a24fa300-84d8-4c95-9e79-8f37db4ce106A friend called me and said, Addiction is the gift that keeps giving. Even when our addicted loved one is living a healthy life, resentments, past hurts and old patterns of behavior remain in our hearts and minds like the Ghost of Christmas Past. A word is spoken and the chains of the past rattle. I’m so tired of fighting the old feelings. How easy it is to fall back – not only for those of us who love the recovering addict, but for the addict himself. 

My reflection: Addiction does so much damage that, even when it’s gone or asleep, it continues to haunt us. I remember a phone conversation I had with my son when he was three years healthy. After a few minutes, I said, “You sound tired.” He responded in a hurt tone, “I know what you’re trying to say, Mom, but I’m fine. I haven’t relapsed, I’m simply tired.” I felt sad – sad for us both.

Today’s Promise to consider: I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but this year I set an intention for forgiveness, for all of us. We’ll never forget all the traumas of addiction, but we can learn to forgive. Before my mom died, she said, “I think forgiveness comes in waves.” Today I pray: Dear Lord, may the waves of forgiveness touch us all, one layer at a time, deeper and deeper.    


Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

I wrote this in Stay Close: During the Christmas of 2006, when neither son came home for our large Italian family gatherings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends didn’t know what to do. My brothers didn’t know what to say. They didn’t even know whether to invite me to the festivities. The cousins were confused; could they ask about Jeff or would it be kinder to leave him out of the conversation?

My reflection: I remember well that Christmas Eve Mass when my older brother turned gently toward me and said, “Not sure I should ask, but how is Jeff?” I looked at him as tears welled in my eyes. He just nodded as we left the question float in the air.

Today’s Promise to consider: During the holidays, let us remember that addiction can severely isolate us. We might feel ashamed and lonely because our lives are not as joyful as we wish they would be. I will avoid this treacherous place by being compassionate with myself and my family. I will find serenity in honesty and prayer.



tm_1391-1A mom wrote to me: During the holidays, everything seems worse. My son is a smart 22-year-old, quiet and sensitive drug-addicted man. I’m clawing out of my skin. He lies and steals. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Everybody tells me to kick him out, but how can I do that when he has nowhere to go. How guilty would I feel if he died on the street?  Yet, when he continues to do drugs in our house with no regard for us, I can’t stand him.

My reflection: I remember being tormented by the continuing question, “What do I do now?” My son’s drug-addicted behavior in my home was intolerable, but the thought of kicking him out seemed impossible. During the holidays, decisions took on a new dimension: What do I do when family comes to visit? What do I say when people ask about him? How do I respond when people wish me Happy Holidays?

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is excruciating at every time of the year, but for me the holidays made everything worse. All the good cheer and sparkling lights were fine for others, but I was eager for the season to pass. During these times, it is imperative that I prioritize my emotional health by attending Al-Anon meetings, leaning on my support group and putting faith in my Higher Power.



This is part of a series of monthly posts that reference many conversations with Dr. MacAfee. Thanks, Doc. 

tm_3930-1A friend, who also loved Dr. MacAfee, shares what she learned from him: Losing my voice, silencing my most potent inner instincts left me living in fear, afraid to speak out, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I felt invisible, powerless, angry and unheard. Dr. MacAfee encouraged me to find my voice, speak out and be heard again.

My reflection: I, too, silenced my voice when Jeff was in active addiction. I walked on eggshells and worried about every word that came out of my mouth. Would my words anger him? Would we argue and have an ugly scene? Would he walk out and be lost, once again, to the streets. I shoved my words into my belly until I also got sick.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will speak up. I will stop of the cycle of being worried sick and swallowing my voice. I will change the dynamic of this unhealthy touch-and-go dance between my addicted loved one and me. I will fight to keep myself balanced, respected and heard.


vivek-murthyDr. Murthy recently wrote, I’m calling for a cultural change in how we think about addiction. For far too long, people have thought about addiction as a character flaw or moral failing. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and it’s one that we have to treat the way we would any other chronic illness: with skill, with compassion and with urgency.

My reflection: I had the good fortune of attending the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), 2016, in both Vienna and New York City. Jeff joined in New York and spoke about recovery from addiction. At both sessions, the world’s stance was clear: Addiction is a disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: As our medical community learns more about addiction, the worldview is changing in a fundamental way. For many of us, parents and family members, it can’t change fast enough. Our addicted loved ones have felt society’s scourge and loathing for too long. Today, I will help educate others, and I will pray for addiction treatment to meet the needs of the suffering.