A FATHER ASKS, “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A father wrote to me: I have three sons. Two out of three have an addiction, and I have been dealing with this for six years with the oldest and five years with the youngest. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I try not to enable and am getting better. I write short stories about their lives and how their addictions have affected them and everyone else, but I can never seem to gather my thoughts fully in order to complete anything. Maybe it’s because I am always on my guard.

My reflection: As parents of addicted loved ones, we are forever on guard and our attention is scattered. Our lives become torturous and we find it almost impossible to concentrate on anything other than our child’s chaos. Even when they are clean and sober, we remain vigilant, watching and listening for any pattern of old – something that will give us a clue that our addict is using again. Every day is clouded with our fears and worries.

Today’s Promise to consider: Too often we make our children’s addictions personal and ask ourselves what are we doing wrong: are our boundaries not strong enough, are we enabling, should we step in with financial help, why one child and not the other? The questions are endless. Today, I’ll stop allowing addiction to beat me up. I’ll pray, reach out to my support group, and prioritize my spiritual program. I’ll remember that I’m not alone.

 

 

THE STRESS OF ADDICTION TAKES A TOLL

A dear friend, the mother of a recovering addict, recently wrote to me: I suffered greatly for ten long years with my son’s addiction. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was the importance of never loosing my voice to express my feelings, thoughts, and fears. I’ve also learned that that my body won’t be silenced either. If I waiver or loose focus on my personal self care, my body reacts (illness, rashes, digestive issues, fatigue, headaches, depression) and reminds me it has a voice too. I must continue to listen to my inner voice and stay balanced. It is essential for my health.

My reflection: The fact that our bodies react to stress is medically substantiated. Addiction brings incredible tension, especially to the family of the sick loved one. When my son was in active addiction, I plastered a smile on my face and went to work. I could fool some people, but I couldn’t fool my body. My health suffered.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction takes a hard toll on our spirit, mind, and body. The longer stress lasts, the more damaging it becomes. Those of us who love addicts often live with chronic tension. Today, I will pay attention when my body gives me signs and work on developing a specific program that helps me relieve stress: running, writing, taking to my support group, meditating, and praying. I must take care of myself.

 

NO ONE TO BLAME

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: My son was a star athlete in high school and at age seventeen he began his downward spiral into this insidious disease. I taught in the school district that he attended so it was doubly hard. I got calls just about every day from the RN to take him for a drug test. He would fall asleep in class or didn’t even show up for school. I blamed myself – his dad and I had separated before this nightmare began so I assumed he took drugs to medicate himself or to use as a band-aid.

My reflection: We parents often blame ourselves for our child’s addiction. We think that it must be our fault. Addiction is a nightmare and we want someone to accept responsibility for the sadness. The bottom line is that no amount of blame will break addiction’s grasp on my addicted loved one or our family.

Today’s Promise to consider: Most experts agree that addiction is an illness. Our family is affected by an addiction. Who is to blame? Today, I will point a finger at no one. I will accept what is. I will find support in the rooms of Al-Anon and in my higher power. I will go forward, one step at a time.

SUPERMAN WITH KRYPTONITE AROUND HIS NECK

A sister of an addict wrote to me: My heart bleeds for my mother. My brother’s addiction, his emotional battles, problems, and heartache hurt her terribly. Mom needs to know that she’s not alone. She needs to find her hope again. This has been her life’s battle. I wish I could bottle the son she once had and give him back to her. God knows I’ve tried, but sadly I’m not magic. There is nothing more than I want for her but for her to have her son back. And for me to have my brother back.

My reflection: Addiction is a family disease, and we all suffer. My younger son, Jeremy, once told me, “I tried my best to help take care of Jeff, but I was powerless. Jeff was like Superman with kryptonite around his neck.”

Today’s Promise: As the mother of an addicted child, I have the responsibility to take care of all my children. I will tell them that the addiction is not their fault, or their responsibility. No one can fix it, except the addict. We are powerless in the face of addiction. Today, I will listen to their concerns with love and support. Today I will be present for the important people in my life.

HIS HUMANITY WAS IN CONSTANT CONFLICT WITH HIS ADDICTION

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A recovering addict wrote to me: Libby, I was a good friend and fellow drug user with your son. I’ve been clean for three years. Your son was one of the few truly decent addicts I ever met, meaning that he had a kind side that most addicts had already destroyed within themselves. He actually CARED about what his drug use was doing to you, his brother and his dad. I remember when your father died and you had cancer. He drove over to my apartment and we talked late into the night. But after that, we went out and copped more drugs, came back, used, and he called into work and faked sick.

My reflection: Jeff and I have talked a lot about those years when my father died and I had cancer. He tried his addicted-best to be present during those times. His words held the truth, “I never wanted to hurt you, Mom. I love you. But I’m an addict.” Jeff’s humanity and love were in constant conflict with his illness.

Today’s Promise: My son tells me that addicts, even those who can’t mouth the words, despise the destruction they are causing, but they simply can’t imagine a life without drugs. Today, I will not feel guilt, regret, or shame. Today, I will live in hope and faith that my child comes home to us and to himself.

 

“I WISH OTHER PEOPLE COULD UNDERSTAND WHAT OUR LIVES WERE LIKE”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: My son was handsome, respectful, smart, athletic, and a funny young man. Unfortunately, at fifteen, he made a bad choice to experiment with drugs. His life and ours were never the same. He tried to get clean. In fact, he was clean for forty days before he died. I have been blessed with wonderful people in my life, but I know the average person looks down on people who do drugs. I wish other people could understand what our lives were like.

My reflection: Even with the recent public outcry about addiction, society often considers the addict an abyss of moral failure. Many people judge the addict’s family as non-caring, absent, abusive, or non-communicative. Those of us who have addicted children know that this illness doesn’t discriminate. Addiction happens in happy families and unhappy families.

A young addict once told me, “I was raised on a farm in Kansas. My mom and dad were always home, and my entire family worked together on the land. I was fully loved and my family was wonderful. I’m a heroin addict.”

Today’s Promise to consider: I realize that many people judge me when they hear that my son is a heroin addict. I understand that society might criticize me and hold me at fault, but these are the chains of addiction. Today, I will find strength in my support group and continue to love my child without regard for other’s opinions.

BETTER TOGETHER: A NEW WEBSITE

In 2010, we developed the Stay Close website and blog. We started with a small team of three dedicated people who believed that we could make a difference and bring hope to others who were facing addiction’s chaos. Jeff and I wrote weekly meditations, and Aamir Syed brought our vision to technological life. Mikele Roselli-Cecconi’s photos offered a visual interpretation of addiction.

This week, the first Thursday in 2018, we’re sharing with you a new site. Two creative women, sisters Maria and Carolina Usbeck, worked tenaciously to create a new digital presence for the website and blog. Jeff and Aamir helped along the way, while Davood Madadpoor, a talented street photographer in Florence, contributed many outstanding shots.

I thank all these people: Aamir, Carolina, Maria, Mikele, Davood and my son, Jeff. Our team invites you to take a look at the new site. Let us know what you think.

My reflection: There is power in a good and diverse team. Others bring talents, strengths, insights, and creativity that are unique to them. With addiction, the power of community is essential. I learned my greatest lessons in the rooms of Al-Anon, in conversations with another mother of an addicted child, or when listening to a recovering addict. I need others to help me. I think we all do.

 

WHAT I LEARNED FROM A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD

My seven-year-old granddaughter and I were traveling together and I said, “Iysa, I’m feeling stressful about all that I have to do for the holidays when we get back home.” “Don’t worry, Nonna,” she replied as she sat next to me in the waiting area of the Amtrak station, “Let’s meditate.” With this, she crossed her legs, put her hands on her knees, closed her eyes, and became quiet and still. As I watched her, I was struck by her ability to go inside herself and find peace, right in the middle of the busy train station.

My reflection: With all the stress the holidays can bring added to the chaos addiction adds, this time of year often feels overwhelming. Iysa reminded me of the value in developing a “refuge” – someplace we quickly go that gives us a sense of wellbeing. Hers is meditation and breathing.

Today’s Promise to consider: Stress can be debilitating, but we each have the power and responsibility to find our way to serenity. Some of us meditate, while others might run, write, exercise or cook. Whatever we choose, it’s critical that we make these activities a priority during busy periods. As we approach the New Year, let’s make the choice to do something constructive to help ourselves find peace.

ADDICTION AND THE HOLIDAYS

by libbycataldi under family


I remember well the Christmas when my son didn’t come home:
During the holidays of 2006, when Jeff didn’t come home for our large Italian family gatherings, no one knew what to do or say. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends didn’t know whether to ask about my addicted son or whether it would kinder to leave him out of the conversation. At Christmas Eve Mass, my older brother bent toward me and asked softly, “How’s Jeff?” I swelled with tears, tried to speak, but no words came. He nodded and turned toward the altar. I kept my head down and prayed.

My reflection: The holidays put the addict on center stage when the accumulated chaos of his or her life, and ours, is excruciatingly public. It is during these gatherings of joy that addiction taunts and mocks us most.

Today’s Promise to consider: During the holidays, addiction can severely isolate us. We come face-to-face, over and over again, with the reality that our lives are not as joyful as Hallmark’s greeting cards tell us they should be. I will avoid this toxic place by being compassionate with myself, with others and my loved ones. I will find my serenity in honesty and prayer. I will not allow addiction to rob me of my peace.

APPLYING ADDICTION’S LESSONS TO LIFE 

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A personal reflection: As the holidays approach, I’m excited, but at times I also feel overwhelmed with problems (or potential problems). The holidays are supposed to be a glorious time of sparkling lights and good will toward men, but when disappointments inevitably come, I apply what I’ve learned at addiction’s feet: to keep my expectations in check, to breathe, to take one moment at a time, to allow others to make mistakes without the heaviness of judgment, and to stay close but out of the chaos. The holidays can easily be turned upside-down if I allow my negative emotions to get in the way.

My reflection: Addiction suffocates families, but it can also teach us about life, how to deal with suffering, and how to confront disappointments. For all the negative impacts this disease brings, there are also many valuable lessons.

Today’s Promise to consider: Let us join together to make this holiday season one of learning and tranquility, for us and our families. For those of us who love an addict, let’s take what we’ve learned from addiction and move forward, as best as possible, with faith, love, and serenity.