“SHE THINKS I’M REAL”

In their book Stories of the Spirit, Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman tell this story: A family went out to a restaurant for dinner. When the waitress arrived, the parents gave their orders. Immediately, their five-year-old daughter piped up with her own, “I’ll have a hot dog, french fries and a Coke.” “Oh no you won’t,” interjected the dad, and turning to the waitress he said, “She’ll have meat loaf, mashed potatoes, milk.” Looking at the child with a smile, the waitress said, “So, hon, what do you want on that hot dog?” When she left, the family sat stunned and silent. A few moments later the little girl, eyes shining, said, “She thinks I’m real.”

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, there were few people who realized or understood my pain. In truth, I was closed and defensive during those years, and I didn’t want anyone to see my ‘real’ suffering.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is cloaked in silence and shame – feelings that isolate us. The antidote is to reach out a hand to others. In Al-Anon, I found a safe place to be honest about my feelings, to share hard stories about my loved one, and to talk about my sadness and hurt. There, in the halls, I wasn’t alone. I felt real.

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.

“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.

 

 

“YOU LOVE YOUR DRUGS MORE THAN YOU LOVE US”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom, who is a recovering addict, wrote to me: I remember my mom saying to me when I was in the throes of my addiction as a teen, “You love your drugs more than you love us.” Well, yes, yes I did.  I was incapable of seeing anything else but my next high and I would stomp on anyone or anything in my way.

My reflection: It took me a long time to acknowledge the incredible hold drugs had on my son. I once asked Jeff, “Look at all the pain addiction caused. Why didn’t you ever stop?” He looked at me with deep sadness and said, “I never wanted to hurt you. In fact, I tired to keep you out of the way and to protect you. But I’m an addict, Mom.”

Today’s Promise to consider: My child’s addiction isn’t about me. It’s not above love between mother and child. It’s about the insatiable craving drugs create. If love could have broken the grasp addiction had on my son, he would have been healed. Today, I will open my heart to try to understand the chase of the high and the all consuming hunger for the next one.

WHY DO WE HURT THE ONES WE LOVE MOST?

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me: I finally found the strength to know that no amount of money thrown at the disease of addiction will help it. So we said a gentle “no” to his pleas. We got the hate and the hurt and the anger back in spades, the addiction really reared its ugly head. Our son’s deep pain directed towards the ones he loves most.

My reflection: During the years of my son’s active using, he became a master of manipulation, exploitation, and betrayal. When I refused to give him money, when I didn’t allow him to come home, or when I wouldn’t bail him out of jail, he became abusive. This is the pathology of addiction. My son and I lived this dance for years, until I realized I was part of the problem.

Today’s Promise to consider: When we parents put a roadblock between the addict and what he wants, this is a major threat to him. In addition, we stand as a constant reminder to our children that the life they are living is rife with pain and harm. Today, I will not allow addiction to isolate and separate me from my loved one. I will offer roads to recovery, not more money or bailouts.

THE PRISON OF FEAR

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Rumi, a 13th century poet, was quoted by Tara Brach at the end of her guided meditation:

Why do you stay in prison

when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.

My reflection: I lived in the prison of fear for many years. Fourteen years with my son’s addiction, but there were other years where I feared my parent’s wrath, my family’s disintegration, and the loss of my own health to cancer.

Today’s Promise to consider: Sometimes fear can be healthy because it signals oncoming danger, but it often can be crippling and suffocating. Addiction feeds on this dread. “What if my child dies?” “What if my child is sleeping on the streets in the freezing weather?” Fear is normal, but it amplifies itself and grows bigger and bigger. Today, I’ll face my fears, call them by name, and cultivate constructive ways of dealing with them.

“TEMPTATION IS A BITCH”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wrote in Time Magazine: Temptation is a bitch. All my life, I’ve gone through periods of horrific anxiety…that squeezes my brain in an icy grip…a bottomless pit of fear. Ouch. Man, drugs fixed all that in a flash. Once you’ve opened the door to drug use, it’s always there, seducing you. Perfectly sane people become addicted and end up dead.

My reflection: Drug overdoses kill more than 64,000 people each year and are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. The latest research from the Center for Disease Control estimates that overdoses will increase by 30% in 2017. These dire statistics point to the high price of succumbing to temptation for addicts.

Today’s Promise to consider: Temptation is everywhere – whether it’s sweets, extra sleep, shopping, or narcotics. Recovering addicts have worked hard to distance themselves from the deadly seduction of drugs. Today, I’ll reach out my hand with compassion to all those who are fighting the ravaging temptation of drugs in order to survive another day.

 

EARLY INTERVENTION: EVERY MINUTE IS CRITICAL

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A father wrote to me: Addiction touches many of us. My oldest son was headed down that path. We feel very blessed to have discovered the problem early and much to his chagrin put him in treatment for eighteen months. Pretty hard on the family, but everyone seems to have benefitted in some way. He is now a productive member of society with a wife and child and very committed to his church.

My reflection: Does early intervention stop addiction? There is a body of research that indicates that a fast response is critical and, although it might not stop the addiction, it can bring up the bottom and possibly curtail the devastating effects of the disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: If I had the early years of my son’s 14-year addiction to do over again, I would have taken my head out of the sand, educated myself more thoroughly, talked openly with him and our family, and put him into a long-term rehab program as soon as possible. Jeff’s addiction was like a fire that was left unattended for too long and, before we acknowledged it, the entire forest was ablaze. With all the deaths happening today from drug overdoses, every minute is critical.

 

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.