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Acceptance

“SOMEHOW OUR LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH”

Brother Ted and family

A mother wrote to me: I have found strength in a very close Nar-Anon group and continue to attend meetings regularly.  My husband and I and my son’s sister are here for him when HE is ready to change. We know we can’t force him to change – we’ve tried. After three failed rehab attempts, we have nothing else to give him. Somehow our love isn’t enough.

My reflection: I learned that once the addiction is in charge, our children are not. They are under the drugs and using becomes a chase, a necessity, a way of life. I used to tell my son, “If you loved us, you’d stop,” but addiction takes the healthiest parts of love and smashes them into worry, helplessness and hopelessness.

Today’s Promise to consider: I used to think that love was enough to beat addiction down, but it isn’t. My son needed to make the decision to live a sober life. He once told me, “I love you and never wanted to hurt you. I tried to keep you out of the way and to the side, but I’m an addict, Mom. I’m an addict.”


“IT NEVER STOPS HURTING” 

Zander

A mom of a son who died of a drug overdose wrote to me: I feel the need to find a place to help this epidemic, to make a voice for us moms and dads who have lost our child to this horrible disease. I feel a need to say to the medical community that doctors must stop making it easy to get opiate meds, because they eventually lead young people to heroin where they get caught up in this highly addictive and deadly disease. I just don’t know where to go with this inner voice that wants to speak out on behalf of my beautiful son.

My reflection: My prayer is simple: may this entry bring comfort to another mom or dad, brother or sister.

Today’s Promise to consider: We must join our voices into the resounding chorus that clamors for help for our addicted loved ones. There can be no rest until those who are suffering get the help they need. The hurting never stops for those who have lost a child. We must all hold hands and walk together.

 


“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.”

 


ADDICTION AND THE HOLIDAYS

Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

I wrote this in Stay Close: During the Christmas of 2006, when neither son came home for our large Italian family gatherings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends didn’t know what to do. 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?

My reflection: I remember well that Christmas Eve Mass when my older brother turned gently toward me and said, “Not sure I should ask, but how is Jeff?” I looked at him as tears welled in my eyes. He just nodded as we left the question float in the air.

Today’s Promise to consider: During the holidays, let us remember that addiction can severely isolate us. We might feel ashamed and lonely because our lives are not as joyful as we wish they would be. I will avoid this treacherous place by being compassionate with myself and my family. I will find serenity in honesty and prayer.

 


CHOICES: FOR ALL OF US

DSC01595.JPGFrom a recovering alcoholic: Stagli vicino, stay close, is I think very Italian or perhaps even Mediterranean, certainly not British. Whether a person stays close or not is really the choice of the person who wants to help the suffering addict. I know that there is nothing I can do to stop another person drinking or using unless he wants to quit. It is really as simple as that.

My reflection: It really is as simple as that. We cannot make our child quit using. Change must come from the person. When I had breast cancer, I had to choose to fight. The doctors offered their advice for the best course of treatment, but it was my decision to stay positive and committed to my wellbeing. Our children must choose recovery, and they must choose every day, just as we must choose to give them the space to reach that decision.

Today’s Promise to consider: With every cell of my body, I want to force my child to stop using drugs and alcohol. I want to demand it, command it and make sure it happens. But I can’t. I can only make choices for myself. I will stay close and pray he chooses sobriety, today and everyday, one day at a time.


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.

 


REHAB ISN’T ONLY FOR THE ADDICT

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

My son wrote about his first rehab center: The family sessions were valuable in that I started seeing you, my mother, as a person. Treatment lifted the backdrop of everyday life and allowed me to look at the drug use alone. You were afraid, and I could feel the gravity of that pain. You couldn’t fix my addictive patterns and your fear was evident. I began to understand that parents carry the full weight of their children’s hardships.

My reflection: The family sessions started honest conversations between my son and me. Jeff could see and feel my fear, and he knew that I wanted desperately to help him, to fix him. I, too, saw his fear and felt his pain. Together, we learned about each other and about addiction.

Today’s Promise to consider: Family sessions in rehabs taught me to listen deeply to my child and to work with him as we learned about addiction and its patterns. Today, honesty rules our conversations as my son and I continue to heal. Over time, he’s come to understand my pain, and I’ve begun to understand his.


RECOVERY HAPPENS: “NEVER GIVE UP”

TM_1696 (1)A friend of mine forwarded me a letter written by her son. He wrote: The moral of this story is: Never Give Up. Life is an absolutely terrifying phenomenon, but there is always hope hidden somewhere. On July 28, 2012, I remember sitting alone in a drug induced state, watching the sunrise and praying for a god to kill me. I prayed for no afterlife so the pain, the inner anguish, could finally end. This was the moment when I had an epiphany. I thought that instead of slowly watching myself die, I would give life a chance. I checked into rehab and I got clean. Turns out that was the easy part. Staying clean, that’s where shit gets real. I had to figure out who I was, better yet, who I am. The answer didn’t happen overnight. Hell, it’s still an ongoing process. I had to accept that I’m an awkward guy, a people pleaser who doesn’t want anyone to find out that I’m just an asshole with a big heart, and a nervous wreck who tries his best to remain calm. Then something magical happened: I realized that I wasn’t alone. One day I woke up and thought, “Holy damn, I can relate to other people without the use of drugs or alcohol, and they might even like me for who I am?!” And that was a beautiful thing. Life is a beautiful thing. I never thought I could make it to four years clean and sober. With the right attitude, essentially anything is possible.

My reflection: This young man calls out many important parts of the recovery process and delineates the numerous epiphanies that happen along the way. I often hear addicts talk about the rays of hope that enter when things are at their worst and the personal bottoms that ignite the gift of desperation where real change takes hold.

Today’s Promise to consider: This young man’s words remind us all that with addiction there is hope and that sobriety is possible. He discovered that life can be a beautiful thing. Our prayer is that all our suffering children fight for and embrace life in recovery.

 

 

 


AM I CAPABLE OF FOLLOWING THE GENTLEST PATH?

IMG_0233

Photo Credit: Patrisha Lauria

Jeff sent me a passage from a Taoist book he’s reading: Like water, we’re encouraged to follow the gentlest path through life. In the face of obstacles, let us be fluid and flow downward to bend around trees and fallen branches. And when encountering rocks, let us rise like water vapor to float across the sky. 

(paraphrased, Eva Wong, Being Taoist: Wisdom for Living a Balanced Life, 2015)

My reflection: When Jeff sent me this passage, I reflected on his fourteen years of active addiction and realized that I was anything but water flowing gently. I fought the addiction with every ounce of my being. True, it did me no good and I stopped nothing. I was neither powerful nor strong enough to stop the destruction.

Today’s Promise to consider: With addiction, is it possible to follow a gentle path? Can I be subtle as vapor and rise above such heavy obstacles? I must stop getting mired in things I can’t control. For today, I will do my best to handle adversity with grace and objectivity. I will let go of anxiety and suffering. Join me?

 


I TRIED EVERYTHING HUMANLY POSSIBLE

jeff_TMA mom wrote to me: I tried everything humanly possible to save my son. And then I let go. I have so much love and gratitude for the peace I am now experiencing. I have no illusions for tomorrow. I went to three funerals of young people in ten days.

My reflection: I, too, tried everything humanly possible to stop my son’s addiction. I paid to get him out of trouble, forced him into recovery, and tracked him down whenever he couldn’t be found. After fourteen years of trying to control my son’s addiction, I surrendered with love.

Today’s Promise to consider: It was only after acknowledging that I did everything in my power to stop Jeff’s addiction, was I able to let go. It was sobering, but crucial for me to realize that no matter how much of myself I poured into his illness, the choice to stop was his alone. When I surrendered with love, I felt peace.

 


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