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Libby Cataldi

IN CHURCH BASEMENTS: 1999 and 2011

My journal entry, February 23, 1999, 6:45 am: I went to an Al-Anon meeting last night, and I found a peace that has eluded me. I’m truly amazed that my soul quieted there, in the basement of a church. What made the difference? I heard such pain from others, and I listened intently as to how they are struggling to survive. I saw in their eyes a determination to get healthy, their intense love for their alcoholic or addict, and true compassion for each other. Yes, something happened last night. Many of them have worse pain than I, and all seem to struggle with similar issues – worry, fear and detachment. I can find strength in their strength. Maybe I’ve been searching for someone to give me strength. Maybe I can find strength and comfort in Al-Anon and ultimately in myself.

An Open Letter to Chrissy and Lisa, September 28, 2011, 4:47 PM: Thanks for reaching out to me and inviting me to your Al-Anon meetings. Your generosity of spirit and your compassion touched me.

So what is it that keeps me coming back? When I look around the room, I see people who understand where I’ve been and how I’ve suffered. When I share our story, people look at me with understanding. When I leave, I don’t feel stripped and vulnerable, but I feel elevated, heard and supported.

Magic happens in these Al-Anon meetings. Here we find hope. I’m remain a grateful member of Al-Anon.

 


Positive Role Models

A mother wrote to me. This is part of it: My son is an alcoholic and just returned from Iraq. Today he is good and I pray that tomorrow will be the same. He is working his program in AA, and I am staying close to him and to my support group in Al-Anon. There are winners in recovery and it’s important for us to keep solid role models of hope out there, in front of us, to keep us all going.

My reflection on the passage above: It is important for us to see positive examples of recovery. I am on a rowing team of breast cancer survivors and we join together as a visible example that there is life after cancer.

My son says that there are “old timers” in AA who are sober and have lived in sobriety for years. They “keep coming back” to give hope, wisdom and support to others. I go to Al-Anon and look to our “old timers” who know my wounds and help me see the positive.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will look to the people who have survived the chaos of trauma and celebrate their successes. I will learn from them and try to be a positive role model to others in my life.

 

 

 


LIVING: ONE DAY AT A TIME

A mother wrote an email message to me. This is part of it: My son is an addict and my husband and I barely functioned for almost three years. He earned a college degree, had a good job and a lovely wife – all gone. He went to rehab and spent one year in a halfway house. Today he has regained his life: a great job, a loving girlfriend and he just announced his engagement. Even though things seem good, I worry. I know that I should have a positive outlook, but the past haunts me. How do I ever begin to trust and live without fear?

My personal reflection of the passage offering my thoughts today: I also struggled with this paradox of how to trust again. I wanted to have faith and to give Jeff the dignity of his own walk with his Higher Power, but I still had a catch in my heart as I remembered all that we had been through.

Dr. MacAfee clarified this for me, “It’s OK. You’ve been vigilant a long time. It’s a pattern and it might never change. It’s normal. You’re a parent. Be patient with yourself.”

I wasted many years living in the past and fearing the future. I wasted valuable time thinking about what had happened and what could happen. Today I live in a space of gratitude that my son is good and I pray for tomorrow.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will have compassion for my son and I will have compassion for myself. I’ll be patient while I learn to release my loved one – to himself and his God. Today I will trust; I will live without fear.


LIVING FORWARD

Pappa Jeremy and Iysabella Carmela

A friend wrote a poem about hope and this is part of it: Looking far behind, Will never help you find what’s true…Because you can’t relive it, Or somehow try to give it, Another shot. Although you’d like to rearrange it, The truth is you can’t change it; It’s done. Good-bye. Not what you’d hoped, Or wanted…So start revising hopes and dreams, To fit what is, not what it seems…You can leave the past behind you now, And say instead a quiet vow, To make your future wish come true, By being strong, By being you.

My personal reflection on the message of the poem offering my thoughts today: When our children or loved ones suffer, we suffer. I was filled with guilt and beat myself up with questions like, “What could I have done differently? How could I have saved my son and my family from this tragedy of addiction?”

The lines above seem true to me. I can’t change our past: It’s done – Good-bye. I admit that it isn’t what I had hoped for or prayed for. But as Jeff wrote, “Addiction has changed my life, made me a different person, and in many respects my life is richer because I was forced to confront myself or die. My past is my past and I can’t turn this path around or change the footsteps that follow me. Drugs were my life, but drugs left me empty.”

For my family and me, we must continue to look to the future and be strong. I must be strong for my sons. It’s the best gift I can give them. It’s is the best gift I can give myself.

Today’s Promise for us to consider: Today I won’t look back in the rearview mirror. I’ll give myself the permission to leave the past behind and to look forward with hope.


Decision Making: Theirs and Ours

A mother wrote an email message to me. This is part of it: We have tried to stay close to our addicted son, but I think instead I have been enabling him. We hired a lawyer the first time, but my son did something worse and ended up in jail anyway. The last time, we got an attorney again, but with similar results. I know my son needs long-term rehab, but how does he leave everything and go away for a year or more? I don’t know what to do to save our son.

My personal reflection on the passage above offering my thoughts today: As parents, we want to save our children. But addiction is a confounding disease and we find that we are oftentimes powerless. Dr. MacAfee writes, “Family members repeatedly blame themselves and try to straighten out the addict. This is a mission filled with good intention, but unless the addict is ready to stop, good intentions are exploited. Addicts will do anything in their power to keep using, and family will do anything in their power to stop them.”

Our addicted children have to make the choice to get and stay clean. We can love them through it, but in our attempt to save them we often enable. This vicious cycle must be broken.

Today’s Promise to consider for all of us who love addicts: I will stay close and allow my loved one to choose a life of sobriety. I must stop denying him the consequences of his addiction. He must make the decision for himself and I must respect my boundaries.


A FAMILY DISEASE

A brother wrote an email message to me. This is part of it: I worked at a restaurant with my older brother and, after a few weeks, I started seeing clearly his actions, who he was hanging out with and what he was doing. I realized that he was an addict. I watched his life spiral out of control and I warned him that I would tell our parents what was happening. After months of threatening him and praying that he’d stop, I told my parents. Through my own tears, I told them that I was losing my brother to drugs. They sat in disbelief…it was too hard for them to grasp. At that moment, I hated my brother: I hated him and I loved him. It was all so confusing.

My personal reflection on the passage above offering my thoughts today: The Big Book of AA calls addiction a “confounding illness.” The boundaries of hate and love collide, family loyalties are threatened, brothers fight against brothers, and parents don’t know what to do. We parents try to save our families, but how do we protect everyone, including ourselves? Somehow we have to find a place where we are able to stay close to our addicted child while keeping ourselves and our other children out of the chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider for all of us who love addicts: I will talk with my non-addicted children about what is happening in our family. I will listen to them and try to understand their confusion and fears. I might even share mine. I will offer them help in An-Anon, Alateen or another counseling program.


RELAPSE

My son wrote this to me several years ago: Mom, know that I never mean to hurt you. These last couple months have been hard – for both of us. Thank you for not giving up on me. Your strength gives me strength. You believe in me at times more than I believe in myself.

My personal reflection on the passage above offering my thoughts today: My son wrote this to me when he entered his first rehab center. This was the first of many rehab centers, but I didn’t know that then. What his written words told me was that my son was still alive under all the drugs. His humanity was not lost. Yes, he was a drug addict and yes, he was sick, but he was still my son under it all. Someone had to believe because he couldn’t believe in himself. I do believe he never meant to hurt the family or me. He was sick and the addiction was selfish. I stayed close.

Today’s promise to consider for all of us who love addicts: Each rehab attempt is another victory and each relapse is a step closer to recovery. My son needs to know that home won’t move away from him. I’ll stay close. Under the drugs, my son is alive.


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