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“They can make their lips say anything”

A friend told me that her partner often said these words above. Even through his depression and addiction, he was well aware that people said things to him that were insincere. There were times when a family member said, “I love you. I’m here for you,” but they never contacted him again.

My reflection: Toward the end of my son’s years in active addiction, I finally learned that his words were far less important than his behavior. Words come easily, especially to those enmeshed in addiction.

Today’s Promise to consider: The old adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” perennially rings true. Addicts lie in order to keep the fiction of their disease, “I’m OK, Mom. I haven’t used in a month.” For me, I often chose not to confront my son with the truth of what I thought. This only made me resentful, while allowing him to continue the charade. Today, I’ll speak my truth with love and compassion. I trust that he’ll do the same.

THOSE WHO ARE RECOVERING: LEARNING TO LIVE IN ABSTINENCE

A mother wrote to me: My son is a recovering alcoholic, but he doesn’t know how to live in recovery. Sure, he knows that he can’t drink or hang out at parties, but it’s tough for him. He was used to having drinks with his brothers and friends. When they were young, my husband and I had parties where there was drinking. Now I wish I had never drunk in front of my kids. We are a big football family, so I don’t have to tell you what Sundays are like around this town. Very hard for a recovering addict.

My reflection: How do addicts learn to live in abstinence? Dr. MacAfee says this is the essential question.

Today’s Promise to consider: We know a lot about addiction, but we don’t know much about how addicts learn to live in sobriety. My experience is that AA and NA gave Jeff a recipe for living that underscored accountability, faith and contribution. Simultaneously, Al-Anon provided me a community of people who helped me prioritize self care. Today, I will support those I love with compassion and understanding as they relearn how to live life. This includes me.

LIFE IN RECOVERY IS “FULL TO THE BRIM”

My son recently told me, The biggest realization for me came about one year in when it suddenly struck me that my life was full to the brim in a way I didn’t think possible in the absence of drugs and alcohol. Before I got clean, I saw sobriety as the end of good times and of the refuge I’d come to depend on. Just the opposite was true.

My reflection: I couldn’t understand how my son stayed in addiction for fourteen years. For as much as I tried to fix things, the solution was entirely outside of my control. I had to get out of the way. The answer was in Jeff.

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovery happens and happens every day. Moreover, life in recovery can be full to the brim. People, who are suffering, will stay mired in the abyss of addiction until they decide to change. Today, I pray that all those shackled by addiction will give themselves a chance to participate in the magic of a recovered life.

 

 

 

 

ADDICTION DOESN’T DISCRIMINATE

libbys familyA mother wrote to me: My son is 27, in a halfway house, and on the methadone program. I don’t know how it happened. He taught himself to program in Linux as an eighth-grade student, before Linux was available on the market. He read books with thousands of pages on Solaris and other programs. As a precocious young man, at 18 he worked as a programmer and systems administrator. His skill brought in huge paychecks, which quickly became paychecks to drug dealers. 

My reflection: Our children are bright and capable, they’ve been loved and cared for, yet something happens and they lose themselves to drugs. My son was a leader, captain of the soccer team, and an A student. Addiction didn’t care about any of this.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It happens in solid families and broken families, in educated families and in uneducated families. Often we as parents don’t see the problem coming because our children are scholars and athletes. They are “good kids” to the outside world. Today, I will accept that addiction doesn’t discriminate.

WHY ONE CHILD AND NOT THE OTHER?

A mother wrote to me: My life has been filled with my son’s arrests and multiple treatment attempts. My hope and trust have been shattered, rebuilt, and bounced around like a ping-pong ball. I have two sons who are such opposites, one brave and reckless, the other cautious and intellectual. I have volumes of photos of beautiful little boys dressed like superheroes: Zorro, Leonardo, Wolverine, Knights in Shining Armor, and Ghost Busters. My oldest son received a medal for the Dare Anti-Drug program best in class honors, yet went on to try all the drugs they warned against.

My reflection: How does one child become an addict and the other does not? Why does one child contract an illness while the other is unscathed? Why did I have cancer and my brother did not?

Today’s Promise:  There is a large body of research that identifies addiction an illness. It might be lying dormant from the time our child is born, like depression or diabetes, but when it’s activated the ramifications are serious. We look at the pictures of our children when they were young and innocent and we wonder why. Maybe what we’re really asking is what could we have done to stop it. Today, I accept that my child has a problem with substance abuse. I’ll continue to stay close, find solace in my support group and counselors, and pray he comes home to himself.

 

 

 

 

BOUNDARIES KEEP US SAFE 

An addiction counselor told me, My biggest challenge is helping clients establish boundaries with the addicts in their lives. Recently, a mother explained that her son, who is actively abusing drugs, lives with her while she cooks for him, cleans his room, and does his laundry. In order to help her take steps toward setting boundaries, I asked her, “Could you quit doing his laundry?” She did just that; however, the son screamed at her and accused her of not loving him. She immediately went back to doing his laundry and quit coming to sessions.

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, I was consumed with worry and thought I could control his behavior. For instance, when he lost his cell phone, I bought him another one because I wanted to stay in touch with him. He was as elusive with the new phone as the old one, and my resentment grew.

Today’s Promise to consider: Boundaries keep us safe. Dr. MacAfee explained that my addicted son needed to know what I would and would not do. “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” MacAfee recommended. “Jeff must know that your parameters are clear. It’s essential for both of you.”

STEADY AND PERSISTENT HOPE

by libbycataldi under Faith, Hope

A young man explained when he decided to change his life: I remember when I hit bottom: I was drunk, high, and sitting in my car in a field looking at a silver handgun that my older brother gave me for protection since he was just involved in a large drug deal that went bad a couple days before. It would have been so easy that night to pull the trigger and put an end to things, but I was not strong enough. I thought about it many times but I could not do it. I was so close. I was so tired. But I knew someone still believed in me.

My reflection: The young man who told me this story said that the person who believed in him was the mother of a close friend. Despite how tired and broken he felt by his addiction, this mother’s steady and persistent hope became his lifeline.

Today’s Promise: For those suffering from addiction, the knowledge that someone still believes in them can make a difference. When they are without hope, the feeling that someone, somewhere, hasn’t given up on them offers strength. Today, I’ll stay close to those I love, but I must stay out of the chaos of their choices. I will pray and believe that in time they’ll make the decision to come home.

ADDICTION REMAINS MY MOST INFLUENTIAL TEACHER

Recently, I was faced with a family issue that had nothing to do with addiction, but had everything to do with what I had learned through my son’s fourteen-year struggle with heroin. All the suffering and confusion of those addicted years taught me – in the end – to keep my wits about me, to breathe, and to stay close. Problems can be opportunities for learning, and I learned in spades that answers aren’t as important as love and hope. 

My reflection: Before and during the early years of Jeff’s addiction, my typical response was frustration, blame and anger. It took me years to accept that I was powerless to control his behavior, but what I could manage was my response.

Today’s Promise to consider: We can learn many valuable lessons from any trauma. Through my son’s fourteen-year addiction, my biggest breakthrough arrived in two words: Stay Close. For me this meant to love Jeff unflinchingly, but stay out of the chaos of his life. Today, I use that mantra with all of my loved ones.

SAN PATRIGNANO: ONE PLACE WHERE PEOPLE FIND LONG-TERM RECOVERY

Two mothers of children who entered San Patrignano (Rimini, Italy) wrote to me:  

Her son entered three years ago: I really believe if I hadn’t read your book and found out about San Patrignano that my son would not be with us today. He was so into his addiction that I believe nothing short of a long-term rehab in another country would help him – we tried everything else over fourteen years.

Her daughter entered two months ago: We received a letter from our daughter and I feel like I can finally start to relax. She’s working in the laundry sector and is happy to be there. She’s met some lovely people and has totally surrendered. Needless to say hearing this news from her allows me to loosen up. I know she’s okay and will only get better day-by-day.

My reflection: Jeff refused to go to San Patrignano because a three-to-five year commitment is required. But I have seen miracles happen there. The community, started in 1978 by Vincenzo Muccioli, offers 50 different sectors of education to its 1,500 residents. The stay is free to the client, to their families, and to Italian tax payers, and has a documented recovery rate of 73 percent after three years of exiting the community (research conducted by the University of Bologna).

Today’s Promise to consider: There are many models and places for recovery, and San Patrignano is one. Today, I will educate myself about the various centers and options. I can’t force my loved one into treatment, but I can learn about and offer him choices to consider when he is ready.

ADDICTION: WHEN MY SON WASN’T READY TO GET SOBER

My son wrote about his first recovery center: I was told that recovery required vigilance and a long-term commitment, that in order to stay sober I’d have to attend regular AA meetings and work with a sponsor. At the time I didn’t realize sobriety was an ongoing process. I wasn’t yet ready to do the work. Although my drug use was causing problems, it wasn’t devastating.

My reflection: My son saw the problems that drugs were causing, but he wrote that he wasn’t ready to do the work because the consequences of his using weren’t debilitating, yet. With an illness like cancer or diabetes, we must choose to fight and to do the work required to keep the illness under control, like eating well, taking medicine, or exercising. When I had cancer, I had to choose to fight it; when my son was in the throes of addiction, he also had to choose. He wasn’t ready.

Today’s Promise: Like treatment for any major illness, sobriety requires learning new behaviors. For the addict, attending AA meetings, working with a sponsor and cultivating a spiritual life are where it begins. My son had to choose to do this work. I couldn’t do it for him. In time, I learned how to stay close but out of the chaos of his addiction. I had to give him the dignity of his choices.