tea totaling drinker.  I started drinking at about age 35, so I’m a bit of a late bloomer on the drinking stage.  I think I finish about one out of every 10 to 15 drinks (including the itty bitty tiny Lime-a-rita cans).  And I’ve never been drunk or even close, I don’t think.  And if there was ever a chance I would be, that chance is gone, after the events that unfolded on that Sunday. 

In true Holly fashion, I ordered a “skinny” margarita.  One with just a trace of alcohol.  What they ended up bringing me, (and I’m still not sure if Tony had anything to do with this) was a heavy alcohol laden margarita, on accident.  Not wanting to be difficult, I graciously accepted the mistake margarita. 

What I didn’t know about myself, was that when I drink, I get quite emotional.  Or, at least, I did that Sunday.  Next thing I know, Tony’s wife was most definitely without the edge, but in it’s place was emotions on heavy steroids.  I began to pour out the hurts of the past four years . . . starting with not ever getting Negusu. I cried the whole way home. I’m pretty sure that is not what Tony was hoping to get when the drinks were put before us.  Yikes!

Not being too far out of it, to know what I said, I wondered if there was any merit to my emotions.  Have I ever really unpacked not getting Negusu?  It only happened right before Dave died.  Have I really unpacked the reality that I can no longer run or ski hard or play hard on the volleyball court?  Have I ever even fully unpacked Dave’s death?  I really thought I did.  Or do you ever fully unpack it?  Does it always just keep changing? 

Anyway, that led me to setting up a counseling appointment.  I was in the door of the counselor’s office for about 10 seconds before the flood of tears just came.  After I poured out my story, he just said, “Welcome.”  To me, what he said, was , “welcome to your first day of healing.”  I think I’ve done a pretty good job of moving forward and looking at the positive and not holding onto the past and surviving and fighting, but I’m not sure I’ve done a good job of healing. 

One of the big things that I brought up, was that I have never been an angry person, but I keep finding myself teetering into the land of anger.  It could be with my kids or with Tony or for the love, with Comcast, but I just keep surprising myself with that unwanted emotion.  I don’t feel like I am myself when I have crossed over into angry territory.  So, when I told the counselor that, (I’m sure ya’ll already know this), he said that anger is like a two sided coin. Anger is on one side and pain is on the other. I always thought it was fear on the other side of anger . . . not pain. For some reason, fear felt easier to deal with, like I could do something about that, but how do you deal with pain.  You can’t just talk yourself out of it.  

I am Holly Sue Bonnell Aldridge Walls and I am not supposed to be filled with this pocket of pain.  I had a great childhood, I made good choices, I work hard, I’m generally nice, I have a decent amount of compassion for others, I typically drink in life and love and laughing.  In a karma world, I should not have so much pain, I don’t think.  I’m so sad that I do. Yet, I am also so thankful for this pain and I’m not saying this in a sort of, “look on the bright side,” sort of way.  I am not saying it in a churchy sort of “give thanks in all circumstances” sort of way.  I’m saying it in a “my need for Jesus is so raw and so deep and so precious,” sort of way.  And that is my treasure in the pain.  

I think for me, this is different than depression.  I have regained so much joy in my life and I don’t feel like there is always this underlying sadness.  But I think there is this grizzly chunk of pain in me that I have never tended to.  But I’m ready.   

My favorite ornament on the tree this year is one that says. “HOPE.”  I am so full of hope for real healing in the coming months and years. One quote that I love for this season, that Ann Voskamp said in a little video was, “Instead of explaining our suffering, God shares in it, because he knows that mere answers are cold, and his arms are warm.”  Preach it, Ann!  I just love it.  Since she is a professional, I will leave you today with her quote once again.  I have a gazillion more things to write about and talk about this Christmas, but I’ll try to break it up a little.  

 “Instead of explaining our suffering, God shares in it, because he knows that mere answers are cold, and his arms are warm.” – Ann Voskamp



Christina’s Take

Raw and Real words as you sail into the 3rd anniversary of Dave’s death after so so much has happened. The boldest part of this post is “Welcome to your first day of healing.” I read that in 2 ways;

1) you can decide the counselor Is welcoming you into the land of therapy and getting through some of your beautifully intense emotions.


2) you can read it like he’s saying you’re welcome to choose the healing path, you are welcome to take this step in the right direction but you’re the one who has to be brave enough to set the next appointment, do the hard work of identifying the pain and the anger.

I am challenged by that. And I love your heart…every angle of it. Thanks for sharing it with us. 

Megan’s Take: Sometimes emotions hit us when we least expect it. Like at Red Robin, nursing a stiff margarita after a stressful week with a bazillion kids! On second thought, it’s no wonder you let down like you did. Sounds like you needed the catharsis and the drink may or may not have been the trigger. You truly have gone through so much in the last few years. I’m guessing the waves will continue to ebb and flow and consume and retreat at will. I love Christina’s assessment of the word “welcome.” Isn’t it just a two-sided door? Your counselor opened it. You walked through it and now it’s up to you both how you navigate the dance from here. Proud of you for taking that step, friend. xoxo

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