STORIES OF RECOVERY ARE CRITICAL

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.

 

ADDICTION AND THE HOLIDAYS

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.

 

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

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.

 

GRATITUDE: A DAILY ROUTINE

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.

TAKING TIME TO REFLECT

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.

“WE ADMITTED WE WERE POWERLESS…”

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.

 

 

 

 

CAN WE FORCE SOBRIETY?

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.

 

WHEN HE IS SOBER, HE HAS A HEART OF GOLD

DSC02685.JPGA mother wrote to me: My son earned his college degree in May, but a few months later his life was spiraling out of control. He ended up in his first rehab in September. Soon after entering, he walked out even though we begged him to stay. A few months later, he entered his second rehab and walked out again, saying that he would try outpatient group. Then he was on suboxone and had to report to a group once a week. He entered another rehab last summer for a month, trying to get clean again. He came out of rehab his old self. When he is sober, he has a heart of pure gold!

My reflection: Our children are alive under the drugs, but the chaos of their using inevitably fogs all that is good, turning their best qualities against them. It is hard to remember their gentleness, especially when our loved one has been using for a long time. Addiction steals our child’s soul and gobbles his heart.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will not allow addiction to win. My child is alive under the drugs and I will not give up hope. I know my son’s heart is compassionate, loving and kind. I will stay close, pray and wait until he throws off the chains of his addiction and comes home to himself and to us.

COMPASSION DURING THE HOLIDAYS

IMG_0154I 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 both turned forward and 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.

MY FIGHT SONG

IMG_TM (1)Rachel Platten sings Fight Song and the lyrics remind me of something a friend wrote to me: One time during my career I was feeling like there was no hope. Just then a fellow employee told me a few words that I have never forgotten and I apply them to all aspects of my life, “It’s never over unless you quit.” 

My reflection: Fight Song and the words from my friend, “It’s never over unless you quit,” blend together with something my dad once told me. When Jeff was embroiled in his addiction, I asked my father, “When can I quit worrying? When he’s 18, when he’s 21? When, Dad?” His response was clear, “When you’re a parent, there is no quit.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Life can be difficult and addiction can be suffocating, but “It’s never over unless you quit.” The lyrics of Fight Song speak to our need to be strong for ourselves and those we love.

 

 

This is my fight song

Take back my life song…

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me