About libbycataldi

Learn more about Libby

ADDICTION: ‘YOU DIDN’T CAUSE IT, YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT, AND YOU CANNOT CURE IT.’

A mother wrote to me: Addiction is a humbling experience – it brings us to our knees – literally! All we can do is get down on those knees and ask God to take care of our addict, “Let Go and Let God.” We learned this the hard way because before we came to the ‘rooms’ we thought we could control it. I remember my first meeting when a wonderful lady put her arm around me and said, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you cannot cure it.” This was immediately a relief to me. Up until then I believed I had failed my son and carried so much guilt for his addiction.

My reflection: During many of the years of my son’s fourteen-year heroin addiction, I thought it was my fault because I must have failed him. Thoughts plagued me, “I should have spent more time at home,” “I worked too much,” “I punished him instead of listening,” and “If I had interceded earlier, the addiction wouldn’t have taken root.”

Today’s Promise to consider: We often blame ourselves for our loved one’s addiction, convinced we’ve done something wrong. In the rooms of Al-Anon, we learn that we didn’t cause it, we can’t control it, and we cannot cure it, but that we can contribute to it. Today, I will give up my feelings of guilt. I will learn how to support my child as HE works to find sobriety and to live in the solution.

ADDICTION: THE JUXTAPOSITION OF ANGER AND LOVE

A mom wrote to me, I made this from your blog entry, The Two Sides of Addiction. The quote is a reminder to always love my addicted child and that I should never be ashamed because of it.

My reflection: I recently read a Facebook post from a mom stating how guilty she felt because she was furious with her heroin-addicted son. I understood well her internal conflict – the juxtaposing feelings of outrage and love. When my son was sick, I felt rage from the excruciating pain caused by the addiction, yet I still loved him dearly. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Bad, ugly, and hurtful behaviors are addiction’s trademarks, and they cut deeply into our hearts. Today, I’ll acknowledge the wide and conflicting range of feelings addiction generates. It’s OK to feel both anger and love.

WHAT DOES ‘LETTING GO AND LETTING GOD’ MEAN?

A mother wrote to me, ‘Letting go and letting God’ must have no strings attached, that is, any expectations of outcomes. Death is a very real outcome in our stories. I remember when a friend confronted me with this. Yes, it is terrifying, and I lived in fear and worry for many years, often reacting in unhealthy ways, trying to fix and control. When I realized nothing I did made my son’s situation any different and, in fact, often made things worse, I hit my bottom. I had to save myself. This did not mean I turned my back on my son. I talked with him often, but I stopped trying to determine if he was sober or if he was using. I realized that I was powerless over another human being, no matter what the situation.

My reflection: Although ‘Let go and let God’ was my mantra for years, I just couldn’t relinquish the thought that I could change my son. I was convinced that love was stronger than the pull of addiction.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s natural that want to save our children. When they are suffering, we are quick to jump into the fire and rescue them. It took me fourteen years to admit that I was powerless over my son’s addiction. I fought the good fight, but in the end HE had to save himself. Today, I will stay close and love my child, but I will stay out of the chaos of his addiction.

ADDICTION AND RECOVERY: “MIRACLES HAPPENED WHEN I LET GO OF TRYING TO CHANGE AND CONTROL HIM.”

A mom wrote to me: When I hit MY bottom, began to put the focus on ME, and trust my Higher Power, I was finally able to release myself from fear and find true understanding and compassion for my son and myself. When I let go of trying to change and control him, when I granted him the dignity to face his disease on his own terms, it was then – slowly – the miracles began to unfold. Today he has a good job and the fog seems to be lifting, but I have absolutely no sense of what his lifestyle choices are or what tomorrow might bring. His recovery is his own. I cannot live my life based on him, how he looks, how he “seems.” We try to love him as is, right where he is.

My reflection: When I finally surrendered to my son’s addiction, when I finally let go of trying to fix the consequences of his chaos, and when I finally took my hands off the steering wheel of his life, Jeff made the decision to change.

Today’s Promise to consider: There is room for only one person in each addiction – and I am not that person. Today, I’ll concentrate on my own recovery. I’ll start this New Year by trusting my Higher Power, attending Al-Anon or family group meetings, renewing my commitment to working with a sponsor, and prioritizing my physical health. I’ll trust that a miracle will happen if I stay close, but get out of the way.

ADDICTION AND THE HOLIDAYS: “IT’S HARD TO CARRY ON”

A mom wrote to me: When people at work talk about their kids and grandkids, I feel myself die inside and hope they don’t ask me about mine because I feel such sadness, shame, and embarrassment. I know my husband and I can’t let our son’s choices dictate our happiness, but it’s so hard to carry on with everyday life when I’m screaming inside with sadness and worry. The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time, but I feel despair. 

My reflection: Addiction is full of shame, secrets, stigma and silence. I remember praying that no one would ask me about Jeff because I didn’t know what to say. I remember lying, “He’s fine. He’s working in Florida,” when in truth he was struggling and in yet another halfway house. I remember trying to feel happiness, but finding it impossible.

Today’s Promise to consider:  Addiction wants to strangle our joy, especially during the holiday season, but we have a choice: We can allow it to rob us and our families, or we can go forward for the rest of our loved ones who gather together. For today, I accept that life can be difficult and I pray that tomorrow will be better. For today, I am grateful for what I have. For today, I will do my best for my family.

ADDICTION AND THE HOLIDAYS

I wrote this in Stay CloseDuring the Christmas of 2006, when neither son came home for our large Italian family gatherings, the 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 or not. 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’s Jeff?” As I looked at him, my eyes welled with tears. I opened my mouth to respond, but I was unable to say a word. He just nodded and we both turned forward. The question floated 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.

FACING THE PAIN OF ADDICTION WITH THE ‘CANDLE LIGHT’ OF COMPASSION

Gabor Maté, Hungarian-born Canadian physician and author of the highly respected book, In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, posits that addiction is rooted in the pain of individual trauma and family history. He emphasizes that addiction must be met with compassion and quotes the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: “Whatever you do, don’t try and escape from your pain, but be with it. Because the attempt to escape from pain is what creates more pain, and that’s the reality with addiction.”

My reflection: Dr. MacAfee, my son’s beloved addiction therapist, said, “Shining a flashlight on Jeff and his addiction never helped. I had to work with him with candle light.” MacAfee knew that my son needed gentle understanding.

Today’s Promise to consider: Gabor Maté asserts that addiction is rooted in pain and compassion is needed to counter the suffering. Several years ago, I surveyed forty-one recovering people and asked them, “What made you choose recovery?” Thirty-eight said, “When I was ready to change, someone was there for me after all the destruction. Someone still loved me and had stayed close.” Today, let us stay close and join in prayer that our loved ones choose sobriety. We will be there.

ADDICTION: NO PLACE TO JUDGE 

A son of alcoholic parents wrote to me: My parents struggled with alcoholism for most of their adult lives. Alcohol was a curse on my family, but we learned to “stay close” and support one another. My parents were in pain. It is not our place to judge. 

My reflection: Addiction affects all of us: parents, sibling, child, cousin, teacher and coach. We all suffer, but many children, who live with addicted parents, carry scars from their earliest years, ones that can negatively affect relationships and last forever. I don’t know their walk, but I feel the heaviness of their pain.

Today’s Promise to consider: The young man who wrote to me grew up in a home where both his mom and dad battled alcoholism. Instead of ugliness and anger, he chooses to summon compassion. Not an easy approach to take, but today, let us all follow his example. No one has the right to judge how we should feel about our suffering loved ones.

GRATITUDE: WHAT YOU PRACTICE GETS STRONGER …even when dealing with addiction

Tara Brach, one of my favorite Buddhist practitioners, says: When we practice gratitude or sending well wishes to others, those are the neural pathways that deepen and flourish. We may very loyal to habits of anxiety and vigilance that evolved to ensure survival, but … we can undo this negativity bias by intentionally orienting in another direction.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, all my neural pathways seemed to be hardwired to thoughts of trauma, destruction, and negative outcomes. I worried constantly – would this be the call, would he live or not, would he ever get well? My mind marinated in fear.

Today’s Promise to consider: How are we able to feel gratitude when our loved ones are in addiction’s grasp? Brain research shows that negative thinking produces more negative thinking, and the cycle continues as it consumes us and our energies. Today, I will stop the cycle. I will identify the parts of my life for which I am grateful, and I will fight the negativity bias. Today, is Thanksgiving. It’s a good day to start.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours

 

 

 

 

 

FIGHTING ADDICTION TAKES COURAGE: THEIRS AND OURS

A mother wrote to me: My son goes to meetings, talks with his addiction counselor, and is working with his psychologist to help him with his anxiety. I’m hopeful because he is keeping his appointments and seems like, this time, he wants to change. Of course the other part of me keeps waiting for the hammer to fall, for him to slip. It’s hard to continue to fight for my recovery and to support him as he fights for his.

My reflection: Recovery is not easy – not for anyone. For us, we’ve been lied to and betrayed for so long that we expect something to go wrong. We’re afraid to hope again, because we’re terrified that our hope will be crushed. For our loved ones, they’re afraid – afraid of failing, afraid of the pain of detox, afraid of the shame, and overwhelmed with the challenge of rebuilding a new life.

Today’s Promise to consider: Courage is needed from everyone involved in fighting an addiction. Family systems have been broken and new ones must be rebuilt. It takes courage to hope again. It takes courage to believe again. Even though we might feel worn down, we must find our determination to go on. If we don’t, addiction wins.