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WHEN IT’S YOUR PARENT

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A young woman wrote to me: Libby, something important struck me when I read this line you wrote last week – My child’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living. If I replace “child” with “father,” this is the life lesson Jeff helped me learn. Whether he realizes it or not, it was one of the most impactful and life-altering realizations that helped me heal my relationship with my dad, when I started to look at his addiction as being trapped in a disease rather than a conscious choice of drugs over me/family.

My reflection: Addiction’s tentacles strangle all of us: children, brothers, sisters, parents, and loved ones. We, as a community, have an obligation to reach out our hands to all those impacted from the effects of this disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: Children of addicted parents, siblings of addicted children, and all those in pain because someone they love is addicted need our concerted support and understanding. As my friend wrote, “My father’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living.” We need to take their suffering out of the shadows and into the light where it can be healed.


LOVE WILL NOT STOP AN ADDICTION

Photo credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: My son has a long history of addiction. He got arrested and we hired a lawyer, bailed him out, but he kept using and stealing. He got arrested again and bailed himself out. We knew he was close to dying so we asked the lawyer to have the judge put him back in jail. We told our son that we would not bail him out, that we loved him but would no longer let his addiction destroy the family. All the love in the world was not enough to make him stop. 

My reflection: All the love in the world will not stop an addict from using because addiction is the antithesis of love. Dr. MacAfee tells of a group therapy session when he asked a young man, “What is your drug of choice?” The boy thought carefully and responded, “more.” MacAfee explained, “His answer was not an attempt at humor. Instead, the group answered with a consensus of silence, affirmative head nods. No addict ever intends to end up where he’s really going. Substance drives the addict.”

Today’s Promise to consider: My child’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living. I will not feel betrayed. I will not feel self-blame. I will stay close and pray that my child decides to stop, for himself.

 


LET’S SHARE THE GOOD NEWS

Son Jeff, Libby, granddaughter Iysa, and son Jeremy

A mom wrote to me: I hesitate to share good news, yet I realize I don’t hesitate to share bad news. The reality is that both can change in an instant! My son called, and the conversation was positive and encouraging. He sounded good and he used the words happy. He apologized for his earlier outbursts of being spiteful, confused and angry. He said there is a bed available in the recovery house he wants to go to and they welcome him back. He is also considering an Intensive Outpatient Program. That, too, encourages me. On top of that, looks like he’ll be able to attend a family wedding in a sober state! He asked for prayer that he would take care of himself and trust God that it will be okay.

My reflection: When Jeff was deep into his addiction, I didn’t want to share any news – good or bad. Every moment was fleeting. Every action was up for grabs. Our lives were chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are joyous moments when our addicted loved ones make good choices, say the words we’ve been waiting to hear, and choose to do the next right thing. We, as parents, know too well the heartache of the bad choices and the life of destruction, but the positive news is essential to share because it gives us hope.

 

 


SUFFERING CAN EMBITTER US OR ENNOBLE US

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

The Dalai Lama says we actually feel more joy after we’ve succeeded in the face of opposition. Suffering can either embitter us or ennoble us. Much like muscle tone, it grows against resistance, so what is true physically is true spiritually as well. With acceptance, suffering can make us stronger.

My reflection: This proved true for both my son and me. Jeff once told me that after he left his final long-term rehab, his life was still in pieces – he had no job, no car, he was dealing with numerous legal issues, and he had to rebuild his life. In the face of those challenges, he slept on a friend’s couch, applied for jobs, and went to AA meetings. It was then that he realized that with faith in his higher power and hard work, success was possible.

Today’s Promise to consider: We all suffer at addiction’s hand, but suffering can lead us to greater inner strength and profound personal breakthroughs. The pain of addiction is often impossible to sidestep, so today I will accept it and move through it. I will not let suffering embitter me.

 

 

 


CHOOSING SERENITY

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

I once wrote, I need to quit hanging on my son’s cross. All my angst does nothing for him. If I made mistakes in the past, I need to let go. If some of my mistakes were fatal, I need to let go. I can do nothing but support him with my love and strength. My emotional weakness isn’t good for anyone, especially him. I pray he finds his courage. I pray I find mine.

My reflection: My weeping and my weakness didn’t help my son or me. It’s true that addiction can drive us to the point of unbearable sadness, but by losing my peace, I was of no help to myself and the other family members who depended on me.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction wants to send me into a spiral of despair, but serenity is within my grasp. It’s up to me to choose it. Today, I’ll put my energy into hope and faith and health. Lord, Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

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

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A dear friend of mine, the mother of a recovering addict, and someone close to Dr. Mac wrote to me recently: Dr. Mac talked to me about the idea that many family members think, If I just hurry up, work harder, do more, I can fix this problem. We talked about how addiction deeply wounds every family member and how the individual members need care. If the focus is solely on the addict, self care falls by the wayside. He encouraged me to take care of myself, not only for myself, but more importantly for my addicted son and my family.

My reflection: When my son was sick, self care came in at dead last. I worried for my addicted son, my younger son who is not an addict, my work and family. Since I was the mother, I felt selfish if I considered myself first or even second. For many years, my son was lost to the addiction, and so was I.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s essential that we take care of ourselves in the midst of addiction. A routine that promotes our personal wellness helps – Al-Anon or other family groups, walking or running, a spiritual practice, writing, or therapy. If we lose ourselves, who is left to help our loved ones? We need to be compassionate with ourselves.

 


THE EXTRAORDINARY PAIN OF ADDICTION

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Dr. MacAfee told me that the pain of addiction is the agony of being trapped. Using has become critically important because it answers every problem in their lives … until it doesn’t. The use is the solution until it becomes the problem. What was once an escape becomes a prison. The juxtaposition is baffling, and the addict literally has to fight for his life.

My reflection: During the early years of my son’s fourteen-year addiction, I thought that he could simply turn off his drug use. I told him to stop and expected it to happen. In time and with education, I learned that it would take my son great courage and tenacity to change his life.

Today’s Promise to consider: Drug use often starts as a party, until it becomes a prison. Once it takes over, our loved ones are caught up in a sandstorm, unable to see the impact their sickness has on those who care about them. Instead of derision and incarceration, they need love and compassion. They need support from communities like AA, from people who have walked in their shoes and are now living in the solution.

 

 


REACHING FOR THE RED BALLOON: A LESSON FROM MY DAD

Yesterday was the thirteen anniversary of my dad’s death. He was a tough, Italian man, who fought for his country, his family and those he loved. He learned from an early age how to work hard and achieve his dreams. The photo above is of an oil painting he said represented his life. After serving in World War 2, he worked on the docks in New York City and his dreams were like the red balloon, high above him and out of reach. Through grit and determination, he eventually caught his balloon, teaching me that hope and tenacity are critical in overcoming adversity. I needed this lesson when addiction entered our home and took over my son.

My reflection: This painting hangs in our foyer and is a steady reminder that dedication and determination are essential for those of us whose loved ones are battling active addiction. We can’t give up hope.

Today’s Promise to consider: The red balloon represents a healthy life for my addicted loved one. Addiction tries to rob us of our dreams, but I will remain hopeful and stay the course with love and determination. I will continue to reach for the red balloon, stay strong and pray.

 

 

 

 


HE IS MY SON

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A friend of mine wrote, I wish I wasn’t writing this. I wish I wasn’t qualified to speak about the heroin epidemic. I wish I wasn’t a member of a community no one really wants to be part of. But I am. I am the non-addict who knows all too well what it’s like to love a person who suffers from addiction. I know what it’s like to worry yourself sick, to cry yourself to sleep, to be confused, to be mentally and financially bankrupt, and to miss someone who is standing right in front of you. I know what it’s like to feel stigmatized, to be the parent-of-a-drug-addict, to have people think that my son is a loser, a waste, a junkie. I’m here to tell you he is not. He is my firstborn. My first love. My heart. My life. He is someone.

My reflection: I would have given my soul to spare my son from the pain of addiction, but I couldn’t. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Rich or poor, educated or not – it can take down any person. For every one addict, at least four others are caught in the trauma.

Today’s Promise to consider: As the mother of an addict, the unceasing pain can be unbearable. He suffers at the hand of addiction, and we, his family and all those who love him, also suffer. Today, I will stay close with compassion and love. I will pray. I will never give up hope. He is my son.

 


PRECIOUS TIME

We are together. My children are with me this week, and everyday I renew my vow to cherish these moments together. It’s not often that I have all three so close – Jeff, Jeremy and Iysa – away from the demands of work and school and responsibilities. What a gift.

My reflection: The preciousness of time is underscored for me by the tragic consequences addiction deals so many of us. As the mother of adult sons, one of whom was sick for 14 years, I’m grateful they are healthy and living good lives. My prayer is that I remember to touch every good moment with them and hold it tight.

Today’s Promise to consider: The preciousness of time sounds like a mundane concept, but as I age the reality of passing time becomes real. With addiction it becomes even more real. For those of us whose children are safe and healthy today, let us deeply appreciate these times. And for those of us whose loved ones are not, may we remember the times when things were better and keep hope in our hearts.

 

 

 

 


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