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.



A mother wrote to me: Finding balance has been perhaps the most difficult part of my learning process. So much was dependent on my own self-discovery and this was really intense for me, both as a mom and as an individual. But I know, now, that I would not trade one scary, treacherous mile. I can embrace with full-on joy that God, in His unfailing love and wisdom, has helped me hang in there and grow right alongside of my precious son.

My reflection on the above passage: Finding balance through any tragedy is difficult and I struggled with finding mine through Jeff’s addiction. Was I doing too much; was I not doing enough? For me, the answer came in the Italian alcoholic’s admonition to Stay Close: Jeff needed to feel the consequences of his addiction and I had to get out of the way yet keep my love and emotional support close at the same time.

Today’s Promise to Consider: Finding our balance takes time and hard work. I will remember to breathe, pray and learn. I will be compassionate with myself and my loved one.


A mom sent me an email: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the song by David Cook titled “Come Back to Me.”  Every morning when I walk/jog (working on the jogging part!) and this song comes on my ipod, I am reminded to mention it to you.  I think of it as my “relapse” song because it has a message that speaks to me if my son should relapse in the future.  I feel like it could be the soundtrack to your wonderful book “Stay Close.”

This mom and I send it to you with our love.



A mother wrote to me: I picked up my son last Friday to go to his grandparents for the weekend. I suspected he was using, but in truth I knew he was using. Why didn’t I have a plan? Why didn’t I tell him to get out of the car and that he was not welcome to be with us? I have to set clear limits, communicate those limits to him and then stick to them. Why is that so difficult?

My response to the above passage: Boundaries keep us safe, yet I found them difficult to put into effect. Fear kept me locked in the gap: fear that I’d lose my son, fear that the boundary would hurt him, fear that I was too harsh and not a ‘good mother.’ But when I learned where I started and stopped, I was better able to be stronger for my son and my family.

Today’s Promise to Consider: “No” is a valid response. I’ll practice setting boundaries to keep myself and my addicted loved one safe. He needs to know what I can and will accept, and what I won’t. It’s only fair to him. Consistency and peace can be found by respecting my own boundaries.








A mother wrote to me: As I prepare for Hurricane Irene, I think about addiction as hurricane. It spirals out of control, spreads laterally affecting unforeseen victims and causing damage. We can prepare all we want, but we are powerless over it. We clear our decks of furniture (protect ourselves from addiction’s path), prepare with food and water (go to Al-Anon) and use common sense (educate ourselves). I have felt like a hostage to this disease.

A reflection on the above passage: Addiction creeps into our lives with just a whisper. Often we live in denial: We hear the forecast and the winds, but we are sure it will pass us by. Then the destruction starts and we find ourselves in the middle of a storm over which we have no control.

Today’s promise to consider: I can’t control addiction’s destruction, but I can join hands with others, pray, hope and stay close. With hard work, love and commitment, my loved one can live a productive life in abstinence. I pray that he chooses to fight for his own life. I cannot win this battle for him.