Breaking Patterns of Behavior

A young woman who is recovering from an eating disorder wrote to me: This is the first difficult time in my life that I have not been ‘drawn’ back into some form of self-defeating eating pattern! So in that sense it is the BEST difficult time because it is the first time I haven’t felt ‘PANGS’ of guilt or self dislike (or in more extreme cases self loathing). Of course, I’m aware that the pattern will raise its head again, but I am working to stay self aware and to keep letting it flow so that I don’t get pulled back.

My reflection on the passage: Patterns of behavior are hard to break, not just with an addiction but in life. When problems get too complicated for me, I tend to become more demanding, more like my father who was a Marine Corps Drill Sergeant. Being aware is the first step. When I slip, I need to make amends to others and to myself.

Today’s Promise: I will continue to develop an observing eye – that part of me that carefully watches how I respond to situations. I can break my old patterns of behavior with self awareness, honest conversations with others about my feelings, hard work and prayer.



Dr. MacAfee wrote to me: Many years ago, a dad, a laborer, a very hard working man and ever so wise whose daughter had died, came back into therapy after a couple months absence – around the anniversary of her death. In my awkwardness, filling space with my anxiety, I said, “these anniversaries are so difficult.” To which he said, “Dr. MacAfee, I know you mean well, but everyday is the anniversary.”

In that moment, Libby, I learned about trauma and grieving in a way as never before. Needless to say tears filled both our eyes and I came to understand something – a great gift from a grieving father.

My reflection on the passage above: Often we carry our grief alone, lock it inside ourselves where it isolates us, swells and hurts every day. There are times when I feel the grief of lost years, of dreams that missed the mark and of hurts that happened without my being able to stop them. When I least expect it, a remembrance comes to mind and I feel grief for what has been.

Today’s promise to consider: Feeling grief is a part of the human condition and it can trap us in a place where we feel totally alone. Today I will share my grief, my sadness. I will talk with someone and maybe he or she will help me carry it, if just for a moment.



A mother wrote to me: I have to let go of my resentments. I’m thinking of an old suitcase: I’ll put those poisonous thoughts, which have been festering like an old splinter, in the suitcase and bury it! That’s my plan today… I’ll bury this suitcase with the things that were said so they NEVER pop into my brain and get in the way of my good memories.

My reflection on the message above: AA talks about resentments being “fatal,” so I asked Dr. MacAfee if letting go of resentments was an act of will. He said, “Yes, in part, but letting go of resentments takes more than will. The problem is that people often try to let them go, but they do it with toxic amounts of denial. Denying them is as problematic as holding them. I would use the visualization technique only after understanding my reaction to the pain. Resentments are powerfully damaging and sometimes pitifully trivialized.”

Today’s promise to consider: I will do the work necessary to understand my resentments. I will not deny my pain, but I will strive to let go of my resentments for my good and the good of others. It’s time to let go.



A mother wrote to me: I talked with my son about what Jeff said – how the addict misses the chaos of his years of using. My son opened up to me about how much he agrees with this. He said that the drugs made him feel alive and now he feels like he’s just going through the motions. I appreciated his honesty and told him that I recognize and admire his courage to change, to talk about these things….and, of course, that I love him!

My reflection on the passage above: Jeff recently told me, “Anything that shuts down dialogue is dangerous. The silence keeps us isolated.”

Addiction thrives in the dark and needs to be brought out of the shadows and into a place of healing. When I was young, we didn’t talk about abortion, breast cancer or homosexuality. Today we talk openly about these issues and this brings hope.

Today’s Promise to consider: Open and honest dialogue takes courage. I will face the tough issues and fight for relationships with my loved ones and those for whom I care deeply. I will work with them to find a place of understanding and forgiveness.



A mother writes: Today I went to my first Al-Anon meeting or at least that is what I thought I was going to. Instead it was the Narcaholics Anonymous meeting for users. So instead of hearing from family members about their loved one’s addictions, I heard from the addicts themselves. It was very eye opening and humbling to hear their struggles.

My reflection on the passage above: For many years, I was locked in my own pain and never realized the pain that my son felt. Dr. MacAfee said, “Few people understand how an addict loathes himself and his addiction. Living inside the addict’s skin is often more than the addict himself can bear. The heaviness of his reality, combined with all the lies he struggles to maintain, weighs on him. Addicts hate what they do to others, but the drugs call them home.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Compassion is difficult to feel not just with addiction, but with many of life’s problems. Even though my pain feels huge, I will be compassionate with my son. I must understand that I can never fully understand what he is going through.