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Dr. Patrick MacAfee

HONESTY IS IMPERATIVE

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

A client and friend of Dr. MacAfee, the mother of a recovering addict wrote to me: One of the most important lessons I learned from Dr MacAfee was to hold a mirror up to my son and reflect back to him, without anger or judgment, the honest truth of his behavior and actions. Dr. MacAfee encouraged me to be truthful at all times because without truth both of us would live in denial about what was really happening.

My reflection: I was never very good at honesty when my son was in active addiction. I walked on eggshells, trying diligently to avoid confrontations. This didn’t help my son, our family or me.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction survives in lies, while sobriety thrives in honesty. The Big Book reiterates that point saying, sobriety is not possible without rigorous honesty. Today, I will find my courage and be honest with my addicted loved one, without judgment or anger, and with love and kindness. Neither of us needs another battle, but we both need truth.

 

 


SELF PRESERVATION

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

A dear friend of mine and Dr MacAfee’s told me: Dr MacAfee often reminded me of the importance of taking time for self care and time to nurture myself so that I could deal with everything going on within the family and still be true to myself. Addiction, he told me, is a family disease. As a mother, I tried to shoulder the load of destruction that addiction brought within my family. Addiction affects everyone in the family in different ways for years to come.

My reflection: Addiction takes over the family and leaves no hostages. It’s relentless in its hunger to destroy everyone. When Jeff was in active addiction, I tried to protect my family, but it was impossible. Addiction was far stronger than I was strong.

Today’s Promise to consider: Compassion defined Dr. MacAfee. He had compassion for the addict and for the family. He helped me to learn how to Stay Close, but out of the chaos as I continued to love my suffering child. He taught me that self preservation wasn’t selfish, but essential.

 


THE SHAME ISOLATES US

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

A dear friend of mine and Dr MacAfee’s, a mother of a recovering addict, wrote to me: Addiction within a family brings a thick cloak of shame to all. It surrounds and permeates us to our very core. We agonize over our loved one’s behavior, and we cringe over what people must be thinking of us. Addiction brings shame, and we isolate ourselves.

My reflection: When I had breast cancer, an army of women surrounded me with love and support, but when my son was in active addiction, many of these same friends didn’t know what to do or say. I was in deep pain and confusion, so I isolated. I let no one in.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will share my story of addiction with those I trust or, if I am able, with a larger audience. There are others who know my pain, and the shared stories remind us that we’re not alone. I will go to Al-Anon meetings. I will reach out my hand. I will pray and find comfort. I refuse to continue to suffer alone.

 


MACAFEE’S WORDS OF WISDOM: STOP TRYING TO MANAGE THE CHAOS

img_3931This is part of a series of monthly posts that reference many conversations with Dr. MacAfee. Thanks, Doc.  

A dear friend of mine and Dr MacAfee’s, a mother of a recovering addict, wrote to me: I used to think that if I could just work harder and do more for my addicted loved one, I could fix the problem. Dr. MacAfee taught me that my attempts to manage the chaos enabled my son to continue his self-destruction. Don’t get me wrong…things were still deteriorating, but at a much slower pace. Once I stopped managing his chaos, he lasted three days. It was shocking. It still is.

My reflection: I used to think my job as a mom was to fix my children’s problems. With addiction, most of what I thought I knew wasn’t right or didn’t work. Like my friend, I finally learned that I had to get out of the way of my son’s consequences.

Today’s Promise to consider: As parents, we can’t manage the chaos in our addicted loved one’s life. Our impulse to make things better for him is a good one, but in the face of addiction it becomes counterproductive. Moreover, when I put myself in charge of my son’s addiction, this gave him the time and opportunity to continue his destructive way of life. When I finally learned to stay close but out of the chaos, he took control.


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.


MACAFEES’S WORDS OF WISDOM: You Get What You Tolerate

img_3932This is part of a series of monthly posts that reference many conversations with Dr. MacAfee. Thanks, Doc. 

A friend, who also loved Dr. MacAfee, and I remember when he told us both that you get what you tolerate. She and I both respected Dr. MacAfee’s years of wisdom in working with addicts and, at different times, both of us had been the recipients of our sons’ disruptive behavior, lies, manipulations or deep hurts. Dr. Mac told us to stay close, but not to allow ourselves to be abused. “Whatever behavior you tolerate,” he counseled, “will continue.”

My reflection: As my son’s addiction took over his life, his lies, manipulation and downright bad behavior became more pervasive. With every low, I thought, “This is his bottom,” and I rushed in to save him from the consequences of his actions. The more chaos I allowed myself to be subjected to, the worse things got. 

Today’s Promise to consider: We parents of addicts are known to sacrifice our own well being as we tolerate the intolerable. Firm boundaries are imperative for both our loved ones and ourselves. The consequences of the addict’s behavior must be his to bear. We reach out in love and stay close, but we must keep ourselves safe.

 


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.

 


REFLECTIONS FROM DR. MACAFEE

Dr. Patrick MacAfee and Jeff

With Dr. MacAfee’s death, I reviewed a few of my notes from our conversations. He said: In most family situations, we help and this is good. In addiction, help often becomes enabling which keeps the disease status quo. We don’t do this maliciously. We want to help, but without the right information we foster the sickness and get caught in the trap of manipulation. If the lies collapse and the fiction is eroded, breakthroughs usually occur, but they’re painful. That’s why we maintain the denial and don’t want to see the truth of what is happening. When we stop enabling, we give the addict a chance to shift. We need to get out of the way and stop intervening in the consequences. 

My reflection: I was the queen of enabling and denial. I didn’t want to see what was happening with my son, and I wanted to believe him when he told me that he wasn’t using drugs. At the end of fourteen years, I finally got out of the way. I told him that I loved him, but he had to fight for himself. All my efforts to save him only continued the devastating decline. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Dr. MacAfee taught me that we need to acknowledge the painful enormity of addiction, but we also need to get out of the way of its consequences. Today, I’ll continue to educate myself about this cunning disease. There’s only room for one in the addiction.

 

 

 

 

 


PATRICK MACAFEE, PH.D. 03/03/1940 – 08/09/2016

TM.Doc (1)An open letter to Doctor MacAfee

My dearest Doc,

You’ll never know how difficult it is to say goodbye to you. What would we have done without your steady presence? When Jeff was in his tenth rehab and in that delicate space of deciding whether to get clean or submit to yet another deadly run, you were the one who made the difference. You saw his sensitivity and gentleness, and you led him through his pain with grace. You helped him see his inner goodness and you never demeaned him for his addiction. You acknowledged his strengths and helped him to understand his weaknesses.

You taught me, too. You told me that it takes courage to fight addiction and that relapse isn’t failure. You showed me that my loving son was still alive under the drugs. You and I talked for ten years about addiction. When I felt confused or needed direction, you were there. When I reached out for advice for others, you were there. When I doubted my abilities to be a good mother, you were there.

You ended all of our conversations with the words stay close. I’ll stay close, Doc, and continue to spread all I’ve learned from you about taking addiction out of the shadows and into the light. I know you’ll stay close to us, especially to Jeff. He represents your best work.

You told me that addicts are saints in the making. You, Doc, are a saint to us. Pray for us.

With love and eternal respect,

Libby


SAINTS IN THE MAKING

Dr. MacAfee and Jeff

Dr. MacAfee and Jeff

Dr. MacAfee explains, The word saint used in the context of addicts is controversial, but there’s an important distinction to be made between recovering addicts and those who are abstaining from drugs. Abstinence is the beginning, the time when the addict puts down the drugs. Recovery is a transformative process when the addict moves, step by step, into living a life of truth. Recovery happens when the addict leaves the hell that he has been living and moves to a place of belonging, of contribution, of coming alive. His defensiveness goes down and he knows that honesty is his only way to health. With this transformation, his humanity starts to emerge.

My reflection: When Dr. MacAfee told me that addicts were saints in the making, Jeff was still sick and had been sick for 14 years. What I heard in Dr. MacAfee’s words was hope. Hope that Jeff would recover and grow to be the person he was meant to be.

Today’s Promise to consider: When our loved one is in active addiction, life is suffocating. But when he decides deep down to recover and takes the diligent steps healing requires, he comes back with a burning desire to be of service to others. He regains his humanity and chooses a life of truth and purpose. In this transformation, he is, to me, a saint in the making.


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