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.

 

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES WITH ADDICTION

A mother wrote to me: My son died of a heroin overdose. I need to forgive myself for all the mistakes I made. I try to understand why he couldn’t just stop what he was doing to himself. It isn’t as simple as people want to make it. I live with the pain of not being able to help my son when he needed it, but I get up everyday and try to live my life the best I know how. I still feel that I hide from so many people who can’t understand what it was like to live with a son I loved and couldn’t help before it was too late.

My reflection: We live with the pain of not being able to help our loved one. My son once said, “I wanted to get clean and I loved my family, but I couldn’t go the next day without drugs.” Drugs are stronger than we are strong.

Today’s Promise to consider: We try desperately to do the right thing for our addicted loved ones, whatever that means in our particular circumstance. Sometimes mistakes are made. Today, I will forgive myself. I will go forward, one step at a time and accept that there are no clear answers with addiction.

 

 

LOVE IS THE WAY TO BEAT DOWN ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: Love is the way to wear down the demon of addiction. Not fear. You will never regret your loving response in the face of the chaos of addiction. Miracles happen. Souls do come back from the darkness.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I lived in constant fear: fear of the phone call in the middle of night, fear of another arrest, and fear of death. Fear was a constant companion. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Love might not change the course of addiction, but it opens the space for us to confront addiction with greater equilibrium, faith, and hope. Today, I’ll put fear aside and bring compassion forward because, if the worst happens, I will never regret responding with love.

TWO SIDES OF ADDICTION: MOTHER AND SON

Not many people know that my son helps me with every post about addiction. I want to acknowledge his contributions over these many years.

Dr. MacAfee told me that, as a parent, I can speak about addiction, but that Jeff speaks from addiction. The difference is huge.

As a mom, I know only my walk, my suffering, and my desperate attempts to save my son during his fourteen-year journey. I learned that, for us, STAY CLOSE made all the difference.

Jeff knows his walk and how he found recovery. Only he knows his suffering. Only he knows his desperation. Only he knows what it feels like to live on the streets, be locked up in jails, and to lose all sense of dignity and hope.

Thanks, Jeff, for your help, support, compassion, and care all these years. Thanks for reaching out a hand to help others. Thanks for your service.

My son and I walk together today, but only he and his Higher Power found recovery.

To all recovering addicts, we need your voice in order to understand addiction. You inspire us.

CRACKS LET THE LIGHT IN

Leonard Cohen wrote:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

My reflection: With addiction, perfect offerings are few, but in the imperfections we can find gold. The light that shines through the cracks can help our loved ones rise out of the ashes of pain and suffering to become different people – stronger, honest, spiritual, and self aware.

Today’s Promise to consider: Our lives have cracks, especially those who have suffered addiction, but it is through the cracks that the softest light gets in. Resurrection happens in that light. Learning happens in that light. Confrontation happens in that light. And healing happens in that light. Let us ring the bell for the light of recovery.

 

 

 

“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.

 

 

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

 

 

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.