Dr. MacAfee says, “The substance, the use and the search become the master of the addict’s life and everything they know and do revolves around using. We can get the addict to put down the drugs – look at all the thirty-day treatment programs – but to learn to live life, now that’s the healing. 

“We need to see and understand how deeply robbed and impoverished the addict is from the addiction. When the addict quits using, he must face what’s in front of him, but also what’s behind him. Drinking stops, reality comes forward and even simple things become monumental.. Anyone who returns from addiction is a remarkable success. The failure isn’t in relapse. The failure is not trying again. 

My thoughts: Jeff spoke to a group of newly sober high-schoolers enrolled in a safe school in Oklahoma. One of the young men, a skateboarder, told Jeff, “So many things that I did were about using, even the music I listened to while I skateboarded. I don’t even know what kind of music I like anymore.” Jeff responded, “When I got clean, I didn’t even know what color I liked or what to do on a Saturday night. I didn’t know what normal people did. Learning how to live a sober life is not easy.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Dr. Stephanie Brown, a drug addiction therapist and founder of The Addictions Institute, says that the crisis is in recovery. Living life on life’s terms is hard for all of us, and for the addict it must seem insurmountable. I will stay close and show compassion and respect for my loved one’s journey into sobriety.







Uncle Jeff and niece Iysa

A mom asks Dr. MacAfee: I understand what you write, “Recovery is always an individual endeavor and also requires a supportive community.” I also know how hard it has been to love my son unconditionally through all the rehabs, failed attempts, restarts, continued use and damage to relationships. My husband and I are trying hard to support his current attempt at recovery. I know the road is very difficult for the addict and my heart breaks for my son, but I also have a broken heart for the rest of us. So much healing is needed. How does healing happen?

Dr. MacAfee responds: We all want healing to be an end game, but it doesn’t happen that way. Healing comes a layer at a time. For some, healing is totally dependent on the sobriety of the addict and this highlights the difference between helping and enabling.

To the mom above, you might say to your child, “I have discovered that there is only room for one of us in your addiction. I have decided to leave you in charge of the consequences of your addiction. Ironically, I find this decision both terrifying and liberating, but also healing. I want you to be whole again and I fear all our help has stood in your way. It’s hard for me to face my getting out of your way, but I realize that it is healing for you, too.”

Today’s Promise to consider: I will stay close, love my child and not abandon him, but I will get out of the way of the chaos of his addiction. My peace will come from knowing that I’ve done everything I could have done. I will endure and pray.


Dr. Patrick MacAfee

Dr. MacAfee says: We know a lot about addiction, but I’m very interested in what it means to live in sobriety. In other words, what is the impact of abstinence? Most people tell me they want sobriety because, “I don’t like who I’ve become.” This statement is a great motivator for change. Recovery is always an individual endeavor and also requires a supportive community.

My reaction: I never thought about the impact of abstinence. When Jeff completed his first recovery program, he emerged drug free, but his life was still framed around old ways of living. Just because he spent thirty days in treatment didn’t mean that the world he used to know suddenly changed to support his recovery. In fact, just the opposite was true. There was lots of work that needed to happen for him to reintegrate into life in a healthy way. It was all new to Jeff and new to our family. This was a delicate place.

Today’s Promise to consider: When using stops – whether overeating, smoking, drinking or using drugs – fear of picking-up again is common and living can be painful. I know that I can’t control my loved one’s behavior, but I also know that he will need a strong support system. I will be compassionate and supportive as he learns to live in abstinence.




Author Stephen King writes, “There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room,” which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth, “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”

My reaction: Stephen King took his first drink in 1966, age 18, and never stopped. He writes, “Alcoholics build defenses like Dutch build dikes.” And I did the same with my family. I built defenses, isolated myself and denied that addiction was the elephant in the room.

Today’s Promise to consider: I’ll face my fears today. I’ll force myself out of delusion, out of illusion and out of pretending that the problem doesn’t exist. I won’t allow my fear to lock me in place. I will trust God. I will act.