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Dialogue

“MY MOM FINALLY SAW ME AS HER SON AGAIN”

A young man in recovery wrote to me: About two weeks after my mom finished reading your book, she and I had an unbelievable conversation. She told me that reading the book was very difficult for her at times, but that your story and her own life were strikingly similar. I think the reason that it was difficult for her had everything to do with the fact that she has never sought any kind of help or support outside of a couple of her friends.

What made the conversation with her remarkable was the tone in her voice and the way she spoke. She seemed calm and when I said something funny, she laughed. I cannot tell you how long it has been, since my mother actually listened to my voice and listened to what I was saying. I mean truly listened. Libby, I believe that you are the first person my mother has been able to relate to when it comes to my addiction and all of the pain our relationship has endured. Something magical happened when she read your book. She finally saw me as her son again. Something in what you wrote allowed her to look me directly in the eyes and finally, after about fifteen years, be able to stop giving me one armed, sideways hugs, and instead wrap both arms around me. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Today’s Promise to consider: Parents have a huge influence on our recovering children, even when they are adults. All people want to ‘be seen’ by those they love, but for addicts that need is imperative. Bobby’s last line says it all, “Something in what you wrote allowed her to look me directly in the eyes and finally, after about fifteen years, be able to stop giving me one armed, sideways hugs, and instead wrap both arms around me.”

 


A FATHER TAKES A STAND

A father of a recovering addict wrote to me, I wonder if we will ever outlive the scare of addiction. Our family had an incident during Christmas. My three children got into a discussion that became an argument. As tempers rose, my son’s former struggles with addiction were brought up. My son has been healthy for eight years and he is 25 years old, so he was really young at the time. I talked with my son and ensured him that the past is the past and that we have all made mistakes in our lives. For the girls, I made it extremely clear that the addiction incident will not cross their lips again or there will be severe consequences. I could imagine how he felt under attack for something that happened years ago.

My reflection: I, too, wonder if we will ever outlive the chains of addiction. If my recovering son had had a kidney disease, people would inquire compassionately about his health. But with the disease of addiction, some responses continue to range from those of suspicion (Is he still clean? How are you sure?), curiosity (How does he stay clean while working in the music field?), or contempt (He’s nothing but a drug addict. I remember.).

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovering addicts need safety and trust. They cannot continue to live their lives under the heaviness and scrutiny of all the mistakes they’ve made. They need an advocate, and I will stand firmly for my son and for all those who have the courage to live in sobriety.

 


WORDS ARE POWERFUL – BE MINDFUL OF WHAT WE SAY

Jeff wrote to me: There’s a principle in Buddhism called “right speech” which asks us to be mindful of the things we say, to not gossip or spread words that divide. It also reminds us that words can be carriers of peace and positivity. He continued with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, For A Future To Be Possible, “Our speech is powerful. It can be destructive and enlightening, idle gossip or compassionate communication. We are asked to be mindful and let our speech come from the heart.”

My reflection: I sadly remember the words I wrote in Stay Close:

“What was the most painful thing I’ve ever said to you?” I asked an older Jeff.

His answer was quick; he knew.

“When you and Dad picked me up from the police station after my arrest, you told me that you wished I weren’t your son.”

I was stunned into silence, rummaging through my brain trying to remember if I said those words. How could I have said those words?

“I’m sorry, Jeff; I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” What more was there to say? In anger, we parents say things we don’t mean, and our words pierce our children’s remembrance like a blade.

Today’s Promise to consider: Words are mighty. I’ve said things to both my sons that I wish I could erase. I’ve put thoughts into speech that have seemed to take on a life of their own and come true. Today, I will be mindful of what I say. My words will be positive and spoken from a compassionate heart.

 

 

 

 


MACAFEE’S WORDS OF WISDOM: FIND YOUR VOICE

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

tm_3930-1A friend, who also loved Dr. MacAfee, shares what she learned from him: Losing my voice, silencing my most potent inner instincts left me living in fear, afraid to speak out, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I felt invisible, powerless, angry and unheard. Dr. MacAfee encouraged me to find my voice, speak out and be heard again.

My reflection: I, too, silenced my voice when Jeff was in active addiction. I walked on eggshells and worried about every word that came out of my mouth. Would my words anger him? Would we argue and have an ugly scene? Would he walk out and be lost, once again, to the streets. I shoved my words into my belly until I also got sick.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will speak up. I will stop of the cycle of being worried sick and swallowing my voice. I will change the dynamic of this unhealthy touch-and-go dance between my addicted loved one and me. I will fight to keep myself balanced, respected and heard.


MACAFEE’S WORDS OF WISDOM: Saints in the Making

doc_0802-1*This is the first in a series of monthly posts that will source my many conversations with Dr. MacAfee over the years. 

A friend, who works in a recovery center, wrote to me:  Thought I would share something really cool with you. I am sitting under a tree right now at an animal assisted therapy center outside of Denver. There are animals all around and ten of the guys from the treatment center. I just overheard, from a distance, one of my guys saying that addicts are saints in the making. How cool is it that Dr. MacAfee seems to be right here with us. I never met him, but those words that you shared in your book from him are really important. The guys do need to know that they are Saints in the Making!

My reflection: When my son was in rehab, Dr. MacAfee told me, “I’m honored to do this work. I believe that addicts are saints in the making.” As I left California, Jeff and Dr. MacAfee, I felt hopeful for my son’s recovery. I was grateful that Jeff had made the decision to live a sober life. I realized that we were both choosing. He was choosing sobriety. I was choosing to believe him and to live in the solution.

Today’s Promise to consider: Dr. MacAfee believed that addicts were saints in the making. He said that people in recovery often came back with fervor to live a sober life, to contribute and to make a difference. I have talked with many recovering addicts throughout the world, and I know that Dr. MacAfee was a wise man. Thanks, Doc.

 


“I’M TIRED OF OTHERS JUDGING ME”

img_tm-1A mother wrote to me: I have seen firsthand the fallout caused by my son’s addiction. He has not progressed to harder substances, but legal troubles abound. He is currently facing a felony for a stupid bar fight between two drunk kids that he doesn’t even remember. I realize my son will do time in jail and that I can’t fix it. I’m not sure if helping him get legal representation is “enabling.” I’m tired of others judging me, and him.

My reflection: Where is the line between a helpful comment and harsh criticism? It’s easy for others to judge us and our choices. It’s easy to itemize what we should do or should have done differently. The reality is that most people, especially those without first-hand experience with addiction and alcoholism, have no idea of how deeply tricky is this disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a lonely journey, but I will walk this walk with my child and my family. Other people have many things to say, but I will find my help in Al-Anon, spirituality, and with professionals. I must stay strong and stay close.


“I CHOOSE LIFE,” A LETTER FROM A SON TO HIS MOM

person-1140x641A mom sent me a letter from her son: Dear Mom, As I look at the past, I can only imagine the pain I’ve caused you. I’m sorry for every hurt. Today, I’m 23 days sober and there is so much I wish I could change, but I can’t do anything about it. All I can do is to try my hardest to accept where I am now, to do my best to succeed from here on out, and to be a son again to you and Dad. I’m treating this as if I am being reborn and need to learn how to live. Thank you for still believing in me and keeping faith. I choose life!

My reflection: What made this young man choose life? His mom wrote that he had been in, “10 rehabs, 12 years of addiction, PCP, heroin, opiates, Hepatitis C, STD’s, you name it, flat lined several times.” I’ve heard many recovering addicts tell me that the most dire consequences of their addiction brought them to sobriety.

Today’s Promise to consider: This young man wrote, “I’m 23 days sober and there is so much I wish I could change. Today, I choose life.” As parents, watching our child suffer is counterintuitive to everything we believe is our role. But with addiction, we need to get out of the way and allow him to feel the consequences of his addiction. For me, I will love my son, stay close and pray he chooses life.


FOR EVERY ADDICT, AT LEAST FOUR OTHERS ARE AFFECTED

Cousins: Kevin, Tricia, Diana, Jeff

Cousins: Kevin, Tricia, Diana, Jeff

A mom wrote to me: My cousin’s son is 22 and battling alcoholism. She just visited and, even though she didn’t want to talk about it, I could see the pain she was going through. As a mother of sons, I am grateful that my sons have never had a problem with alcohol or drugs, but I know that it is the luck of the draw. Addiction can happen to anyone. It’s everywhere and it affects families in every walk of life.

My reflection: This mother’s words brought back a difficult memory for me. In Stay Close, I wrote, Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, no one knew what to do. During the Christmas of 2006, when neither son came home for our large Italian family gatherings, my brothers didn’t know what to say. They didn’t even know whether to invite me to the festivities. The cousins were confused; could they ask about Jeff or would it be kinder to leave him out of the conversation?

Today’s Promise to consider: Research says that for every one addict at least four others are affected. Addiction’s consequences are far-reaching and destructive. Those who love us see our pain, even without us saying a word. They don’t know whether to talk with us about the problem or to stay silent. Addiction is confusing and suffocating. Today, I’ll be communicative and compassionate with my family and friends as we stumble together down this road.


JUST YOUR MOM. JUST YOUR DAD

IMG_TMA dad told me, While visiting my son in a halfway house, I was impressed with the community of support around him. “If you feel yourself slipping or getting into the danger zone,” I asked my son, “what should I say to you to help?” He answered, “Nothing. If I need help, I need to reach out to these people around me, who know my walk.” I felt relieved when he said this to me because I just want to be his dad.

My reflection, This dad was grateful when he realized his son was taking responsibility for his recovery by reaching out to his AA or NA community for help. As parents, we put huge pressure on ourselves to solve our children’s problems and lift them from the chaos the drugs create – when in reality, we’re not best suited for the job.

Today’s Promise to consider, For as much as I want to offer my son support and words of wisdom, I admit that the programs of AA and NA are far more helpful in providing access to people who are also on the path of sobriety. I’m just his mom, the person who will always love him.

 

 

 

 


COMPASSION

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli Cecconi

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli Cecconi

A mother wrote to me: Today I went to my first Al-Anon meeting or at least that is what I thought I was going to. Instead it was the Narc meeting for the users. So instead of hearing from family members about their loved one’s addictions, I heard from the addicts themselves. It was very eye opening and humbling to be there and to hear their struggles.

My reflection: During the many years that Jeff was swallowed by addiction, I never realized the pain that he felt. Dr. MacAfee told me that it was impossible for me to imagine how poorly my son saw himself, that living inside his skin was more than Jeff could bear at times. The heaviness of his reality, combined with all the lies he struggled to maintain, was soul crushing. 

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s so very hard not to make our loved one’s addiction about us, not to take their continued missteps personally. Once I told my son, “You have a lot of courage to try to get well again.” He responded quietly, “Courage. That’s a word rarely used with addicts. Yeah, it takes courage.” As a mom, my pain is huge, but I must understand that I will never truly grasp what he is going through. Today, I will pray for strength and compassion.

 


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