FINDING OURSELVES OUTSIDE OF ADDICTION

A mom, whose son is in recovery, wrote to me: So much has changed and I am very grateful, but the challenges remain.  I finally feel the weight of my own need to become healthy and whole. I have the time and space to do all the things one imagines self-actualization requires, and yet this freedom to be myself is the greatest challenge of all.

My reaction: When Jeff was in active addiction, my life revolved around the chaos of his illness. Rarely a night went by that I didn’t awaken with him on my mind or I’d toss and turn fearing ‘the’ phone call. During those years, I lost myself.

Today’s Promise to consider: Jeff’s early years of recovery should have given me peace, yet I struggled to find myself – and define myself – away from the turbulence of his addiction. Dr. MacAfee, Jeff’s beloved addiction therapist, explained, “You’ve been vigilant a long time. Be patient with yourself.” With time and prayer, along with writing and my support group, life came back into focus and I began to reemerge.

 

 

BREAKING THE DRAMA OF ADDICTION

Dr. MacAfee wrote: As addicts become increasingly drawn into addiction, their families get drawn into dysfunction. The common dynamic shows the family polarizing and moving into either/or thinking. The addict becomes the major focus for some family members. For others, the addict is a target for rejection, disdain, and fury.

My reflection: The drama of addiction took over our family’s life. The fear of watching my son fail was frightening, and I spent most of my time defending him to people who knew little about this disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: The pain and confusion of addiction became more manageable when I took the initial step to name and define what was going on. When I got honest and quit living in delusion, I became open to the help of Al-Anon and started to accept the wisdom of other recovering individuals. I also became transparent with our beloved addiction specialist. By taking addiction out of the shadows and bringing it into the light, I started to heal. So did my son.

“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.

“IT IS A LIFE THING, THIS RECOVERY”

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mom, who is also a recovering addict, wrote to me: I was that teenage girl who did horrible things and stole from my parents. I got sober, finally, and my life got much, much better. I married and have two wonderful girls. Life was awesome. Then I had surgery, and guess what??? I got back on that roller coaster of lies, addiction, and betrayals simply from taking pain pills post-op. It is a life thing, this recovery. I was fortunate; I made it back before I lost everything.

My reflection: Fear drove me as a parent. When my son was in active addiction, I feared he would die, and when he was in recovery, I feared he would relapse. Addiction does crazy things to us.

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovery is life’s work for the addict. My son once told me that addiction is like a lion in a cage just waiting to get out. Our recovering loved ones must choose everyday to live in abstinence and to do the things recovery requires of them. I pray that all recovering addicts choose well, today.

 

 

A FATHER ASKS, “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A father wrote to me: I have three sons. Two out of three have an addiction, and I have been dealing with this for six years with the oldest and five years with the youngest. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I try not to enable and am getting better. I write short stories about their lives and how their addictions have affected them and everyone else, but I can never seem to gather my thoughts fully in order to complete anything. Maybe it’s because I am always on my guard.

My reflection: As parents of addicted loved ones, we are forever on guard and our attention is scattered. Our lives become torturous and we find it almost impossible to concentrate on anything other than our child’s chaos. Even when they are clean and sober, we remain vigilant, watching and listening for any pattern of old – something that will give us a clue that our addict is using again. Every day is clouded with our fears and worries.

Today’s Promise to consider: Too often we make our children’s addictions personal and ask ourselves what are we doing wrong: are our boundaries not strong enough, are we enabling, should we step in with financial help, why one child and not the other? The questions are endless. Today, I’ll stop allowing addiction to beat me up. I’ll pray, reach out to my support group, and prioritize my spiritual program. I’ll remember that I’m not alone.

 

 

NO ONE TO BLAME

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: My son was a star athlete in high school and at age seventeen he began his downward spiral into this insidious disease. I taught in the school district that he attended so it was doubly hard. I got calls just about every day from the RN to take him for a drug test. He would fall asleep in class or didn’t even show up for school. I blamed myself – his dad and I had separated before this nightmare began so I assumed he took drugs to medicate himself or to use as a band-aid.

My reflection: We parents often blame ourselves for our child’s addiction. We think that it must be our fault. Addiction is a nightmare and we want someone to accept responsibility for the sadness. The bottom line is that no amount of blame will break addiction’s grasp on my addicted loved one or our family.

Today’s Promise to consider: Most experts agree that addiction is an illness. Our family is affected by an addiction. Who is to blame? Today, I will point a finger at no one. I will accept what is. I will find support in the rooms of Al-Anon and in my higher power. I will go forward, one step at a time.

SUPERMAN WITH KRYPTONITE AROUND HIS NECK

A sister of an addict wrote to me: My heart bleeds for my mother. My brother’s addiction, his emotional battles, problems, and heartache hurt her terribly. Mom needs to know that she’s not alone. She needs to find her hope again. This has been her life’s battle. I wish I could bottle the son she once had and give him back to her. God knows I’ve tried, but sadly I’m not magic. There is nothing more than I want for her but for her to have her son back. And for me to have my brother back.

My reflection: Addiction is a family disease, and we all suffer. My younger son, Jeremy, once told me, “I tried my best to help take care of Jeff, but I was powerless. Jeff was like Superman with kryptonite around his neck.”

Today’s Promise: As the mother of an addicted child, I have the responsibility to take care of all my children. I will tell them that the addiction is not their fault, or their responsibility. No one can fix it, except the addict. We are powerless in the face of addiction. Today, I will listen to their concerns with love and support. Today I will be present for the important people in my life.

WE ARE NOT ALONE

Photo credit: Davood Madadpoor

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 as addicts or those of us who love them. That’s why groups like AA and Al-Anon work. I found friendship and a lifeline in Al-Anon. In our mutual stories, I discovered compassion and support.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s easy to forget that we are not alone. It’s easy to forget that many of us suffer from addiction’s grasp. Addiction is cloaked in shame, and the shame keeps us silent as we hold our family’s secret. Today, I will accept the help of others. In return, I will reach out my hand to help.

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.