A former student, friend and now psychiatrist, sent this: 

If ever there is a tomorrow

When we’re not together

There is something you

Must always remember

You are braver than you believe

Stronger than you seem

And smarter than you think


But the most important thing is

Even if we are apart

I’ll always be with you

My reflection: The words above epitomize Stay Close, a way of saying to our addicted loved ones, “I love you and you can beat this thing. But you have to do it. I can’t do it for you. You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem. Fight, son, fight.”

Today’s Promise to consider: We can’t force our loved ones to live a sober life, but we can Stay Close and continue to hope. Jeff once told me, “You believe in me more than I believe in myself. Please never quit believing, Mom.”


Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, quotes an Indian master Bapuji, who writes:

My beloved child,

Break your heart no longer.

Each time you judge yourself you break your own heart.

You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.

The time has come, your time


To live, to celebrate and to see the goodness that you are…


Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you

If one comes, even in he name of “Truth,” forgive it for its unknowing

Do not fight.

Let go.

And breathe – into the goodness that you are.

My reflection: I broke my own heart a million times over. When my son was in active addiction, I judged myself harshly and counted out all the ways I could have handled things differently. I fought with myself and anyone who judged my son. I refused to let go and let God.

Today’s Promise to consider: For many years, I was my own worst enemy. Addiction was determined to crush my soul and I allowed it to do just that. I was full of self-criticism and guilt until I realized that I was powerless. When I finally surrendered, learned how to find solace in prayer and began to trust the goodness that surrounded me, I got stronger.




Jeff and I talked about what helps people stay in recovery and he said, Getting sober is just the beginning; learning to live in abstinence is the goal. As human beings, we have a hunger to be seen and to feel connected with those around us. And when we don’t, so often we use drugs to cover the feelings of loneliness – but drugs only isolate us even more. In time, we move further into addiction and further away from the people we love. In groups like AA, we find connections, people who know our walk and won’t judge us. They ‘see’ us, they celebrate our victories and they know how imperative fellowship is. These connections prove to us that we are not alone. 

My reflection: Family groups like AA and Al-Anon work. Not only do recovering addicts find a safe space to grow strong within a community of understanding peers, but we, parents, can find a similar environment in Al-Anon. The loving members of Al-Anon saved my sanity when my son’s addiction took me to my knees. There I found people who knew my pain. 

Today’s Promise to consider: The family groups of AA and Al-Anon prove to us that we are not alone. When we feel raw and wounded, it takes courage to reach out and allow ourselves to been ‘seen.’ Today, I will pray and hold out my hand in faith and vulnerability.


Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

A recovering addict wrote to me: My boyfriend and I got married! We are living happily with my stepdaughter. I’m so grateful that this is what God has in store for me after all those years of being lost. I guess you could say I’ve been in training for this exact moment all my life. “God only gives us what we can handle.”  He prepares us and every day it all makes more and more sense. I wonder if other people feel that way; that every moment leading up to the one right now is right where you should be, embrace it, take it all in, enjoy or don’t enjoy it but you’re right where you need to be. Only my clear mind can think that way. My sick alcoholic mind couldn’t think past the surface.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, part of me wanted to believe that everything would be fine while another part was terrified that he wouldn’t live another day. These stories of hope are critical reminders that recovery can and does happen.

Today’s Promise to consider: People break the chains of addiction every day and we need to celebrate their triumphs. It takes tremendous courage for an addicted person to change his or her life. Let us all stand together with encouragement and hope.



Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

I wrote this in Stay Close: During the Christmas of 2006, when neither son came home for our large Italian family gatherings, 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. 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 is Jeff?” I looked at him as tears welled in my eyes. He just nodded as we left the question float 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.



tm_1391-1A mom wrote to me: During the holidays, everything seems worse. My son is a smart 22-year-old, quiet and sensitive drug-addicted man. I’m clawing out of my skin. He lies and steals. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Everybody tells me to kick him out, but how can I do that when he has nowhere to go. How guilty would I feel if he died on the street?  Yet, when he continues to do drugs in our house with no regard for us, I can’t stand him.

My reflection: I remember being tormented by the continuing question, “What do I do now?” My son’s drug-addicted behavior in my home was intolerable, but the thought of kicking him out seemed impossible. During the holidays, decisions took on a new dimension: What do I do when family comes to visit? What do I say when people ask about him? How do I respond when people wish me Happy Holidays?

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is excruciating at every time of the year, but for me the holidays made everything worse. All the good cheer and sparkling lights were fine for others, but I was eager for the season to pass. During these times, it is imperative that I prioritize my emotional health by attending Al-Anon meetings, leaning on my support group and putting faith in my Higher Power.



dsc01008A mother wrote to me: When I awake every morning and go to sleep every night I feel God’s presence in my life and the life of my child. He is good today, but I know it’s one day at a time. Dealing with addiction takes courage and humility and gratitude. Courage to stay close and to love our child, humility to remember that the addiction is strong and can come back at any time, especially when we least expect it, and gratitude for our daily blessings.

My reflection: Gratitude is powerful, but gratitude is tough to muster when things are at their worst. When my son was in active addiction, the only thing buoying my deep despair was gratitude that my son was still alive. My prayer each morning was, “Dear Lord, thank you for keeping him alive today.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Gratitude, for me, is part of a daily routine where I actively scan my life and call forward the various things, big and small, for which I’m thankful. This practice keeps me aware that, even though things are difficult, I’m still blessed. Prayer and gratitude keep me in a positive space.


IMG_3400.TM (1)Last week, I spent a few days at New Camaldoli Hermitage, a working Benedictine monastery, located on 900 acres high above the Pacific Ocean in the Big Sur. Silence is required and there is no cell service or internet connection. This mountain sanctuary offered me an opportunity to reflect on all that is happening in my life. I felt God’s majestic presence and heard clearly Father Cyprian Consiglio’s message that this season of Lent is a time to be quiet and to nurture our inner life. It is the period to, “sink back into the source of everything….That time when we let what we think of as our real self dissolve, break apart, in order to find our real self.”  

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, I rarely (if ever) took time to simply be quiet and to reflect on my life. My head sang a song that sounded like, Do something now! Take control immediately! Don’t just sit here! I wish I had attended better to my needs. I wish I had taken a sacred pause.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction rejoices where we are frenetic, but we can’t give addiction that power. When I am at my wit’s end, anxious and distraught, I need to remember to quiet my soul and sink back into the source of everything. Today, I’ll take some time – even two or three minutes – to stop, reflect and feel the presence of my Higher Power.


IMG_0174.TM (1)A recovering addict told me, I changed my life when I surrendered. Finally, I realized that I kept repeating the same story over and over – drugs, get caught, prison, get out, try again without drugs, can’t do it, so drugs again, prison again. It was my 4th time in prison, and I was stuck. I couldn’t see myself outside of prison. It was always the same story. In the end, I admitted that I needed help.

My reflection: The Big Book tells the addict that Step One is, We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. I remember Jeff trying in vain, over and over, to control his use. He never could. Similarly, I tried to control the addiction, forcing Jeff into treatment centers and cutting him off from family money. Nothing worked.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction was bigger than both Jeff and me. Real change only happened when we both admitted our powerlessness. Just as the addict has to surrender and admit that he needs help, I did too. I was powerless over my son’s addiction and my life had become unmanageable. This was the beginning of my healing.






jeff_TM (1)

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A recovering addict told me, You know, you can’t force sobriety on anybody. Cause Mum tried everything. She gave me money, didn’t give me money, made me go to rehab, didn’t make me go to rehab, drove down four or five hours to pick me up, and on the other hand left me somewhere. Nothing worked. No matter how many rehabs I’ve done or how many counselors or meetings I went to, I never got it, until one day I was just sick of it and had enough. 

My reflection: Over the years, I tried countless ways to force sobriety on Jeff. I threatened him that if he didn’t go to rehab I would never give him another cent or allow him to come home again. One time, I told him that I would cut him out of my will. I cried, yelled and bargained. I would have sold my soul if that would have made the difference.

Today’s Promise to consider: We can try to force our loved ones into sobriety, and it might work for some. For my son, it never did. I learned that it didn’t matter if the treatment center had a swimming pool, horseback riding or massages. I learned that my son had to be ready to change, and that happened when the pain of his using became too much for him to bear. I thank God every day that he came back home to himself and us.