#SWAAYthenarrative

How Heartbreak Defined A Mother's Career

People

When Carrie Meghie lost her son, Jackson at the young age of 10 months, she didn’t want to sulk or feel sorry for herself, she wanted to do something. She created the Jackson Chance Foundation, an organization that helps ease the burden for parents with children in the NICU by providing transportation assistance via free parking or public transportation vouchers. Jackson spent the majority of his short life in the NICU and Meghie, along with her husband Terry realized that some families were unable to be there daily, like they were, because parking was cost prohibitive. At some hospitals parking alone can cost over $1,100 a month. Pretty immediately after Jackson passed the idea sparked for the 501 (c) (3).


“I felt so blessed to be his mom and didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. Instead I thought, why was he so happy?” she says. “Because we were there for him everyday. It [The foundation] just kind of happened. Let’s honor him, give other babies joy to be with their families.”

The growth and response of the Jackson Chance Foundation has been amazing. Since its inception in 2012 the organization has raised over two-million dollars and provides completely free parking at both Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago.

Meghie and the foundation are focusing on longer term goals now to establish longevity and expand to other hospitals nationwide as they see a need. In 2016 she was nominated as both a CNN Hero and Chicagoan of the Year.

“It was so overwhelming to be selected and so bittersweet. It’s such a testament to supporters and donors. The awareness and credibility that it’s provided has been fantastic,” she says.

Entrepreneurship and strong leadership have always been a part of who Meghie is. In addition to running the foundation, and being a mom, she is also co-president of Becker Ventures, a private investment equity company. Meghie oversees the hospitality division which includes Chicago’s Hard Rock Hotel and an authentic Jamaican restaurant with two locations – Mr. Brown’s Lounge.

For Meghie, being in charge of so much comes down to prioritizing.

"I have to decide what I can do and when I can do it. Really prioritize and decide which is on the top of the list on each day,” she says.

She also keeps many of her ventures close to home so she can better balance. She works with her sister at Becker Ventures and her husband on the Jackson Chance Foundation. Even her children have been able to contribute to the foundation, raising money on their birthdays instead of getting presents. “They’ve been able to know about their brother in ways that I would have never thought.”

When it comes down to it, Meghie believes that the reason the foundation has done well is because the idea is really attainable to people. “The organization was created by two parents who found a need that other parents needed themselves. People know exactly where their money is going to,” she says. Even the smaller amounts can have an impact—a $20 donation can give a day with the baby.”

As for her personal success, she attributes it to following her gut. “My biggest regrets I have are when I didn’t follow what I was thinking. Listen to what others have to say, but definitely follow your gut.”

The Quick Ten

1. What app do you most use?

Currently (& unfortunately), I am obsessed with Farfetch. They have an amazing & unique selection and it’s far too easy.

2. Briefly describe your morning routine.

Each morning I spend with my 3-year-old having breakfast and getting ready for school. We wake up, snuggle, and cook something together. Depending on the day, Dad and big brother will join us. Then it’s either off to drop him at preschool or off to the office.

3. Name a business mogul you admire.

My father and mentor.

4. What product do you wish you had invented?

This is a tough one and I got nothing!

5. What is your spirit animal?

The owl.

6. What is your life motto?

Don’t waste your worry.

7. Name your favorite work day snack.

Chocolate of any kind!

8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful?

Forward thinking.

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?

Zimbabwe.

10. Desert Island. Three things, go.

My family (does that count as one?), diet coke (ugh, my vice), and a little reggae music.

5 min read
Health

3 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress Each Evening (Instead of Reaching for Another Cocktail)

When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.

The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.

While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.

Risks of Reaching for Another Drink

Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.

Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.

While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.

Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress

Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!

Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
  2. Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
  3. Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.

Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.

Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First

It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.

However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.

If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.

I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.