MISCONCEPTION #4: ADDICTS DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT ANYONE ELSE

From my son, I learned that many addicts hate themselves for the pain they are causing those they love. Recently, a young girl with a crystal meth addiction wrote to me, “My mom tries to help me, but I can’t talk with her. I’m afraid the stress will kill her. I can’t stand myself for hurting her.”

My reflection: When Jeff was in the deep throes of his addiction, I had a bilateral mastectomy. I was in the hospital only one night, and he slept in a chair next to my bed, reacting and awakening with my every move. Empathy for his mother was still alive in my chameleonic son and he was attentive and caring; he never left my side.

Today’s Promise to consider: Once the addiction is in charge, our loved ones are not. Using becomes a chase, a necessity, a way of life, but addicts, in a moment of clarity, know that they are hurting the people they love and they loathe themselves for it. Today, I will pray for my child’s recovery and continue to trust that my child’s humanity is alive under the drugs.

 

MISCONCEPTION #3: THE ADDICT CHOOSES TO STAY CLEAN FOR THOSE HE LOVES

From my son, I learned that as much as he loved his family, he had to choose sobriety for himself. Many of us, who love addicts, want to believe that the addict will change his ways for the family, a child, or another person. As a recovering person once told me, “Let’s face it. I had to decide whether I would live or die. I got clean for myself.”

My reflection: Several times I asked my son why he didn’t stop doing drugs when he saw all the damage addiction was spewing onto the family. He explained that he never wanted to hurt us, that he wanted desperately to keep us to the side, but that drugs are all powerful. Once he was locked in their grasp, he was overwhelmed with the hunt for more.

Today’s Promise to consider: One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that love wasn’t enough to save my son from addiction’s clutches. The disease takes the healthiest parts of love and smashes them into worry, helplessness and hopelessness. The reality is that addicts must choose to change for themselves. It’s the only way sobriety takes a lasting hold. Today, I’ll pray that my loved one makes the choice.

 

MISCONCEPTION #2: ADDICTS MUSCLE THEIR WAY TO SOBRIETY ALONE

Jeff and friend Jason

From my son, I learned: Recovering communities like Alcoholics Anonymous are a crucial part of recovery. There the addict finds people who know his journey and have walked in his shoes. As much as I wanted to help my son, I couldn’t understand all that he had lived. In groups like AA, they are sensitive to the nuances of this disease and the path out of it. They celebrate his successes and stand with him when he is in need.

My reflection: Much of the current research indicates that recovery is more successful when the addict is supported by people who understand his walk and who care about him and his daily struggle. As much as I wanted to be that person for my son, I couldn’t be.  

Today’s Promise to Consider: Fellowship with recovering addicts is often an essential part of a person’s journey to sobriety. We, as family members, can give them love and support, but people who know their walk provide community and understanding along the way. Today, I’ll encourage my loved one to attend AA, NA, or another support group. I, too, will attend a support group aimed at care for family members.

ADDICTION: WAR OR COMPASSION?

Johann Hari, author of Chasing The Scream, writes: When I returned from my long journey, I looked at my ex-boyfriend, in withdrawal, trembling on my spare bed, and I thought about him differently. For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along.

My reflection: Tough love was the mantra-of-the-day when my son was in the deepest throes of his heroin addiction. People told me to kick him out of the house, cancel him from our lives, and to have an imaginary funeral for him.

Today’s Promise to consider: Shame, neglect, and ridicule often drive the addict deeper into his addiction. None of these negative behaviors ever helped my son get closer to health. Stay Close became our mantra, and this worked for us. War or Compassion? I choose compassion.

“WE WANT TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS”

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A dad wrote to me: We as parents want desperately to solve our children’s problems.  After all, that’s what we have been trained to do since their birth. I think we fear the worst and don’t want to be held responsible, even if it’s only in our own minds.  The blame we would place on ourselves would be unbearable. Then, after years of experience, we know that the decision to recover can only be decided by the addicted. 

My reflection: The realization that I couldn’t save my son from addiction was the hardest lesson I had to learn, yet it was also the most essential for my well-being, and his. For years I was enmeshed in every twist and turn of my son’s sickness. This only enabled the addiction and kept me from being available to my family and myself.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction happens. Blame, shame, stigma, and silence do nothing to help our loved ones or us. Today, I’ll stay close, but out of the chaos. As much as I want to stop the trauma, there is only room for one in the addiction.

WHEN THE SADNESS IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HIDE

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me: Sometimes I feel like I am just too hard to be around because the sadness is impossible to hide.

My reflection: When addiction takes over our lives, our sadness can be overwhelming. When Jeff was in active addiction, my family didn’t know whether to ask about him or not. My older brother once asked me, “How’s Jeff?” I looked at him with eyes swelled with tears. He nodded and said nothing more. 

Today’s Promise to consider: When I felt suffocated in sadness by addiction, fighting my feelings never helped. I had to accept my deep sense of loss and call it by name. I found comfort by attending Al-Anon meetings. I wrote daily, exercised, and prayed. And I also had to accept that there were times I could just be sad.

ON MOTHER’S DAY

I once asked Jeff a ‘mother’ question, not a great question, but I asked: “Didn’t you see how you were hurting yourself and the people who love you? Didn’t you want to stop all the chaos like arrests and near death? Jeff, why didn’t you stop?”

He looked at me, weary, and sighed, “You still don’t get it, do you? After writing this entire book, you still don’t understand that I never wanted to hurt you – I wanted to protect you from all of it, to keep you out of it and to the side. You’ve written about me at my worst, my most vulnerable, my most desperate. I’m an addict. I was addicted. An addict doesn’t want to hurt those he loves, but he can’t stop using drugs – oftentimes until death.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Addicts don’t want to hurt us – their mothers, fathers, brothers, or sisters. Drugs are powerful, and they take our addicted loved ones under, under into chaos and desperation. I will remember that addiction smashes love. Today, I’ll keep loving my child who is under the drugs.

“YOU LOVE YOUR DRUGS MORE THAN YOU LOVE US”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom, who is a recovering addict, wrote to me: I remember my mom saying to me when I was in the throes of my addiction as a teen, “You love your drugs more than you love us.” Well, yes, yes I did.  I was incapable of seeing anything else but my next high and I would stomp on anyone or anything in my way.

My reflection: It took me a long time to acknowledge the incredible hold drugs had on my son. I once asked Jeff, “Look at all the pain addiction caused. Why didn’t you ever stop?” He looked at me with deep sadness and said, “I never wanted to hurt you. In fact, I tired to keep you out of the way and to protect you. But I’m an addict, Mom.”

Today’s Promise to consider: My child’s addiction isn’t about me. It’s not above love between mother and child. It’s about the insatiable craving drugs create. If love could have broken the grasp addiction had on my son, he would have been healed. Today, I will open my heart to try to understand the chase of the high and the all consuming hunger for the next one.

WHY DO WE HURT THE ONES WE LOVE MOST?

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me: I finally found the strength to know that no amount of money thrown at the disease of addiction will help it. So we said a gentle “no” to his pleas. We got the hate and the hurt and the anger back in spades, the addiction really reared its ugly head. Our son’s deep pain directed towards the ones he loves most.

My reflection: During the years of my son’s active using, he became a master of manipulation, exploitation, and betrayal. When I refused to give him money, when I didn’t allow him to come home, or when I wouldn’t bail him out of jail, he became abusive. This is the pathology of addiction. My son and I lived this dance for years, until I realized I was part of the problem.

Today’s Promise to consider: When we parents put a roadblock between the addict and what he wants, this is a major threat to him. In addition, we stand as a constant reminder to our children that the life they are living is rife with pain and harm. Today, I will not allow addiction to isolate and separate me from my loved one. I will offer roads to recovery, not more money or bailouts.

“LOVE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE”

During the homily at Easter Sunday Mass, Father Scott said, “Love makes the difference.” He talked about faith, hope and love, and wanted us to hear the message that, even as Jesus confronted death, it was His love for us that made the difference.

My reflection: Father Scott’s words reminded me that with my own children it was love that made the difference when we faced addiction. Love couldn’t save my son his fourteen-year journey and love couldn’t save my younger son the suffering that addiction spew, but in the end it was love that made the difference in helping us stay close and begin to heal.

Today’s Promise to consider: Through all the trauma that addiction brings, we parents make some good decisions and some others that might not be the best. Through it all, the most important part is that our children know we love them. Today, I’ll continue to love my child who is alive and under the drugs. I’ll stay close, but out of the chaos of his addiction.