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Jeremy, Iysa, Libby, and Jeff

I wrote this passage three years after Jeff chose sobriety, My son’s growth is evident. He laughs more easily, he watches more calmly, he protects himself better. He knows where he hurts and he pays attention to what is coming. He’s more reflective, thoughtful, less impulsive, and more honest. He has good friends. Part of my son died with the addiction, but the son I know is alive. Suffice it to say that he is becoming a strong and caring man.

One year earlier, he told me, “When I awake in the morning, I know if it’s going to be a good day. Some mornings, I reach for a word and it’s like reaching into the fog. Other mornings, when I reach for a word, I pluck it easily out of the air.” He continued, “I’m frustrated that some days aren’t clear, but I guess it will take time. I need to be patient.”

My reflection: We often write about the pain and chaos of addiction, but it’s also important to learn about the process of recovery. My son’s words reminded me that we need to be gentle as our loved ones learn how to live in abstinence.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will be patient with my child’s journey as he learns how to live a life without drugs. Just like healing from any other disease, time takes time, and the process is often painstaking. The joy is in recovery, one day at a time.



Dr. Patrick MacAfee and Jeff

With Dr. MacAfee’s death, I reviewed a few of my notes from our conversations. He said: In most family situations, we help and this is good. In addiction, help often becomes enabling which keeps the disease status quo. We don’t do this maliciously. We want to help, but without the right information we foster the sickness and get caught in the trap of manipulation. If the lies collapse and the fiction is eroded, breakthroughs usually occur, but they’re painful. That’s why we maintain the denial and don’t want to see the truth of what is happening. When we stop enabling, we give the addict a chance to shift. We need to get out of the way and stop intervening in the consequences. 

My reflection: I was the queen of enabling and denial. I didn’t want to see what was happening with my son, and I wanted to believe him when he told me that he wasn’t using drugs. At the end of fourteen years, I finally got out of the way. I told him that I loved him, but he had to fight for himself. All my efforts to save him only continued the devastating decline. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Dr. MacAfee taught me that we need to acknowledge the painful enormity of addiction, but we also need to get out of the way of its consequences. Today, I’ll continue to educate myself about this cunning disease. There’s only room for one in the addiction.






PATRICK MACAFEE, PH.D. 03/03/1940 – 08/09/2016

TM.Doc (1)An open letter to Doctor MacAfee

My dearest Doc,

You’ll never know how difficult it is to say goodbye to you. What would we have done without your steady presence? When Jeff was in his tenth rehab and in that delicate space of deciding whether to get clean or submit to yet another deadly run, you were the one who made the difference. You saw his sensitivity and gentleness, and you led him through his pain with grace. You helped him see his inner goodness and you never demeaned him for his addiction. You acknowledged his strengths and helped him to understand his weaknesses.

You taught me, too. You told me that it takes courage to fight addiction and that relapse isn’t failure. You showed me that my loving son was still alive under the drugs. You and I talked for ten years about addiction. When I felt confused or needed direction, you were there. When I reached out for advice for others, you were there. When I doubted my abilities to be a good mother, you were there.

You ended all of our conversations with the words stay close. I’ll stay close, Doc, and continue to spread all I’ve learned from you about taking addiction out of the shadows and into the light. I know you’ll stay close to us, especially to Jeff. He represents your best work.

You told me that addicts are saints in the making. You, Doc, are a saint to us. Pray for us.

With love and eternal respect,



jer and jeffThe sister of a brother, who died of addiction, wrote to me: We lost our brother to a drug overdose at the age of 50. We went though a lot and we always thought he was better and clean. Our parents died years ago and they did everything possible to help him. They lived a frugal existence because they could never deny him help. Do you call that enabling? I don’t know anymore. It was a long, long struggle and now my brother is at peace.

My reflection: What is enabling and what does it look like in a family? We parents see things one way and the siblings see things differently. I don’t believe there are definitive answers, but I think communication and learning are critical. We need to work to keep communication open among all family members and try to understand genuinely their pain. In the end, we must make the decisions that we think are best for our child. As Terry Gorski says, “Society gives us no rules when dealing with addiction.”

Today’s Promise to consider: I will respect the feelings of all the members of my family and try to recognize their points of view. Today, I will listen to their concerns calmly and not become defensive. I will admit that I don’t have all the answers and will explain that I am trying to do what I think is right.