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A PRAYER

This is my daily prayer: Dear Lord, Remove the veils so I might see what is really happening and not be intoxicated by my stories and my fears. 

– Written by Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of Omega Institute, adult education center, focusing on health, wellness, spirituality, and creativity.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I was rooted in stories and fears. If I didn’t hear from him, I fell prey to contriving horrendous situations that I could imagine happening. When I did hear from him, I constructed other sequences of foreboding times ahead. Bottom line is that I was never present, and never at peace.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction plunges us into despair as we construct stories in our heads. We fear the worst: jails, hospitals, and death. Today, I’ll work to get out of my head and out of my stories. I’ll pray for my loved one. I’ll pray for her safety and ultimate recovery.

WE ARE NOT ALONE

A daughter of addicted parents wrote to me: I still struggle with the pain of what it’s like to live with and love addicts. I still struggle with issues of anger and despair over all of the ‘what if’s’ and ‘what could have been’s’ that circle around and around in my mind. But it is always cathartic to hear other people’s tales of their battles with this disease – whether they’re the addict or love someone who is.  It reminds me that I’m not alone.

My reflection: There are millions of us affected by this disease, either directly as addicts or those of us who love them. That’s why groups like AA and Al-Anon work. There, I found friendship and a lifeline. In our stories, I found compassion and support. I found that I was not alone.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s easy to isolate and sink into deep suffering when facing addiction. It took me years before I finally sought help in Al-Anon. My ego got in the way. I didn’t want people to know about my family’s problem, and I didn’t want to break my silence. Today, I will accept the help of others. In return, I will reach out my hand to help. No one has to be alone.

 

“I LEARNED TO LET GO WITH LOVE”

A mother wrote to me: I bailed him out and fixed it all. I finally went to Families Anonymous and Nar-Anon and realized I didn’t cause the addiction and I can’t change it – only my son can do that and, by enabling so much, I was doing him more harm than good. 

He was arrested again and remained in jail for three weeks, no one to bail him out. He worked on his own with a public defender to get accepted into drug court in lieu of jail. He now goes to meetings, is drug tested, and meets with the judge. I learned that I needed to let go with love.

My reflection: I have spoken with many young people all over the world and they have told me, “It’s not my parent’s fault. Drugs are powerful, more powerful than you can imagine. I needed to make the choice to stop. When the consequences of my addiction got to be more than I could handle, I made the decision for myself.”

Today’s Promise to consider: I will never quit believing in my loved one who is suffering, but I need to get out of the way and allow her to come to sobriety on her terms. When she’s ready for recovery, I will help. Otherwise, I’ll stay close and wait for her to make the decision of health – not for me, but for herself.

 

 

A STEP TOWARD RECOVERY

Our beloved Dr. MacAfee said: For the addict, an opening to recovery appears when the pain of maintaining the fiction becomes greater than the pleasure the drugs provide.

My reflection: The Big Book calls this moment, “The Gift of Desperation.” When my son was in active addiction, I thought that I could gauge when these breaks occurred in his life, when the pain had reached critical junctures, and when he would be open to professional help. I never could.

Today’s Promise to consider: Dr. MacAfee’s words proved true with my son, who told me that he chose sobriety when the consequences of his addiction outweighed the solace he got from drugs. For Jeff, his fourteen-year addiction took him to the crossroads of continuing drugs or dying. I thank God every day that he chose recovery, and I pray for all those who continue to suffer.

THE STORY OF THE GOOD WOLF, BAD WOLF – WHICH DO YOU FEED?

At a spiritual retreat, I heard this story: An old man told his grandson, “My son, there is an endless battle that goes on inside all of us. It is between two wolves. One wolf is bad – he is anger, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, resentment, lies, superiority and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man answered, “The one you feed.”

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, the bad wolf inside me grew. I fed him heaping helpings of anger, sadness, regrets, and resentments. Addiction makes it easy for us to stoke the worst parts of ourselves.

Today’s Promise to consider: Negative feelings help the bad wolf to grow fat and mock us with his defiance and rage. It took me fourteen years at addiction’s feet to learn that only through kindness, prayer, and love could I fortify myself and allow the good wolf to become strong.

 

 

 

FINDING PEACE WITH ADDICTION: “I KICKED OUT THE LADIES IN THE ATTIC” 

A friend and mom of adult children, who battle addiction, wrote to me: Today I stay out of my kids’ business. I work a wonderful 12-step program, have a sponsor, and am a sponsor. Today my God is first in my life and I start every morning by asking, “What is Your will for me today?” I can hear my God talk to me clearly because I kicked out the ladies in the attic.

My reflection:  “I kicked out the ladies in the attic,” reminds me of the Buddhist term ‘monkey mind,’ which means restless, unsettled, confused, and cluttered. When my son was in active addiction, I needed to kick out the ladies in the attic. They did nothing but conjure problems that might occur and remind me of past resentments.

Today’s Promise to consider: I cannot control the actions of my suffering loved one, but I can control my anxious thoughts. My constant mental machinations help no one – not my addicted child or me. I will work my program, talk with others who understand addiction, exercise, meditate – I will do whatever it takes to stop the incessant chattering of “the ladies in the attic.”

NO MUD, NO LOTUS

Tara Brach, Buddhist teacher and clinical psychologist, explained the Buddhist saying No Mud, No Lotus: We wake up through the circumstances of our life, and the gift is that when it gets really hard you have to dig very, very deep into your being to find some sense of where love and peace and freedom are. Freedom is our capacity to be openhearted in the midst of whatever is unfolding.

My reflection: I am no stranger to the feeling of mud. When my son was in active addiction, I wrote in my journal: The sun is trying to bake the sadness right out of me. Work your magic, Sun. Bake me thoroughly so I am happy – like blue and yellow instead of gray and the color of mud. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is like being buried alive, struggling to breathe, and aching for the chaos to end. I now realize that addiction taught me to be a better, more compassionate woman and mother. The mud cleared when I took responsibility for my own life and freedom. I found peace through prayer, in Al-Anon meetings, and by reaching out a hand to help another. Today, I realize that out of the mud grew the lotus.

Tara Brach on Mindfulness, Psychotherapy and Awakening by Deb Kory

 

 

“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.