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Gratitude

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.

 

 


STORIES OF RECOVERY ARE CRITICAL

Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

A recovering addict wrote to me: My boyfriend and I got married! We are living happily with my stepdaughter. I’m so grateful that this is what God has in store for me after all those years of being lost. I guess you could say I’ve been in training for this exact moment all my life. “God only gives us what we can handle.”  He prepares us and every day it all makes more and more sense. I wonder if other people feel that way; that every moment leading up to the one right now is right where you should be, embrace it, take it all in, enjoy or don’t enjoy it but you’re right where you need to be. Only my clear mind can think that way. My sick alcoholic mind couldn’t think past the surface.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, part of me wanted to believe that everything would be fine while another part was terrified that he wouldn’t live another day. These stories of hope are critical reminders that recovery can and does happen.

Today’s Promise to consider: People break the chains of addiction every day and we need to celebrate their triumphs. It takes tremendous courage for an addicted person to change his or her life. Let us all stand together with encouragement and hope.

 


GRATITUDE: A DAILY ROUTINE

dsc01008A mother wrote to me: When I awake every morning and go to sleep every night I feel God’s presence in my life and the life of my child. He is good today, but I know it’s one day at a time. Dealing with addiction takes courage and humility and gratitude. Courage to stay close and to love our child, humility to remember that the addiction is strong and can come back at any time, especially when we least expect it, and gratitude for our daily blessings.

My reflection: Gratitude is powerful, but gratitude is tough to muster when things are at their worst. When my son was in active addiction, the only thing buoying my deep despair was gratitude that my son was still alive. My prayer each morning was, “Dear Lord, thank you for keeping him alive today.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Gratitude, for me, is part of a daily routine where I actively scan my life and call forward the various things, big and small, for which I’m thankful. This practice keeps me aware that, even though things are difficult, I’m still blessed. Prayer and gratitude keep me in a positive space.


DREAMS ABOUT ADDICTION                            

tm-lightSeveral years ago, I wrote in my journal: Last night, I dreamed about one of my favorite uncles who was always kind to me as a child. But in my dream he had lost his nose because of cocaine use. I awakened in tears with the image of my addicted son holding me while I was asking him, “Is this what you want for our family?”

My reflection: Worry found me, even in my dreams. During the days, I was able to squash my emotions and generally ignore them. I went to work and did what I always did: I smiled and acted as though everything was OK. However, at night my fears found me. My dreams are just dreams, but they carry crucial messages that I need to honor.

Today’s Promise to consider: My dreams were signals that I needed to protect myself from the chaos of my son’s addiction. Over the years, I’ve learned to be grateful for the thoughts that visit me at night. They help me to visualize my fears and respect my frailties.


LEARNING ABOUT RECOVERY

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Jeremy, Iysa, Libby, and Jeff

I wrote this passage three years after Jeff chose sobriety, My son’s growth is evident. He laughs more easily, he watches more calmly, he protects himself better. He knows where he hurts and he pays attention to what is coming. He’s more reflective, thoughtful, less impulsive, and more honest. He has good friends. Part of my son died with the addiction, but the son I know is alive. Suffice it to say that he is becoming a strong and caring man.

One year earlier, he told me, “When I awake in the morning, I know if it’s going to be a good day. Some mornings, I reach for a word and it’s like reaching into the fog. Other mornings, when I reach for a word, I pluck it easily out of the air.” He continued, “I’m frustrated that some days aren’t clear, but I guess it will take time. I need to be patient.”

My reflection: We often write about the pain and chaos of addiction, but it’s also important to learn about the process of recovery. My son’s words reminded me that we need to be gentle as our loved ones learn how to live in abstinence.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will be patient with my child’s journey as he learns how to live a life without drugs. Just like healing from any other disease, time takes time, and the process is often painstaking. The joy is in recovery, one day at a time.

 

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TEN YEARS OF SOBRIETY

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Photo Credit: Audrey Melton

AN OPEN LETTER TO MY SON JEFF

Today, on July 21, you celebrate ten years of sobriety. This is a huge feat, especially after having suffered a fourteen-year addiction. What would have happened if we had lost you? You faced the demons and came home to yourself and to us. Some research says that only 4% of heroin addicts live and stay well. This is a day to honor.

How far you have come in these past ten years. You pray and meditate, and you radiate serenity and peace. You’ve started a successful music label, and you are a businessman of integrity and strength. Spirituality is at the center of your life, and you inspire me with your hard-fought wisdom and good sense. You have suffered and you have risen.

It took courage, dedication and hard work to reach this day. I call this out because it’s important to do so. A person in active addiction once told me, “If Jeff can do it, so can I.” You give others hope. You give back. You work hard to make the world a better place.

Dad, Jeremy, Iysa and I join your many friends and relatives, who love you and wish you well. We’re proud of you, my son. Here’s to another ten years, one day at a time.

Love you, always and forever. I’ll stay close,

Mom

 


SOCIAL MEDIA: ENVY AND ADDICTION

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Nonna and Granddaughter

Researchers in Germany found that one third of the Facebook users they studied reported that time spent on the social networking site left them feeling frustrated and angry. The primary source of those negative feelings? Envy. Facebook sets the stage for envy with its endless opportunities to compare ourselves to others.

(Tricycle, The Buddhist Review, Fall 2015, pg. 104)

My reflection: The results of this study make total sense to me, especially during the holidays. When Jeff was sick with addiction, I flip-flopped between feeling joy and sometimes envy for my friend’s good fortunes. Silently I asked myself: Why them? Why their children? Why not mine? I felt deep sadness for my own disappointments and all the things they seemed to have that I didn’t. Smiling faces and snapshots of their family’s achievements were steady reminders that my son wasn’t doing similar great things and, in fact, was destroying himself.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will start the New Year with gratitude for what is good in my life. I will work to counter feelings of envy and jealousy by being joyful for other’s successes. Today I’ll remember that my life is my life and it’s all I have. There’s always something for which to be grateful.

 


GRATITUDE: ONE DAY AT A TIME

TM_2592 (1)A mother wrote to me: Today, I’m grateful. My son, who has been addicted for years, finally chose to turn his life around after he was shot in a drug deal. He still carries the bullet an inch from his spine, too risky to remove. He has ten months sober and is living in a sober house. It’s all such a blur to me now, but today he’s good. One day at a time.

My reflection: It’s easy to drown in the baffling chaos that is addiction, but gratitude can serve as an emotional life raft in the face of it. Even if this day is full of sorrow, gratitude helps me to identify the many positive things in my life – as simple as some of them might be.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, Jeff is good and our family is stronger for all we’ve suffered through. I would never say that I’m grateful for addiction, but I am grateful for the lessons learned. Despite what pop culture tells us, happiness is something we work for and I must decide every day to work for it. Gratitude is the gateway. Our family wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving.


IN HONOR OF THEIR JOURNEY

IMG_0787 copyWhen you meet a clean drug addict

You meet a hero.

Their mortal enemy slumbers within them:

They can never outrun their disability.

They make their way through a world of drug abuse,

In an environment that does not understand them.

Society, puffed up with shameful ignorance,

Looks on them with contempt,

As if they were a second-class citizen


Because they dare to swim against the stream of drugs


But you must know:


No better people are made than this.

~Friedrich von Bodelschwingh 1831-1910

My reflection: Addicts are often considered second-class citizens, junkies, losers and scourges in the community. While it’s true that our loved ones in active addiction are not contributing to society, it’s also true that when they find the strength to live in sobriety, they return to life with a commitment to service, to help others and to make a difference.

Today’s Promise to consider: It takes courage for someone addicted to drugs to pick himself up and to change his life. It takes strength for him to live a life of abstinence. It takes grace for him to serve others and to give back. Today, when I meet a person in recovery, I’ll tip my hat in honor of his journey.


THERE’S LIFE AFTER ADDICTION

Niece Iysa and Uncle Jeff.

Niece Iysa and Uncle Jeff.

Honoring Achievements: Jeff was in active addiction for fourteen years. It was impossible to see a future for our family that was healthy and complete. I was mired in confusion and Jeff was slowly destroying himself. This week, I’m reminded of how very much our lives have changed as Jeff celebrates the fifth anniversary of his music label Cascine. Our family honors this milestone alongside Jeff.

My reflection: When in the throes of active addiction, life – for both the addict and the family – becomes a struggle for health and survival. Things often change dramatically when sobriety enters the picture. Reminders are all around us, when we stop and look for them.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s imperative to never give up hope with our addicted loved ones. There are many success stories of people who have survived an addiction and come home to themselves and their families. Jeff is one of the lucky ones. Today and every day, we’re grateful.

 


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