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Forgiveness

THE CONFOUNDING NATURE OF ADDICTION

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

Dr. MacAfee told me, When families are in the throes of struggling with addiction, they do what they know best: They help and support the addict. Families, however, do not anticipate that the nature of addiction is one of exploitation, manipulation, and betrayal. Oftentimes, the addict exhausts and abuses a family’s resources and good will, leaving the family in a state of psychological and financial desperation. It is not only how addiction destroys the addict, but it is also how addictions destroys the family.

My reflection: When our children struggle, we move in to help; however, the addict exploits this natural act of love and protection. Quickly, the chase of the drug is overpowering. The addict loses himself, and we, the family, lose our loved one.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction takes the natural love of a family and smashes it into pieces. The lies and deceit – it’s what addiction does best. Today, I’ll stay close with love and compassion, but it’s imperative that I stay out of the chaos.

 

 


IT’S EASY TO JUDGE

Two days ago, I saw this painting by Alessandro Allori (circa 1577), and I was struck by the theme of judgment, with a history dating back to John 8:7. This post isn’t about religion. What it is about are the words, He that is without sin among you, let him cast a first stone at her. As I examined the painting, both the contrite face of the adulteress and the look of tenderness in Christ’s eyes moved me. I wondered if it is human nature that we so easily sit in judgment of others? Is it human nature for those who are healthy to marginalize those who are not? Is it human nature for those who have never suffered from an addiction to condemn those who have?

My reflection: Before my son endured a 14-year addiction, I’m sure that I, too, judged others dealing with addiction. We need to use our judgment to make good choices, of course, but we also need to fortify ourselves with education, an understanding of issues unfamiliar to us, a strong moral compass, and solid principles.

Today’s Promise to consider: We know the negative words used to describe addicts. However, for those of us who love someone battling this disease, we also know the courage it takes for them to change their lives. We see the physical pain they endure to put down the drug that takes away their pain. We know their hearts are good because they are our sons, our daughters, our husbands and wives. They are our loves.


WE ARE NOT ALONE

Photo credit: Davood Madadpoor

A daughter of addicted parents wrote to me: I still struggle with the pain of what it’s like to live with and love addicts. I still struggle with issues of anger and despair over all of the ‘what if’s’ and ‘what could have been’s’ that circle around and around in my mind. But it is always cathartic to hear other people’s tales of their battles with this disease – whether they’re the addict or love someone who is.  It reminds me that I’m not alone.

My reflection: There are millions of us affected by this disease, either as addicts or those of us who love them. That’s why groups like AA and Al-Anon work. I found friendship and a lifeline in Al-Anon. In our mutual stories, I discovered compassion and support.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s easy to forget that we are not alone. It’s easy to forget that many of us suffer from addiction’s grasp. Addiction is cloaked in shame, and the shame keeps us silent as we hold our family’s secret. Today, I will accept the help of others. In return, I will reach out my hand to help.


WHEN IT’S YOUR PARENT

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A young woman wrote to me: Libby, something important struck me when I read this line you wrote last week – My child’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living. If I replace “child” with “father,” this is the life lesson Jeff helped me learn. Whether he realizes it or not, it was one of the most impactful and life-altering realizations that helped me heal my relationship with my dad, when I started to look at his addiction as being trapped in a disease rather than a conscious choice of drugs over me/family.

My reflection: Addiction’s tentacles strangle all of us: children, brothers, sisters, parents, and loved ones. We, as a community, have an obligation to reach out our hands to all those impacted from the effects of this disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: Children of addicted parents, siblings of addicted children, and all those in pain because someone they love is addicted need our concerted support and understanding. As my friend wrote, “My father’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living.” We need to take their suffering out of the shadows and into the light where it can be healed.


LOVE WILL NOT STOP AN ADDICTION

Photo credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: My son has a long history of addiction. He got arrested and we hired a lawyer, bailed him out, but he kept using and stealing. He got arrested again and bailed himself out. We knew he was close to dying so we asked the lawyer to have the judge put him back in jail. We told our son that we would not bail him out, that we loved him but would no longer let his addiction destroy the family. All the love in the world was not enough to make him stop. 

My reflection: All the love in the world will not stop an addict from using because addiction is the antithesis of love. Dr. MacAfee tells of a group therapy session when he asked a young man, “What is your drug of choice?” The boy thought carefully and responded, “more.” MacAfee explained, “His answer was not an attempt at humor. Instead, the group answered with a consensus of silence, affirmative head nods. No addict ever intends to end up where he’s really going. Substance drives the addict.”

Today’s Promise to consider: My child’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living. I will not feel betrayed. I will not feel self-blame. I will stay close and pray that my child decides to stop, for himself.

 


UNDERNEATH IT ALL, THEIR HUMANITY REMAINS

A young girl, suffering from a crystal meth addiction, wrote to me: I met the local drug dealer. It’s been 2 weeks and 2 days, and l have a meth addiction again. It has been 2 years, l think, or maybe 3, since l relapsed. I don’t remember.

I constantly hear voices and can’t leave the house in daylight. I am convinced everyone hates me. The voices tell me that they will kill me, or I’m ugly, or I’m disgusting or that l smell. Some days l have 8 showers and then the next day l get so scared it takes all day to have 1 shower. Most days, I don’t trust the water out of the tap.

I’ve never ever hung with a crowd so violent. Last night a guy pulled a knife on a house full of people. And it’s hard when l never know what’s real.

Thank you for listening to me as l have no one to talk to. I have my mom, but l don’t want her stressed out. I’m afraid the stress will kill her. My lifelong friends and family have nothing to do with me. My mom and cousin try, but l abuse them day and night. l don’t mean to.

It’s all getting worse by the day. I have to go as voices are bad, and l can’t think now.

My reflection: Even in the midst of writing this rambling and tragic message, this young girl is concerned about her mother, loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s easy to judge an addict as uncaring, selfish, and manipulative. While all of these might be true, as long as our children are alive, they still exist underneath the disease. Their empathy and humanity are still there, just buried deep within. In the face of this, I, too, will keep my empathy and humanity. I’ll continue to love my child, stay close but out of his chaos, and pray he chooses recovery.


“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.


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.

 

 


“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.”

 


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