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THE EXTRAORDINARY PAIN OF ADDICTION

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Dr. MacAfee told me that the pain of addiction is the agony of being trapped. Using has become critically important because it answers every problem in their lives … until it doesn’t. The use is the solution until it becomes the problem. What was once an escape becomes a prison. The juxtaposition is baffling, and the addict literally has to fight for his life.

My reflection: During the early years of my son’s fourteen-year addiction, I thought that he could simply turn off his drug use. I told him to stop and expected it to happen. In time and with education, I learned that it would take my son great courage and tenacity to change his life.

Today’s Promise to consider: Drug use often starts as a party, until it becomes a prison. Once it takes over, our loved ones are caught up in a sandstorm, unable to see the impact their sickness has on those who care about them. Instead of derision and incarceration, they need love and compassion. They need support from communities like AA, from people who have walked in their shoes and are now living in the solution.

 

 

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REACHING FOR THE RED BALLOON: A LESSON FROM MY DAD

Yesterday was the thirteen anniversary of my dad’s death. He was a tough, Italian man, who fought for his country, his family and those he loved. He learned from an early age how to work hard and achieve his dreams. The photo above is of an oil painting he said represented his life. After serving in World War 2, he worked on the docks in New York City and his dreams were like the red balloon, high above him and out of reach. Through grit and determination, he eventually caught his balloon, teaching me that hope and tenacity are critical in overcoming adversity. I needed this lesson when addiction entered our home and took over my son.

My reflection: This painting hangs in our foyer and is a steady reminder that dedication and determination are essential for those of us whose loved ones are battling active addiction. We can’t give up hope.

Today’s Promise to consider: The red balloon represents a healthy life for my addicted loved one. Addiction tries to rob us of our dreams, but I will remain hopeful and stay the course with love and determination. I will continue to reach for the red balloon, stay strong and pray.

 

 

 

 


HE IS MY SON

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A friend of mine wrote, I wish I wasn’t writing this. I wish I wasn’t qualified to speak about the heroin epidemic. I wish I wasn’t a member of a community no one really wants to be part of. But I am. I am the non-addict who knows all too well what it’s like to love a person who suffers from addiction. I know what it’s like to worry yourself sick, to cry yourself to sleep, to be confused, to be mentally and financially bankrupt, and to miss someone who is standing right in front of you. I know what it’s like to feel stigmatized, to be the parent-of-a-drug-addict, to have people think that my son is a loser, a waste, a junkie. I’m here to tell you he is not. He is my firstborn. My first love. My heart. My life. He is someone.

My reflection: I would have given my soul to spare my son from the pain of addiction, but I couldn’t. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Rich or poor, educated or not – it can take down any person. For every one addict, at least four others are caught in the trauma.

Today’s Promise to consider: As the mother of an addict, the unceasing pain can be unbearable. He suffers at the hand of addiction, and we, his family and all those who love him, also suffer. Today, I will stay close with compassion and love. I will pray. I will never give up hope. He is my son.

 


PRECIOUS TIME

We are together. My children are with me this week, and everyday I renew my vow to cherish these moments together. It’s not often that I have all three so close – Jeff, Jeremy and Iysa – away from the demands of work and school and responsibilities. What a gift.

My reflection: The preciousness of time is underscored for me by the tragic consequences addiction deals so many of us. As the mother of adult sons, one of whom was sick for 14 years, I’m grateful they are healthy and living good lives. My prayer is that I remember to touch every good moment with them and hold it tight.

Today’s Promise to consider: The preciousness of time sounds like a mundane concept, but as I age the reality of passing time becomes real. With addiction it becomes even more real. For those of us whose children are safe and healthy today, let us deeply appreciate these times. And for those of us whose loved ones are not, may we remember the times when things were better and keep hope in our hearts.

 

 

 

 


LET US PRAISE THEIR COURAGE

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Many of us have lost people we love to addiction. A 33-year-old friend, who had been clean for ten years, died this week. He lost a heroic battle, and I admired him for his determination to contribute to the community while he was sober. He helped other addicts find sobriety and got them into rehab, helped to open Comunità Cenacolo in Birmingham, Alabama, and worked at an orphanage in Mexico. He served at Mass, played with his nieces and nephews, was a wonderful son and brother, and was enrolled full time at the university with plans to become a nurse. He was to be married this fall. He inspired others, and he inspired me.

My reflection: I will honor this young man’s life. He did much to help others and to make life a better place. He was a beacon of hope and love, and he gave back. I am grateful for having known him.

Today’s Promise to consider: The precious lives that are lost to addiction will inspire me to recommit everyday to doing everything possible to help recovering addicts. We, as a society, need to stand together – strong and tall – so that people in all stages of recovery know they are not alone. Let us praise their courage to fight the good fight.

 

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HONORING OUR PAST

Last week, my granddaughter and I visited the deep south of Italy and the village of Rotondella, the land of my grandparents on my mother’s side. Illiterate immigrants, they labored in the fields, lived in one-room, and traversed the ocean to start a new life for their children in LaMerica. Ours is a typical immigrant story, and now Iysa is beginning to understand our past and the sacrifices that were made to provide a better life for each generation.

My reflection: Our history is one part of what defines us. It doesn’t determine who we are as adults, but it does open important insights about the people and places that created us.

Today’s Promise to consider: Honoring the past is important in many ways. In terms of addiction, our children can better confront their health challenges if they know their family’s history includes substance abuse. Additionally, it offers our children a sense of grounding, helps them to have compassion for others who have similar experiences, and creates vital connections to pieces of their past.

 


WE ARE NOT ALONE

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: I am learning to open my eyes to my son’s addiction and my place in it. Stay Close is what my intuition always told me. There are few resources for parents and most of them are written in a clinical fashion. A professional point of view serves a purpose, but in my most horrible moments of despair, when I feel most lost, I need to hear another mother’s voice to help me feel less alone.

My reflection: There are many families struggling with the same issues and that is why Al-Anon and other family groups help. There we can learn through conversations, shared experiences and literature how to approach the addict with better understanding. We also learn how to protect ourselves and other members of our families.

Today’s Promise: We are not alone, but we often feel alone. Addiction isolates us and we feel shameful and lost. Family groups like Al-Anon are a source of help. Today, I will reach out my hand in compassion and understanding. Today, I will accept help.

 


THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH: SUFFERING

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

The Dalai Lama says, The first Noble Truth of Buddhism is that life is filled with suffering, and the first step to finding peace is to accept that pain and sadness are inescapable for all humans. From there, we can offset suffering by behaving in ways that create wellbeing. (summarized from The Book of Joy, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, Avery, 2016)

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, I often cried out against God. Why my son? Why so many years? Why the constant relapses and suffering for all of us? I wanted joy in my life and resisted pain instead of finding ways to accept it and instill peace.

Today’s Promise to consider: Suffering is as much a part of life as is joy. We all have fear, stress, anxiety and anger, and pain visits all people, not just those considered “troubled.” The problem is not the suffering, but how I react to it. Today, I will open my heart to acceptance and compassion – for myself and others.

 

 

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DRUG DEATHS IN AMERICA

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

New York Times, June 5, 2017: Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. (Josh Katz, Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever)

My reflection: Heroin is the cause of many overdoses, but numbers of deaths are increasing due to heroin laced with the illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Worse yet, there is now a substance called carfentanil that is used to tranquilize large animals like elephants and is 1,000 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine.  

Today’s Promise to consider: The opioid epidemic is claiming young lives and it seems unstoppable. We must all join hands to educate our loved ones. Children need open and honest forums to talk about their experiences and to learn about the massive dangers of drugs. We must stay close, help our loved ones in need to find good recovery centers, work with legislators on stronger health care, and pray.

 


DR. MACAFEE: TELL THE TRUTH, LIVE THIS DAY, AND DECIDE NOT TO USE

This is part of a series of monthly posts that reference many conversations with Dr. MacAfee. Thanks, Doc. 

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Dr. MacAfee said, For recovering people, let’s go back to some basic pieces: tell the truth, live only this day and decide this day not to use. That’s one heck of a premise. That’s a profound world trio. It sounds amazingly simple, but it’s very, very difficult. To be in recovery, you see your own unfolding, you’re aware of it. You’re always looking to be more and to live a better way.

My reflection: Truth is the defining characteristic of recovery. The Big Book of AA says that recovery can only be found in rigorous honesty. This is essential for the recovering addict, and I found it to be essential for me, too.

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovery is based in truth – being honest with ourselves and with others. Dr. MacAfee helped me to understand that recovery is bigger than not using. Real recovery means living in transparency, being present each day, and consciously trying to make good decisions, one day at a time.

 

 

 


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