IN THE MIDST OF ADDICTION: DON’T JUMP INTO THE QUICKSAND

Felix Scardino, LCSW, a friend of mine wrote: Take care of yourself while you try to understand that you cannot support another person unless you keep your own footing. The following analogy helps me: It will not serve either of us if I jump into quicksand with a person to save him. I’ll best help the person if I stand strong and throw him or her a rope. To care for myself I might need to take a break from listening or even choose not to be with another if their problems overwhelm me.

My reflection: It took me fourteen-years to learn how to live this advice. At my first Al-Anon meeting, I heard these words, but they made no sense to me. How could I take care of myself when my son was dying? In time, I learned how to Stay Close, but out of the chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider: Many of us have thrown ourselves into the fire as we try to help our addicted loved ones. When we lose ourselves, we are of no help to our families, our children, or ourselves. Today, I’ll take care of myself so that I am able to take care of others.

 

ADDICTION: A PRAYER THAT THE GODS STAY CLOSE 

Richard Selzer, surgeon, wrote: I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says. “It is kind of cute.”

All at once, I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.

– Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the art of surgery, Simon and Schuster, 1976

Today’s Promise to consider: Our suffering loved ones need healing and, oftentimes, that comes from forces other than parents. Through the grace of the gods, certain people enter their lives, and make a difference. For my son that person was Dr. Patrick MacAfee, an addiction therapist, who with angel wings touched Jeff’s soul. I thank God every day for our beloved MacAfee, and I pray that all suffering people are graced with someone just like him.

 

 

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES WITH ADDICTION

A mother wrote to me: My son died of a heroin overdose. I need to forgive myself for all the mistakes I made. I try to understand why he couldn’t just stop what he was doing to himself. It isn’t as simple as people want to make it. I live with the pain of not being able to help my son when he needed it, but I get up everyday and try to live my life the best I know how. I still feel that I hide from so many people who can’t understand what it was like to live with a son I loved and couldn’t help before it was too late.

My reflection: We live with the pain of not being able to help our loved one. My son once said, “I wanted to get clean and I loved my family, but I couldn’t go the next day without drugs.” Drugs are stronger than we are strong.

Today’s Promise to consider: We try desperately to do the right thing for our addicted loved ones, whatever that means in our particular circumstance. Sometimes mistakes are made. Today, I will forgive myself. I will go forward, one step at a time and accept that there are no clear answers with addiction.

 

 

HELP THROUGH ADDICTION: WE ARE NOT ALONE

A mother wrote to me: When we learned that our 19-year-old son was addicted to heroin, I remember praying and searching for other parents who would truly understand. All I really wanted was to talk with another parent – especially a mother – who could really understand the brokenness in that special bond between a son and mother. Al-Anon meetings helped, and our good God led me to a meeting made up mostly of parents of addicted children. 

My reflection: Addiction floods us with emotion and confusion, and we want to command the addiction to go away, order it into the pit of the earth where it belongs. When I was lost in addiction’s grasp, other parents, who walked in my shoes, helped me find my way to sanity, serenity, and faith.  

Today’s Promise to consider: After an Al-Anon meeting, I wrote, “I found a peace that has eluded me. My soul quieted there, in the basement of a church. I heard such pain from others, and I listened intently to how they are struggling to survive. Maybe I can find strength and comfort in Al-Anon, and ultimately in myself.” Today, I will open myself and my story to other parents of addicted children. I know that I am not alone.

MIRACLES DO HAPPEN

A dad wrote: I spent weeks trying to find my addicted son. Eventually, I found him and my plan was to kidnap him and take him to safety. I did kidnap him – he looked like a prisoner from a concentration camp – but I didn’t take him to safety. Once I had him with me, I called my counselor who told me to release him immediately. I opened the rear doors to the van, and he stepped out, hugged me, and said, “I love you, Dad.” With tears in my eyes and a broken heart, I hugged him back, and told him I loved him, too. Then I watch him disappear into an apartment complex. I was sure I would never see him again. Today, he is six years clear and sober, a licensed electrician, and a true joy to be around. Miracles do happy. Never give you hope.

My reflection: I, too, thought I could ‘bring him to safety.’ It took me years to realize that the miracle had to come from Jeff, and his God.

Today’s Promise to consider: My son suffered a fourteen-year addiction, ending with him regularly shooting heroin into his neck and damaging the superficial vein system in his arms and legs. Today, he is almost thirteen years sober, productive, spiritual, and an inspiration to me and others. Miracles do happen. Never quit believing.

 

ADDICTION HARMS: HURT PEOPLE, HURT PEOPLE

A mom wrote to me: Sometimes, during this nineteen-year journey with my son, it is difficult to see the bridges he continues to burn and how “Hurt People Hurt People.” I will always show him love . . .the one consistency.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, he was forever in pursuit of the next high and in need of the comfort that drugs provided. He was in addiction’s grasp, and he had no ability to think about the hurt that he caused his family, or himself.

Today’s Promise to consider: Suffering people in the clutches of addiction hurt others as a result of their own inner turmoil, distress, and drug use. Today, I will do my best to respond to my child’s pain with compassion and love. If I must keep my distance, I will, but I won’t reply with anger or disgust. As the Dalia Lama said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

 

LOVE IS THE WAY TO BEAT DOWN ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: Love is the way to wear down the demon of addiction. Not fear. You will never regret your loving response in the face of the chaos of addiction. Miracles happen. Souls do come back from the darkness.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I lived in constant fear: fear of the phone call in the middle of night, fear of another arrest, and fear of death. Fear was a constant companion. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Love might not change the course of addiction, but it opens the space for us to confront addiction with greater equilibrium, faith, and hope. Today, I’ll put fear aside and bring compassion forward because, if the worst happens, I will never regret responding with love.

TWO SIDES OF ADDICTION: MOTHER AND SON

Not many people know that my son helps me with every post about addiction. I want to acknowledge his contributions over these many years.

Dr. MacAfee told me that, as a parent, I can speak about addiction, but that Jeff speaks from addiction. The difference is huge.

As a mom, I know only my walk, my suffering, and my desperate attempts to save my son during his fourteen-year journey. I learned that, for us, STAY CLOSE made all the difference.

Jeff knows his walk and how he found recovery. Only he knows his suffering. Only he knows his desperation. Only he knows what it feels like to live on the streets, be locked up in jails, and to lose all sense of dignity and hope.

Thanks, Jeff, for your help, support, compassion, and care all these years. Thanks for reaching out a hand to help others. Thanks for your service.

My son and I walk together today, but only he and his Higher Power found recovery.

To all recovering addicts, we need your voice in order to understand addiction. You inspire us.

CRACKS LET THE LIGHT IN

Leonard Cohen wrote:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

My reflection: With addiction, perfect offerings are few, but in the imperfections we can find gold. The light that shines through the cracks can help our loved ones rise out of the ashes of pain and suffering to become different people – stronger, honest, spiritual, and self aware.

Today’s Promise to consider: Our lives have cracks, especially those who have suffered addiction, but it is through the cracks that the softest light gets in. Resurrection happens in that light. Learning happens in that light. Confrontation happens in that light. And healing happens in that light. Let us ring the bell for the light of recovery.

 

 

 

BE SENSITIVE TO WHAT WE SAY

A friend of mine wrote: With addiction, we need to be cautious not to malign the reputation of our loved one by confessing their troubles, even when they cause us trouble. Although their behavior may sometimes be unacceptable, I recognize that they’re deep in the clutches of their disease.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I operated from a space of hurt, confusion, and anger. In that anger, I often said things that maligned his character and cut deep wounds. My friend’s words flooded me with memories, many I wish I could erase.

Today’s Promise to consider: These wise words hit me hard. How many times I didn’t protect my son with my speech. When my anger took hold, nothing good came from it. I’m so sorry, Jeff. Today, I stand tall for my son.