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.

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.

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.

SUBSTANCE DRIVES THE ADDICT 

Our beloved Dr. MacAfee wrote, This is the simple fact: substance drives the addict. Families grow ever more dysfunctional and stressed as they try in vain to cope with the disease’s devastating impact, but most often they move into deeper levels of confusion and denial. While underestimating the severity of addiction, they are shocked and outraged and overreact believing that, somehow, they should have known from the start.

My reflection: It took me years to learn this truth: substance drives the addict. I, too, was shocked and outraged, and totally incredulous that I lived in denial for so long. How was it possible?

Today’s Promise to consider: Our loved ones, who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, chase their next fix. Their obsession has nothing to do with us, but it is about their love affair with the drug. It took me years to realize that my son didn’t want to hurt me or our family. He knew he was destroying himself, but he couldn’t stop, until the pain became overwhelming and he made the decision to change his life.

ONLY LOVE CAN GIVE A PARENT THE STRENGTH TO GO ON

A friend wrote to me: No mother is born equipped to fight a battle like addiction. Only love can give a parent the strength to go on. Feelings of guilt, weakness, and total confusion: I know these emotions very well. I also know that in the long run we can wear out. But in the end, each of us must fight our own battles. There is no path that works for all; there are no rules.

My reflection: I felt all these emotions: guilt for somehow ‘allowing’ addiction to take hold in my family, regret for not seeing the problem sooner, confusion as to what to do to help my addicted son and my younger son, who was affected by it, and deep grief at the chaotic lives we were living, all the while knowing I was powerless to rescue my family.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are no hard-and-fast rules to guide a parent when faced with her child’s addiction. I’ve learned that education, support groups, and insights from recovering addicts themselves are critical, but the final decisions must be ours – and ours alone. During my son’s fourteen-year illness, I made many mistakes, but I never let go of love and hope. They were the oxygen that gave me the strength to stay close and go on.

WE CAN HELP EACH OTHER RISE

A young man in recovery sent me this song RISE by Samantha Jones. The chorus rings out:

People rise together

When they believe in tomorrow

Change the day to forever

This life keeps moving

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I felt lost in despair, shame, and confusion. It was then that I most needed other people to help me keep hope alive. I reached out my hand to those in Al-Anon, other parents who were suffering, professionals, and recovering addicts. With their help, I found friendship, community, and empathy.

Today’s Promise to consider: When hope and belief are most fragile, those are the times I accept the strength of others to hold me up. It takes courage to reach out a hand, but through compassion and love, people help each other rise together and believe in tomorrow.

 

 

 

WHAT IF? A RECOVERY MODEL DESIGNED BY A PERSON IN RECOVERY

A woman in recovery wrote to me: What if there was a place for recovering addicts to go to get their equilibrium back? It takes five years for the body to heal and stabilize into normal endocrine function after addiction. It takes two years for the brain to heal and for its natural hormones to start flowing regularly again. During this recovery time is when the addict is most vulnerable. So what if there was a place for addicts to go that allowed them to stay in a safe place while they get their memory and focus back and learn a new trade, or go back to school to get their degree and learn organization and responsibility again. The next three years are spent finishing their degree and re-entering the workforce giving half of what they earn to the program and save the other half to purchase a car and apartment when they finish the program. By the end of this five-year program they would be in full recovery. They’d have a job, a car, and a place to live. They would be productive citizens of society again. What if?

My reflection: This idea is similar to the San Patrignano model in Italy, where people stay three-to-five years in order to fully recover. The recovery rate at San Patrignano is 78% after three years of exiting the community.

Today’s Promise to consider: What if there were a recovery model that provided a safe place for recovering people to live for several years in order to get it right? A place that offered the time to learn a trade, save money, and even continue education, all within the safe haven of a recovery community. The idea posited by this young woman makes total sense. I’d love to see a treatment center adopt this approach or at least our medical community explore the concept with research. Something needs to change with the way we treat addiction. What if?

 

IN THE MIDST OF ADDICTION: DON’T JUMP INTO THE QUICKSAND

Felix Scardino, LCSW, a friend of mine wrote: Take care of yourself while you try to understand that you cannot support another person unless you keep your own footing. The following analogy helps me: It will not serve either of us if I jump into quicksand with a person to save him. I’ll best help the person if I stand strong and throw him or her a rope. To care for myself I might need to take a break from listening or even choose not to be with another if their problems overwhelm me.

My reflection: It took me fourteen-years to learn how to live this advice. At my first Al-Anon meeting, I heard these words, but they made no sense to me. How could I take care of myself when my son was dying? In time, I learned how to Stay Close, but out of the chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider: Many of us have thrown ourselves into the fire as we try to help our addicted loved ones. When we lose ourselves, we are of no help to our families, our children, or ourselves. Today, I’ll take care of myself so that I am able to take care of others.