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“IT NEVER STOPS HURTING” 

Zander

A mom of a son who died of a drug overdose wrote to me: I feel the need to find a place to help this epidemic, to make a voice for us moms and dads who have lost our child to this horrible disease. I feel a need to say to the medical community that doctors must stop making it easy to get opiate meds, because they eventually lead young people to heroin where they get caught up in this highly addictive and deadly disease. I just don’t know where to go with this inner voice that wants to speak out on behalf of my beautiful son.

My reflection: My prayer is simple: may this entry bring comfort to another mom or dad, brother or sister.

Today’s Promise to consider: We must join our voices into the resounding chorus that clamors for help for our addicted loved ones. There can be no rest until those who are suffering get the help they need. The hurting never stops for those who have lost a child. We must all hold hands and walk together.

 


KEEPING HOPE ALIVE THROUGH RELAPSE

A dad of a recovering daughter wrote to me, Relapse is sometimes harder than the initial experience of discovering your child is an addict. The hope you build one day – one hour – at a time as she was in recovery disintegrates into grains of despair. This time around, both of you are a little wiser at the game. In all that wisdom, though, the pain, the hurt, never eases. You feel the individual grains of hope in your hands, and you find faith in them. They are tired, weak, but as long as these grains exist so does your hope. 

My reflection: Relapse was a steady thief during my son’s fourteen-year addiction. Just when I thought he had changed his life and shown great fortitude in making healthy choices, the floor fell out and down he went. Over and over, relapse slapped us in the face. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Hope finds its strength in the heart, not the brain. With addiction, the events often spell disaster, and I found that only love could combat my despair. My younger son once asked, “Momma, how will you end the story about Jeff?” I admitted, “I don’t know, Jer. It’s not my story to end.” His answer was clear, “But that’s the point. We don’t know what will happen to Jeff, but no one can ever take away our hope. You have to end the story in hope.”


RETHINKING TREATMENT AND INCARCERATION 

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A social worker wrote to me: I agree completely with the philosophy of Stay Close. I have learned to be very tolerant and understanding of the pain and choices made by young people in recovery. I believe that our society must develop a new paradigm in terms of treatment vs. incarceration. The American prison and juvenile justice systems have become a dead end for so many. I hope for a time when drug addiction and mental illness will be treated with the same compassion as any other disease.

My reflection: Incarceration seems to be our society’s first answer to addiction. Sure, locking up the addict gets him off the streets and might even save his life, and the lives of others – but the problem is that we’re putting people is jail who are ill. Addicts need help or else their sickness resumes when they later hit the streets.

Today’s Promise to consider: Every nineteen minutes, someone dies of drug overdose. This can’t continue. Our addicted loves ones need help and treatment. The problem is that THEY must choose to get help. We can’t force them into sobriety. I pray that our judicial systems become enlightened to the realities of this disease and develop new ways to steer our children toward the help they need.

 


HONESTY IS IMPERATIVE

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

A client and friend of Dr. MacAfee, the mother of a recovering addict wrote to me: One of the most important lessons I learned from Dr MacAfee was to hold a mirror up to my son and reflect back to him, without anger or judgment, the honest truth of his behavior and actions. Dr. MacAfee encouraged me to be truthful at all times because without truth both of us would live in denial about what was really happening.

My reflection: I was never very good at honesty when my son was in active addiction. I walked on eggshells, trying diligently to avoid confrontations. This didn’t help my son, our family or me.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction survives in lies, while sobriety thrives in honesty. The Big Book reiterates that point saying, sobriety is not possible without rigorous honesty. Today, I will find my courage and be honest with my addicted loved one, without judgment or anger, and with love and kindness. Neither of us needs another battle, but we both need truth.

 

 


“I COULDN’T HELP HIM BEFORE IT WAS TOO LATE”

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mother wrote to me: My son died of a heroin overdose. I need to start 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: My father was a drill sergeant in the Marines and he used to point his finger at me and command, “Tell Jeff to stop, godammit. Tell him to stop.” I wish it were that simple.

Today’s Promise to consider: I found it impossible to force my son to quit using. Through a fourteen-year addiction, I discovered no clear answers, but I learned that my loved one had to choose to change his life. And for myself, I learned to stay close, pray and forgive.

 

 


BLAME ISN’T HELPFUL

Photo by Audrey Melton

A mother wrote to me: My son is a heroin addict. I stayed home and was a fulltime mom. When he was ten years old, I started homeschooling him and his siblings. Eventually when he was beginning the eleventh grade, he entered a Christian school that we thought would be a good move for him. I had no idea that there he would meet up with trouble: He entered a class that was named the “druggy class.” The rest is history, and the cycle of addiction began.

My reflection: I’ve spoken to various audiences about addiction and the number one question I’m asked is, “What do you think made your son a drug addict? Maybe it was your fault? You and your husband worked many hours. Admittedly neither of you saw the red flags.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It happens regardless of socio-economic status, college degrees or religious upbringing. It happens in churches, in schools, on good streets and bad. I won’t blame anyone or anything for my child’s addiction. It happened. What I will do is stay committed to my Al-Anon or family group, trust God and work to keep hope in my heart.


YOU’RE BRAVER THAN YOU BELIEVE

A former student, friend and now psychiatrist, sent this: 

If ever there is a tomorrow

When we’re not together

There is something you

Must always remember

You are braver than you believe

Stronger than you seem

And smarter than you think

 

But the most important thing is

Even if we are apart

I’ll always be with you

My reflection: The words above epitomize Stay Close, a way of saying to our addicted loved ones, “I love you and you can beat this thing. But you have to do it. I can’t do it for you. You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem. Fight, son, fight.”

Today’s Promise to consider: We can’t force our loved ones to live a sober life, but we can Stay Close and continue to hope. Jeff once told me, “You believe in me more than I believe in myself. Please never quit believing, Mom.”

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BREAK YOUR HEART NO LONGER

Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, quotes an Indian master Bapuji, who writes:

My beloved child,

Break your heart no longer.

Each time you judge yourself you break your own heart.

You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.

The time has come, your time

 

To live, to celebrate and to see the goodness that you are…

 

Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you

If one comes, even in he name of “Truth,” forgive it for its unknowing

Do not fight.

Let go.

And breathe – into the goodness that you are.

My reflection: I broke my own heart a million times over. When my son was in active addiction, I judged myself harshly and counted out all the ways I could have handled things differently. I fought with myself and anyone who judged my son. I refused to let go and let God.

Today’s Promise to consider: For many years, I was my own worst enemy. Addiction was determined to crush my soul and I allowed it to do just that. I was full of self-criticism and guilt until I realized that I was powerless. When I finally surrendered, learned how to find solace in prayer and began to trust the goodness that surrounded me, I got stronger.

 

 


SELF PRESERVATION

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

A dear friend of mine and Dr MacAfee’s told me: Dr MacAfee often reminded me of the importance of taking time for self care and time to nurture myself so that I could deal with everything going on within the family and still be true to myself. Addiction, he told me, is a family disease. As a mother, I tried to shoulder the load of destruction that addiction brought within my family. Addiction affects everyone in the family in different ways for years to come.

My reflection: Addiction takes over the family and leaves no hostages. It’s relentless in its hunger to destroy everyone. When Jeff was in active addiction, I tried to protect my family, but it was impossible. Addiction was far stronger than I was strong.

Today’s Promise to consider: Compassion defined Dr. MacAfee. He had compassion for the addict and for the family. He helped me to learn how to Stay Close, but out of the chaos as I continued to love my suffering child. He taught me that self preservation wasn’t selfish, but essential.

 


THE POWER OF COMMUNITY IN RECOVERY

Jeff and I talked about what helps people stay in recovery and he said, Getting sober is just the beginning; learning to live in abstinence is the goal. As human beings, we have a hunger to be seen and to feel connected with those around us. And when we don’t, so often we use drugs to cover the feelings of loneliness – but drugs only isolate us even more. In time, we move further into addiction and further away from the people we love. In groups like AA, we find connections, people who know our walk and won’t judge us. They ‘see’ us, they celebrate our victories and they know how imperative fellowship is. These connections prove to us that we are not alone. 

My reflection: Family groups like AA and Al-Anon work. Not only do recovering addicts find a safe space to grow strong within a community of understanding peers, but we, parents, can find a similar environment in Al-Anon. The loving members of Al-Anon saved my sanity when my son’s addiction took me to my knees. There I found people who knew my pain. 

Today’s Promise to consider: The family groups of AA and Al-Anon prove to us that we are not alone. When we feel raw and wounded, it takes courage to reach out and allow ourselves to been ‘seen.’ Today, I will pray and hold out my hand in faith and vulnerability.


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