TM.3A dad wrote to me: I got so tired of the lies and the constant drama that our family was brought into. We parents care so much for our children that it’s really difficult to watch them self-destruct. I’m getting much better at realizing that I am in control of just one person: myself. I think prayer is the only answer.

My reflection: It’s incredibly difficult to admit that we can’t control the behavior of our addicted loved ones. It was unfathomable to me that Jeff wouldn’t listen, even when I threatened dire consequences. My dad’s words rang in my ears, “Tell him to stop, daughter. Dammit. Tell him to stop.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Once at an Al-Anon meeting, the speaker held a hula-hoop over her head and then dropped it around her and onto the floor. She pointed to her feet and the space inside the hoop, “I can control only what’s inside this hoop.” It was a simple visual that resonated deeply with me. My son had his own hoop. I had mine. There’s only room for one in an addiction.


TM.3680A friend, whose husband is an alcoholic, wrote to me: Your final straw with Jeff is poignant. I remember your fight with breast cancer and what a struggle that was. To tell Jeff that it was his turn to fight, well that’s what I expect my husband to do. He’s better than someone who just lets life mow him over. Perhaps I’ve been the one fighting his battles. Every time he gets himself into a bad situation he has left it up to me to fix. Since I’m fairly resourceful, I’ve been fixing many of the problems he has created. But he needs to pick up his weaponry and fight, for himself not me.

My reflection: My friend had courage to write to me about her husband. It takes courage to share the stories of the underbelly of our relationships, the stuff we don’t put on Facebook. I responded to her, What worked for Jeff? When I got out of the way. When I surrendered and told him, ‘If you don’t get help, you’re going to die. When I had breast cancer, I could have died. I had to fight. Fight, son, fight. 

Today’s Promise to consider: For many years I fought my son’s battles with addiction. When he got into trouble, I rushed in to fix things. That’s what moms do, right? The problem was that I denied my son the opportunity to learn from the consequences of his addiction. The more I stepped in, the bigger the buffer became between his behavior and its repercussions. We each have to fight our battles. In the end, my son fought his. And he continues to fight every day.




TM.FullSizeRender (2)A mom wrote to me: He doesn’t call for weeks. Then calls and says his cell phone was stolen from his car that he left unlocked while he went into a convenience store for a second. The next week he lost his dog, saying he left the window open, the dog got frightened, hopped out the window and ran away. Stories don’t jive. But I just listen. Dog is found. Wait for the next crisis. What is important in the long run I ask myself? Don’t criticize, just listen. Don’t give advice. He’s 41. Just stay close.

My reflection: With addiction, there is always drama and chaos. During the years that Jeff was using, I felt as if I were walking on floorboards that weren’t nailed down. As I walked, I was never sure when a board would come loose and hit me in the back of my head.

Today’s Promise to consider: The addict chases the drug and we chase the addict. Addiction throws us into a state of constant apprehension and worry as we wait for the next traumatic event. It is a depleting, debilitating cycle. What is important in the long run? I agree with this mother who wrote, “Don’t criticize, just listen. Don’t give advice. Just stay close.” I had to learn how to stay close, but out of the chaos of my son’s addiction.


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Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

There is a Japanese story that, One day in the outhouse a worm fell on a sheet of ice. A compassionate soul saw this pitiable worm in great danger and deposited it in a place where it could be warm all night. The next morning it was dead. What the man thought of as good luck was not good luck for the worm. We’re wrong to think that what makes for the happiness or unhappiness of some does so for others as well.

from: The Song of Awakening by Yōka Daishi

My reflection, When Jeff was in active addiction, I felt certain that I knew when he needed to enter into a treatment facility. I felt certain that I knew when he needed psychological help. In time, I learned that what I thought wasn’t important or, oftentimes, even correct. He needed to make the decision, not me.

Today’s Promise to consider, We parents often feel that we know what is best for our children. I often forced Jeff into treatment centers, threatening him with some dire consequence. He submitted to my demands, but usually walked out after a few days. We can’t find happiness or peace or recovery for someone else. They must find it on their own. We, parents, can stay close and love them.