SUFFERING CAN EMBITTER US OR ENNOBLE US

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

The Dalai Lama says we actually feel more joy after we’ve succeeded in the face of opposition. Suffering can either embitter us or ennoble us. Much like muscle tone, it grows against resistance, so what is true physically is true spiritually as well. With acceptance, suffering can make us stronger.

My reflection: This proved true for both my son and me. Jeff once told me that after he left his final long-term rehab, his life was still in pieces – he had no job, no car, he was dealing with numerous legal issues, and he had to rebuild his life. In the face of those challenges, he slept on a friend’s couch, applied for jobs, and went to AA meetings. It was then that he realized that with faith in his higher power and hard work, success was possible.

Today’s Promise to consider: We all suffer at addiction’s hand, but suffering can lead us to greater inner strength and profound personal breakthroughs. The pain of addiction is often impossible to sidestep, so today I will accept it and move through it. I will not let suffering embitter me.

 

 

 

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.

REACHING FOR THE RED BALLOON: A LESSON FROM MY DAD

Yesterday was the thirteen anniversary of my dad’s death. He was a tough, Italian man, who fought for his country, his family and those he loved. He learned from an early age how to work hard and achieve his dreams. The photo above is of an oil painting he said represented his life. After serving in World War 2, he worked on the docks in New York City and his dreams were like the red balloon, high above him and out of reach. Through grit and determination, he eventually caught his balloon, teaching me that hope and tenacity are critical in overcoming adversity. I needed this lesson when addiction entered our home and took over my son.

My reflection: This painting hangs in our foyer and is a steady reminder that dedication and determination are essential for those of us whose loved ones are battling active addiction. We can’t give up hope.

Today’s Promise to consider: The red balloon represents a healthy life for my addicted loved one. Addiction tries to rob us of our dreams, but I will remain hopeful and stay the course with love and determination. I will continue to reach for the red balloon, stay strong and pray.

 

 

 

 

HE IS MY SON

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A friend of mine wrote, I wish I wasn’t writing this. I wish I wasn’t qualified to speak about the heroin epidemic. I wish I wasn’t a member of a community no one really wants to be part of. But I am. I am the non-addict who knows all too well what it’s like to love a person who suffers from addiction. I know what it’s like to worry yourself sick, to cry yourself to sleep, to be confused, to be mentally and financially bankrupt, and to miss someone who is standing right in front of you. I know what it’s like to feel stigmatized, to be the parent-of-a-drug-addict, to have people think that my son is a loser, a waste, a junkie. I’m here to tell you he is not. He is my firstborn. My first love. My heart. My life. He is someone.

My reflection: I would have given my soul to spare my son from the pain of addiction, but I couldn’t. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Rich or poor, educated or not – it can take down any person. For every one addict, at least four others are caught in the trauma.

Today’s Promise to consider: As the mother of an addict, the unceasing pain can be unbearable. He suffers at the hand of addiction, and we, his family and all those who love him, also suffer. Today, I will stay close with compassion and love. I will pray. I will never give up hope. He is my son.

 

LET US PRAISE THEIR COURAGE

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Many of us have lost people we love to addiction. A 33-year-old friend, who had been clean for ten years, died this week. He lost a heroic battle, and I admired him for his determination to contribute to the community while he was sober. He helped other addicts find sobriety and got them into rehab, helped to open Comunità Cenacolo in Birmingham, Alabama, and worked at an orphanage in Mexico. He served at Mass, played with his nieces and nephews, was a wonderful son and brother, and was enrolled full time at the university with plans to become a nurse. He was to be married this fall. He inspired others, and he inspired me.

My reflection: I will honor this young man’s life. He did much to help others and to make life a better place. He was a beacon of hope and love, and he gave back. I am grateful for having known him.

Today’s Promise to consider: The precious lives that are lost to addiction will inspire me to recommit everyday to doing everything possible to help recovering addicts. We, as a society, need to stand together – strong and tall – so that people in all stages of recovery know they are not alone. Let us praise their courage to fight the good fight.

 

WE ARE NOT ALONE

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: I am learning to open my eyes to my son’s addiction and my place in it. Stay Close is what my intuition always told me. There are few resources for parents and most of them are written in a clinical fashion. A professional point of view serves a purpose, but in my most horrible moments of despair, when I feel most lost, I need to hear another mother’s voice to help me feel less alone.

My reflection: There are many families struggling with the same issues and that is why Al-Anon and other family groups help. There we can learn through conversations, shared experiences and literature how to approach the addict with better understanding. We also learn how to protect ourselves and other members of our families.

Today’s Promise: We are not alone, but we often feel alone. Addiction isolates us and we feel shameful and lost. Family groups like Al-Anon are a source of help. Today, I will reach out my hand in compassion and understanding. Today, I will accept help.

 

THE FIRST NOBLE TRUTH: SUFFERING

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

The Dalai Lama says, The first Noble Truth of Buddhism is that life is filled with suffering, and the first step to finding peace is to accept that pain and sadness are inescapable for all humans. From there, we can offset suffering by behaving in ways that create wellbeing. (summarized from The Book of Joy, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, Avery, 2016)

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, I often cried out against God. Why my son? Why so many years? Why the constant relapses and suffering for all of us? I wanted joy in my life and resisted pain instead of finding ways to accept it and instill peace.

Today’s Promise to consider: Suffering is as much a part of life as is joy. We all have fear, stress, anxiety and anger, and pain visits all people, not just those considered “troubled.” The problem is not the suffering, but how I react to it. Today, I will open my heart to acceptance and compassion – for myself and others.

 

 

DRUG DEATHS IN AMERICA

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

New York Times, June 5, 2017: Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. (Josh Katz, Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever)

My reflection: Heroin is the cause of many overdoses, but numbers of deaths are increasing due to heroin laced with the illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Worse yet, there is now a substance called carfentanil that is used to tranquilize large animals like elephants and is 1,000 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine.  

Today’s Promise to consider: The opioid epidemic is claiming young lives and it seems unstoppable. We must all join hands to educate our loved ones. Children need open and honest forums to talk about their experiences and to learn about the massive dangers of drugs. We must stay close, help our loved ones in need to find good recovery centers, work with legislators on stronger health care, and pray.

 

BOUNDARIES: SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY

A friend called and told me, I have to establish boundaries with this man I’m dating, but it’s really hard for me. I love him and he loves me, but his behavior with his friends is unacceptable. Recently, a group of us were having an afternoon at the seaside when out came white powder cut into lines on the back of their cell phones. I was deeply uncomfortable and told him. He apologized and, when we got back to his apartment, he flushed the drugs down the toilet. But this is the second time this has happened. What to do? How do I trust?

My reflection: Boundaries keep us safe – us and those we love. They draw a line in the sand between behavior that makes us vulnerable and behavior that aligns with our principles. Addiction, by its very nature, challenges our boundaries – it threw me into extremes, and I swung between yes and no, give and take, punishments and rewards. My mixed messages were confusing to my son, who needed boundaries as much as I did, and all the members of my family.

Today’s Promise to consider: I needed to establish boundaries when my son was in active addiction, and I continue to need them in all areas of my life. It is critical for me to define what is acceptable and what isn’t, and I must do so without guilt or ambivalence. Today, for the good of my son, my family and me, I will say what I mean and mean what I say. Moreover, I will follow through.

 

UNDERNEATH IT ALL, THEIR HUMANITY REMAINS

A young girl, suffering from a crystal meth addiction, wrote to me: I met the local drug dealer. It’s been 2 weeks and 2 days, and l have a meth addiction again. It has been 2 years, l think, or maybe 3, since l relapsed. I don’t remember.

I constantly hear voices and can’t leave the house in daylight. I am convinced everyone hates me. The voices tell me that they will kill me, or I’m ugly, or I’m disgusting or that l smell. Some days l have 8 showers and then the next day l get so scared it takes all day to have 1 shower. Most days, I don’t trust the water out of the tap.

I’ve never ever hung with a crowd so violent. Last night a guy pulled a knife on a house full of people. And it’s hard when l never know what’s real.

Thank you for listening to me as l have no one to talk to. I have my mom, but l don’t want her stressed out. I’m afraid the stress will kill her. My lifelong friends and family have nothing to do with me. My mom and cousin try, but l abuse them day and night. l don’t mean to.

It’s all getting worse by the day. I have to go as voices are bad, and l can’t think now.

My reflection: Even in the midst of writing this rambling and tragic message, this young girl is concerned about her mother, loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s easy to judge an addict as uncaring, selfish, and manipulative. While all of these might be true, as long as our children are alive, they still exist underneath the disease. Their empathy and humanity are still there, just buried deep within. In the face of this, I, too, will keep my empathy and humanity. I’ll continue to love my child, stay close but out of his chaos, and pray he chooses recovery.