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MISCONCEPTION #3: THE ADDICT CHOOSES TO STAY CLEAN FOR THOSE HE LOVES

From my son, I learned that as much as he loved his family, he had to choose sobriety for himself. Many of us, who love addicts, want to believe that the addict will change his ways for the family, a child, or another person. As a recovering person once told me, “Let’s face it. I had to decide whether I would live or die. I got clean for myself.”

My reflection: Several times I asked my son why he didn’t stop doing drugs when he saw all the damage addiction was spewing onto the family. He explained that he never wanted to hurt us, that he wanted desperately to keep us to the side, but that drugs are all powerful. Once he was locked in their grasp, he was overwhelmed with the hunt for more.

Today’s Promise to consider: One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that love wasn’t enough to save my son from addiction’s clutches. The disease takes the healthiest parts of love and smashes them into worry, helplessness and hopelessness. The reality is that addicts must choose to change for themselves. It’s the only way sobriety takes a lasting hold. Today, I’ll pray that my loved one makes the choice.

 

MISCONCEPTION #2: ADDICTS MUSCLE THEIR WAY TO SOBRIETY ALONE

Jeff and friend Jason

From my son, I learned: Recovering communities like Alcoholics Anonymous are a crucial part of recovery. There the addict finds people who know his journey and have walked in his shoes. As much as I wanted to help my son, I couldn’t understand all that he had lived. In groups like AA, they are sensitive to the nuances of this disease and the path out of it. They celebrate his successes and stand with him when he is in need.

My reflection: Much of the current research indicates that recovery is more successful when the addict is supported by people who understand his walk and who care about him and his daily struggle. As much as I wanted to be that person for my son, I couldn’t be.  

Today’s Promise to Consider: Fellowship with recovering addicts is often an essential part of a person’s journey to sobriety. We, as family members, can give them love and support, but people who know their walk provide community and understanding along the way. Today, I’ll encourage my loved one to attend AA, NA, or another support group. I, too, will attend a support group aimed at care for family members.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ADDICTION…that I learned from my son

Misconception #1. Addicts are weak and lack courage to face life.  It takes huge faith and fearlessness to live in sobriety. When I praised Jeff’s courage to try rehab again, he replied, “Courage. That’s not a word usually used with addicts.” But it does take courage. Every day, the recovering addict must make the choice to lead a new life unaided by the crutch of narcotics.

My reflection: A recovering addict told me that his father once said to him, “It takes guts to stop drugs. You just have to do it.” When he heard these words from his dad, he thought, “I’m not even strong enough to stop, so I might as well keep going. The power of drugs is just too great.” 

Today’s Promise to consider: Living in recovery takes more courage than I realized. Addicts have to decide every day to turn their back on a life they’ve grown deeply accustomed to and learn to do things differently – a complete 180-degree shift. Today, I’ll celebrate the milestones my addicted loved one reaches, and I’ll live in gratitude for the strength he shows in facing life, sober.

SIBLINGS NEED SUPPORT THROUGH ADDICTION

A sister of an addict wrote to me: My brother has been in and out of rehab for years. Mom constantly believed his lies. She’d send him money, bail him out, and let him live at home. He has alienated all of us siblings. He has a son, grandchildren, and he had such a good life in front of him. No matter how hard we tried and what we did, he just refuses to believe he has a problem. I try to help, but I don’t know what to do to help anyone anymore, especially my parents. It’s breaking my heart.

My reflection: Siblings often find themselves in the difficult space between their brother or sister and their parents. Loyalties are smashed, love is questioned, and chaos reigns.

Today’s Promise to consider: All family members suffer when addiction enters the home, but siblings are thrust into an especially conflicted place. They might be asked to be arbitrator, counselor, spy, anchor, or player in the drama, then at other times they are left to the side, in confusion. They love their brother or sister, but loathe the damage the addiction does to family. Today, I will listen to my non-addicted children. I will reach out and support them.

ADDICTION: WAR OR COMPASSION?

Johann Hari, author of Chasing The Scream, writes: When I returned from my long journey, I looked at my ex-boyfriend, in withdrawal, trembling on my spare bed, and I thought about him differently. For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along.

My reflection: Tough love was the mantra-of-the-day when my son was in the deepest throes of his heroin addiction. People told me to kick him out of the house, cancel him from our lives, and to have an imaginary funeral for him.

Today’s Promise to consider: Shame, neglect, and ridicule often drive the addict deeper into his addiction. None of these negative behaviors ever helped my son get closer to health. Stay Close became our mantra, and this worked for us. War or Compassion? I choose compassion.

RELAPSE IS FRIGHTENING, FOR ALL OF US

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: My son is still on the revolving road to recovery. He has been in detox three times, rehab – both inpatient and outpatient, in a sober house, involved in AA with a sponsor, and presently is trying the suboxone route with individual counseling.  My heart is broken, but I will find my courage. The words stagli vicino will be my mantra of hope.

My reflection:  Relapse happens and happened often to my son. I learned more about relapse when my son wrote about a friend, “I know that place. He was in pain, and it was too much. He used to kill it. Then he needs to keep using because the addiction has kicked in. An addict loses all sense of free will; you’re thrown back into the space of obsession, of always needing something more. I’m sure he’s scared and confused.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse is frightening for all of us – us as well as our addicted loved one. The addict knows how to live in addiction, but abstinence requires skills that are foreign to him. Today, I will keep hope alive for his return to wellness. Today, I will stay close but out of the chaos.

“WE WANT TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS”

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A dad wrote to me: We as parents want desperately to solve our children’s problems.  After all, that’s what we have been trained to do since their birth. I think we fear the worst and don’t want to be held responsible, even if it’s only in our own minds.  The blame we would place on ourselves would be unbearable. Then, after years of experience, we know that the decision to recover can only be decided by the addicted. 

My reflection: The realization that I couldn’t save my son from addiction was the hardest lesson I had to learn, yet it was also the most essential for my well-being, and his. For years I was enmeshed in every twist and turn of my son’s sickness. This only enabled the addiction and kept me from being available to my family and myself.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction happens. Blame, shame, stigma, and silence do nothing to help our loved ones or us. Today, I’ll stay close, but out of the chaos. As much as I want to stop the trauma, there is only room for one in the addiction.

WHEN THE SADNESS IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HIDE

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me: Sometimes I feel like I am just too hard to be around because the sadness is impossible to hide.

My reflection: When addiction takes over our lives, our sadness can be overwhelming. When Jeff was in active addiction, my family didn’t know whether to ask about him or not. My older brother once asked me, “How’s Jeff?” I looked at him with eyes swelled with tears. He nodded and said nothing more. 

Today’s Promise to consider: When I felt suffocated in sadness by addiction, fighting my feelings never helped. I had to accept my deep sense of loss and call it by name. I found comfort by attending Al-Anon meetings. I wrote daily, exercised, and prayed. And I also had to accept that there were times I could just be sad.

ON MOTHER’S DAY

I once asked Jeff a ‘mother’ question, not a great question, but I asked: “Didn’t you see how you were hurting yourself and the people who love you? Didn’t you want to stop all the chaos like arrests and near death? Jeff, why didn’t you stop?”

He looked at me, weary, and sighed, “You still don’t get it, do you? After writing this entire book, you still don’t understand that I never wanted to hurt you – I wanted to protect you from all of it, to keep you out of it and to the side. You’ve written about me at my worst, my most vulnerable, my most desperate. I’m an addict. I was addicted. An addict doesn’t want to hurt those he loves, but he can’t stop using drugs – oftentimes until death.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Addicts don’t want to hurt us – their mothers, fathers, brothers, or sisters. Drugs are powerful, and they take our addicted loved ones under, under into chaos and desperation. I will remember that addiction smashes love. Today, I’ll keep loving my child who is under the drugs.

WHEN WILL HE CHANGE HIS LIFE?

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me: My son is addicted to drugs. After four years of enabling and one forced rehab, my son made the choice between living with us or dealing and using weed on a constant basis. He no longer lives with us at age 18. He dropped out of high school, refuses to hold a legal job and has constantly betrayed us with lies, verbal abuse and stealing. Our only offer of help is 90 days in a residential treatment center when he is ready to change his life.

My reflection: When my son was 18, I made him leave the house because of his drug use. He wrote, “The party was in full swing. At eighteen, life was fresh and raucous and racing, and besides some minor arrests and fistfights, serous consequences were rare.” He didn’t choose recovery until many years later.

Today’s Promise: We all have choices to make, and most arrive in their own time. It’s excruciating to watch our children destroy their lives, but until they surrender to their addiction and reach a genuine hand out for help, there is no real change. The best I can do is to stay close to my son and enforce my own boundaries.