Jeff and niece Iysa

Jeff and niece Iysa

A mom wrote to me, My son is coming home from treatment next week and I am excited to see him and at the same time afraid he will relapse. He knows what we are asking of him, but I remember when he was living at home we had many arguments because he was using and did not listen to us. Now that he is coming home, what should I do if he goes back to using and doesn’t listen to us again?

My reflection: I asked Dr. MacAfee for his advice, and he explained that, before the son left treatment, it was important for him to have a plan for continuing care and a list of people to call for help and support. For the family, boundaries were critical to put into place, i.e. what would they do if he were to relapse. The son needed to tell his parents how he would like them to help him accomplish his plan for sobriety along with him, not for him.

Today’s Promise to consider: When Jeff completed treatment and came home again, I felt great joy and hope But I was also afraid. Would he use again? Would he come home and respect the boundaries we had in place? These were normal fears. Al-Anon and other family support programs helped me. So did prayer.


Jeff and friend Jason

Jeff and friend Jason

A nationwide survey, conducted over four years and funded by the National Institutes of Health, asked almost 10,000 people in recovery to define what “being in recovery” means. The researchers identified 39 descriptors, including:

Recovery is being honest with myself.

Recovery is being able to enjoy life without drinking or using drugs, i.e. abstinence from all alcohol and drugs.

Recovery is living a life that contributes to society, to my family and to my betterment.

Recovery is giving back.

(For all the results and definitions, please see http://whatisrecovery.orgThanks to Cathy Taughinbaugh for bringing this to our attention.)

My reflection: The goal of this project was, “to develop a way of defining recovery based on how it is experienced by those who actually live it.” It is the largest and most comprehension research project ever conducted about recovery, with results compiled from interviews and questionnaires from people addicted to all kinds of substances, including alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs.

What’s so exciting about this project? This research project is like the shot heard by many. It confirms and affirms that society is paying attention to the many deaths from overdose each year, prescription drug abuse and alcoholism. For change to happen, the problem must be acknowledged on a grand scale. The What is Recovery Project is doing just that.



10372253_10152847252887640_5401372042641420094_nA friend once told me a story, In the jungle, a lion was howling into the darkness. A mouse walked by and asked what was wrong. The lion said, “I’ve been sitting on a nail and it’s painful.” The mouse replied, “Get up. Get up and off the nail.” The lion sat frozen with fear and said, “I can’t. It will hurt too much.”

My reflection, My friend told me this story when Jeff was in active addiction and I was paralyzed with fear and pain. I didn’t know what to do, how to move or what to tell people – including Jeff – so I did nothing. I remained stuck on the nail of addiction and cried.

Today’s Promise to consider: Life is full of problems and we feel pain about addiction, finances, relationships, careers and countless other things. Sitting on the nail of the problem and howling into the universe doesn’t help. Today I need to find the courage to lift myself off the nail. I’ll take a deep breath, pray and face my problem.



Jeff, Libby, cousin Ferdinando

A mom wrote to me, I wrote to you a few years ago about my son’s gambling addiction. As every parent, we barely functioned for almost three years. After his marriage of two years ended, he went to rehab and a halfway house for some time. Today, he has a good job, met a great girl and seems to be doing well. He just announced his engagement and even though things seem better, I worry. I know I should have a positive outlook, but the past haunts me. How do you ever begin to trust and live without fear?

My reflection, I once asked Dr MacAfee this same question, “How do I learn to trust again? The past is hard to forget and I worry what might happen in the future.” The good doctor said, “Your feelings are normal. You’ve been vigilant a long time. Be patient with yourself.”

Today’s Promise to consider, Trusting that a recovering loved one will stay well and not return to the chaos of addiction is difficult. Most of us have been deeply scarred by years of turbulence. Today, I’ll be gentle with myself. I’ll breathe, acknowledge my fear and move toward releasing my worry. In doing so, I learn to live with trust. My loved one deserves this effort. So do I.


image1Arthur Rubinstein, the well-known pianist, was asked, “How do you handle the notes as well as you do?” His response was immediate and passionate, “I handle notes no better than many others, but the pauses – ah! That is where the art resides.”

My reflection, Magic often happens during the pause, a moment when something to be discovered is given the opportunity to rise up. When Jeff was in active addiction, I was afraid of the silences, when I didn’t hear from him or when I didn’t know how to respond to addiction’s continuing problems. In time, I learned to ‘stay close’ and allowed space for the pause. It was in those moments when my Higher Power could do the work.

Today’s Promise to consider: Instead of filling the air with words and trying to solve every problem, I will pause and allow the purity of silence to provide space for me to reflect and think. On this New Year’s Day, I’ll pause, open my heart and listen to the inspiration that resides there.