photoPersonal note: During a recent Al-Anon meeting, a woman brought in a hula-hoop. She stood, raised it above her head, lowered it to her waist and then dropped it to the floor. “Do you see,” she asked as she pointed to the hula-hoop around her feet, “the space inside the hoop? My sponsor explained that I can control what is inside the hoop. All that is outside the hoop is beyond my control.”

My reaction: This visual of the hula-hoop crystallized in my mind what is controllable in life and what is not. As a mom, I tried for years to control Jeff’s and Jeremy’s behaviors. As Head of School, I felt it was my job to control every aspect of the school. After years of seeing the futility of my actions, the limits of my control started to make sense.

Today’s Promise to consider: Wanting to control situations, especially during the chaos of addiction, is normal. Normal, but impossible. I have control over my behavior and my choices  – the space inside the hula-hoop – but I can’t control the myriad of events outside the hoop. What I can do is continue to hope, stay close to my loved ones and pray for acceptance.


IMG_1009Dominique, my hospice counselor, said: When there has been harm done between two people, the choice to love takes on the face of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a permanent state. Why? Because the decision to love is not permanent. You cannot say to someone, “I chose to love you last year,” as though it were sufficient. The person would rightly respond, “Well, what about today!?” Love is always in the here and now. Forgiveness, therefore, must be repeated. My choice to forgive does not immediately heal the wounds. 

My reaction: When we’re hurt by someone, we often need to forgive them many times for the same thing. The cuts are deep and our pains do not disappear after a single decision to forgive. I used to believe that once I made the choice to forgive, the fire in my belly would extinguish, but this is not the case. Forgiveness is ongoing.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I willing come to the table of forgiveness. I choose to forgive someone who has hurt me, and I will continue to choose over and over, every time I feel the pain arise. I will be patient with myself. As Jeff reminds me, “Time heals all wounds, but time takes time.”




IMG_3792A mom wrote: It took lots of years for me to forgive my father for abusing me. It took lots of years for me to forgive myself for not protecting my younger siblings from the abuse. I also had to forgive my mother for not protecting me.

I have found that you can never find serenity within yourself unless you can forgive. Forgiving is the secret to inner peace. I thank God everyday because without prayer and His guidance, I would not have been able to “feel” the overwhelming peace in my soul. That peace is forgiveness.

My reaction: My heart ached as I read this mom’s words. I felt myself welling up with anger and outrage at the heinous abuse by her father and the lack of protection by her mother. I felt deep sadness with her feelings of guilt for being powerless to stop the abuse and save her siblings. Her courage to face the memories and to forgive was critical to her own wellbeing. She has learned to forgive the person without excusing the act. As she writes, “Forgiving is the secret to inner peace.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Forgiving offers us an opportunity to find our personal serenity and freedom. It doesn’t mean we deny the hurt, lessen a person’s responsibility or justify abuse. What is does mean is that we move beyond the pain, despicable as the act might be, in the act of willful love. Today, I will pray for God’s help to move beyond the pain and turn my will toward love. Love will have the last word.







VAR_5575My mother’s death was hard for me and inspired a personal journey of trying to understand death and grief. As a result, I talked with Dominique, a Hospice counselor. We discussed dying, but our conversations about forgiving taught me the most.

Dominique said: In all relationships, no matter how wonderful they are, there is need to forgive. We hurt each other, sometimes when we don’t even know it: It’s part of being human. Forgiving is not about forgetting. The wounds don’t magically heal. Forgiving is to wish well to the person who harmed us, meaning we wish them fullness of heart and a clarity of mind that aspires to wisdom. Forgiving is not an emotional state. It is an act of willful love that ultimately sets us free, for only in loving are we truly free. 

My reaction: During Jeff’s addiction, the pain was extraordinary and I felt lots of emotions, including anger. That anger led to deep-held resentments against many people, including Jeff. I thought I could never forgive, but when Jeff entered recovery, honesty broke the back of the resentments between us and we made amends to each other. For the others whom I did not confront, I’m learning to let go and forgive. Sure, I remember what happened, but the fire in my belly is fading.

Today’s Promise to consider: Forgiveness doesn’t mean I forget the hurts and it doesn’t mean that I give the person a ‘pass’ to hurt me again. It’s up to me to enforce my personal boundaries. Forgiveness is an act of willful love. Today I’ll work to let go of the pain and I will pray for the people who played a part in causing them.