RELAPSE: THAT ‘MOTHER’ FEELING

A mom wrote to me: My son and I went to an AA meeting together, and I was delighted and proud that he allowed me to accompany him. His recovery is so important to me (maybe even more important to me than to him?), and I know he has relapsed several times. He’s not honest enough to tell me. I wish he were. I just sense that he has tripped along the way – just a feeling, that mother feeling.

My reflection: At the beginning of my son’s recovery, I wish I had understood more clearly that relapse happens and can happen often. I thought that when my son left treatment he was healed. Wrong. It was at those times that he needed more support than ever – and he needed honesty. Relapse isn’t about ‘catching’ the addict, but it is about everyone learning how to stay centered through life’s daily struggles.

Today’s Promise to consider: If I have the feeling my son has slipped, I pray that I’ll have the fortitude to talk compassionately with him as he battles for his life, again. Relapse is not moral failure; my son is an addict. Relapse, if handled well, can be one step closer to full recovery.

 

WHEN DOES RECOVERY HAPPEN?

A woman wrote to me: My younger sister is a recovering heroin addict. She is 25 years old and has been to 17 rehab centers, and never finished one program. Last year, she completed her time in jail (since she did not fulfill the requirements of rehab) and that seems to have made a difference for her.  She is recently married, pregnant and, as far as we can tell, sober.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, he bounced among rehabs, jails, hospitals, and detox centers. I never knew what to do – should I pay for another rehab that I knew he would walk out of as soon as he cleaned up, should I be grateful he was arrested and detained, should I do something – or nothing?

Today’s Promise to consider: There is not one definitive answer as to what makes a suffering person choose to change her life and stay sober. Did she hit her point of desperation? Is it time in jail, rehab programs, treatment centers, AA, professional help? Is it all of these things? The answer must be found in the addict herself. She must choose a different life, and we pray that she chooses before it is too late. We are powerless, but today we can and will stay close.

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.

WITH ADDICTION, “I FOLLOWED MY HEART”

A dad wrote to me, I followed my heart, my natural parental instincts fueled by love. My twenty-one years of experience and education dealing with my son’s addiction have allowed me to forgive myself. What others consider as parent mistakes are simply necessary experiences that must be encountered in order to understand the disease and, therefore, to begin a successful journey to personal recovery, which will include the necessary tools to appropriately support the child’s recovery.

My reflection: For years, I beat myself up ruminating on all the mistakes I had made during my son’s fourteen-year addiction: I enabled, gave him money that he used for drugs, made countless excuses for his problematic behavior, and became so distracted that I failed to see the needs of my family.

Today’s Promise to consider: This dad writes that parent mistakes are necessary learning experiences. His words gave me another way of looking at my actions in the face of my son’s addiction. Compassion and forgiveness go both ways – to the addicts, but also to those of us who love them.

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.

ADDICTION CAN TEAR APART THE FAMILY, IF WE LET IT

An uncle wrote to me: My sister has a son who had a lot of problems growing up, including drugs. He is in another program (again, one of many attempts at rehab), but this one is a year-long program. It is amazing to me how many similarities there are in stories of addiction, only the people change. My sister has done a lot of enabling. Her husband turned his back on the family a number of years ago. Tears up any family dealing with this type of thing.  I’m not very optimistic, but we can hope.

My reflection: At one of my son’s first rehab centers, the counselor told me that for every one addict, four others are affected. The chaos spirals out and engulfs those of us who are connected to the family. This uncle suffers for his nephew, but also for his sister. His sister’s husband turned his back, and her brother knows that she has enabled her son. The disease sucks us in and we all feel the pain.

Today’s Promise to consider: In the miasma that is addiction, people who love us don’t know what to do to take away our hurt. I know that my extended family suffered for my son, my family, and me. I never needed their judgment or sadness, but I did need their love and support. Today, I won’t isolate myself. I will accept their love.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

MANIPULATIVE BEHAVIOR IS PART OF ADDICTION

A young woman in recovery told me: I played my mother and grandmother against each other. For example, when I had a fight with one, I’d go to the other. It’s not nice to say, but I used them. I recognized the moment they were weak, and I saw clearly how I could use their love for me to my advantage. It was totally deliberate and this helped keep my addiction alive. I’m sorry for it now.

My reflection: Those in active addiction will do anything to keep using. If my son couldn’t get what he wanted from me, there were many others – family and non-family members – to whom he would go for help. His manipulations and stories were smart, creative, and effective.

Today’s Promise to consider: People suffering from addiction live a life of desperation and deceit. The user will do anything to prop up her addiction. As a result, manipulation of family and friends is common, and those who love addicts are frequently betrayed in the process. Today, I’ll open my eyes and recognize the behaviors. I’ll communicate honestly with those in my loved one’s circle and work with them to establish firm boundaries.

JUST KEEP LOVING

Just keep loving is all I want to say. Even when it seems impossible. Loving yourself enough to know the boundaries to keep and loving our children enough to know when to let go. Hope always and ever. Love is the first response.

My reflection: Through my son’s fourteen-year addiction, there were times when I did not want to keep loving – him or myself. Loving was too painful because when you love someone, you’re compelled to fix and help. I was totally powerless against the addiction. And how could I love myself, when my son was spiraling downward?

Today’s Promise to consider: I learned through Jeff’s long-term addiction that I could love my son – the one who was still alive and under the drugs – while hating the addiction. This dichotomy provided the mental and heart boundaries that allowed me to see the son I would never quit loving, while also acknowledging the consequences of his addiction.

“I CAN’T FIX THIS”

A father wrote to me: Our son has a gambling addiction and after more than five years of heartache he has lost his wife, many jobs, stolen from everyone, and now faces legal issues. He has been to various treatment centers and resides today in a halfway house. As a father, I try to understand the pain my wife endures when her son, who could do no wrong, spirals out of control. I always felt it was my place to protect and fix things. I can’t fix this.

My reflectionBoth mothers and fathers suffer tremendously, but as this father writes, he felt his role in the family was to protect and fix problems. Most moms I talk with assume the role of rescuer. If our child is drowning, our first instinct is to jump into the water, pull them close to us, and swim to safety.

Today’s Promise to consider: Being a parent of a child who is suffering from drug addiction is counter-intuitive. How do we stay close to someone whose behavior is so destructive? How can we love our children who are causing themselves and those closest to them such pain? Today, I’ll pray for wisdom that we learn to accept that our children must choose sobriety for themselves.