A personal conversation: I called Dr. MacAfee, Jeff’s addiction therapist, to talk about suffering. I had received an email from a mom in which I interpreted her as saying, “Quit suffering. And quit complaining about suffering. You need to learn from it.” I felt confused about my own suffering, especially with Jeff’s addiction. Was I not ‘allowed’ to suffer or feel the constant heartache? I needed help putting things together.

Dr. MacAfee’s response: Life is suffering. Until we get this concept, we can’t move on. Although days are filled with many beautiful moments, suffering is part of life. The question is not how do we live without pain, but how do we allow suffering to transform us. Suffering can be redemptive and transform us into a better person. The problem is when we get mired in our own suffering, then it becomes nonproductive. Acceptance of pain allows it to pass through us. Trauma and pain are paradigm shifts.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will put forth the effort to work through my suffering, my pain. I will allow the trauma to help me to grow. Suffering can be both the cross and the resurrection.


A mom wrote to me: Sobriety has not been black and white for us – drunk, then sober,  trouble, then hugs and kisses. A sober alcoholic may be unemployable, chronically depressed, riddled with rage and fear and suffer from a general lack of sober references that continue to make life unmanageable. Sobriety for us has been about accepting the “new normal” – we lived through our own private Katrina. We will never be who we were twenty years ago. Today we temper our joy with acceptance.

My reaction to the above message: We all have to accept a ‘new normal,’ especially after a long period of active addiction. It took Jeff more than one year to get his vocabulary back. There were times when he’d ‘reach’ for a word and he lament, “It’s like reaching into the fog. The word is there, I know it, but I can’t grasp it.” I remember telling Jeremy, “Your brother lived through a horrendous trauma and it changed him. We’re lucky he’s alive and with us.” In time, Jeff improved significantly, but we had to be gentle with him in the process.

Today’s Promise to consider: Dr MacAfee once told me, “The soul is too private to handle neon light, but listens wonderfully to candlelight.” Or as I believe children learn best, “The mind responds better to a light bulb than a hammer.”














Nonna with grandbaby Iysa

A dad wrote: I would be mindful of that precious time when your child is attempting to stay clean. There is no way to be sure if he or she will stay in recovery so take extra care to value and enjoy each moment of his sobriety. Take pictures, enjoy the love, the hugs, the smiles. Please do not focus on your fears.

My personal reaction to this entry: This dad’s reminder to focus on the precious moments is critical. I remember when Jeff was three years old and he crawled onto my lap as I was writing an article for a research journal. I continued to write, immersed in my thoughts,  until he touched my face and said, “Where are you, Mommy? How come you don’t hug me?”

Today’s Promise to consider: I will take the time to cherish each precious moment of this day. I will look into the eyes of those I love, hug them, listen to them and let them know how important they are to me.




Uncle Jeff and niece Iysa

A mother wrote to me: I work in a hospital and today we received a seventeen-year old, attempted OD and positive for opiates. I felt so helpless. I knew there was probably (hopefully) a mother, father or someone with this young addict and I wished I could have gone to his or her side to offer support. I know that feeling of being in the ER with a loved one, frightened.

I feel it’s time for me to give back, to do something. Please pray that I have the courage and strength to follow through with offering myself to speak with/be there with other families in time of need.

My personal reaction to this message: I will pray that this mom and others find the courage and strength to step forward and help others, to reach out a hand to a brother, mother, father or sister. Addiction is steeped in shame, stigma, silence and secrets. Stepping forward is not easy, but when I was young, we didn’t talk about abortion, homosexuality or even divorce. Today we talk about these issues and confront them.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will find the strength to help someone today. I will reach out a hand or lend a listening ear. I will do it simply and be present for another.



A PENDANT: worn with love

A mom wrote to me: My son came home from treatment, began AA meetings, got a sponsor and reconnected with his addiction therapist; however, this sobriety was shorter than his past ones. I know that there is no approach that will remove the pain of this struggle, but I have optimism that I have found a new way to live life as a mom with an addicted child. 

I will face this next “round” with the new philosophy. I have attached a picture of the pendant I wear. My son’s initials are on the back. My pendant is a reminder to me each moment of where I need to be in my relationship with my son as he struggles with his addiction.  

My response: When I opened this mom’s email and saw the pendant, my eyes filled with tears of gratitude that our family’s struggle had opened a possibility, an alternative way of being, for another mom. When the recovering Italian alcoholic told me, Stagli Vicino: Stay Close to him, I understood, in a new way, my role as a mom with an addicted son.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will adopt this philosophy of staying close to those I love, not just with addiction, but in all cases. I can’t fix problems for others, but I can support them by staying close.