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.

 

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.