WHY DO WE HURT THE ONES WE LOVE MOST?

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me: I finally found the strength to know that no amount of money thrown at the disease of addiction will help it. So we said a gentle “no” to his pleas. We got the hate and the hurt and the anger back in spades, the addiction really reared its ugly head. Our son’s deep pain directed towards the ones he loves most.

My reflection: During the years of my son’s active using, he became a master of manipulation, exploitation, and betrayal. When I refused to give him money, when I didn’t allow him to come home, or when I wouldn’t bail him out of jail, he became abusive. This is the pathology of addiction. My son and I lived this dance for years, until I realized I was part of the problem.

Today’s Promise to consider: When we parents put a roadblock between the addict and what he wants, this is a major threat to him. In addition, we stand as a constant reminder to our children that the life they are living is rife with pain and harm. Today, I will not allow addiction to isolate and separate me from my loved one. I will offer roads to recovery, not more money or bailouts.

“LOVE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE”

During the homily at Easter Sunday Mass, Father Scott said, “Love makes the difference.” He talked about faith, hope and love, and wanted us to hear the message that, even as Jesus confronted death, it was His love for us that made the difference.

My reflection: Father Scott’s words reminded me that with my own children it was love that made the difference when we faced addiction. Love couldn’t save my son his fourteen-year journey and love couldn’t save my younger son the suffering that addiction spew, but in the end it was love that made the difference in helping us stay close and begin to heal.

Today’s Promise to consider: Through all the trauma that addiction brings, we parents make some good decisions and some others that might not be the best. Through it all, the most important part is that our children know we love them. Today, I’ll continue to love my child who is alive and under the drugs. I’ll stay close, but out of the chaos of his addiction.

“TEMPTATION IS A BITCH”

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Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wrote in Time Magazine: Temptation is a bitch. All my life, I’ve gone through periods of horrific anxiety…that squeezes my brain in an icy grip…a bottomless pit of fear. Ouch. Man, drugs fixed all that in a flash. Once you’ve opened the door to drug use, it’s always there, seducing you. Perfectly sane people become addicted and end up dead.

My reflection: Drug overdoses kill more than 64,000 people each year and are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. The latest research from the Center for Disease Control estimates that overdoses will increase by 30% in 2017. These dire statistics point to the high price of succumbing to temptation for addicts.

Today’s Promise to consider: Temptation is everywhere – whether it’s sweets, extra sleep, shopping, or narcotics. Recovering addicts have worked hard to distance themselves from the deadly seduction of drugs. Today, I’ll reach out my hand with compassion to all those who are fighting the ravaging temptation of drugs in order to survive another day.

 

EARLY INTERVENTION: EVERY MINUTE IS CRITICAL

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A father wrote to me: Addiction touches many of us. My oldest son was headed down that path. We feel very blessed to have discovered the problem early and much to his chagrin put him in treatment for eighteen months. Pretty hard on the family, but everyone seems to have benefitted in some way. He is now a productive member of society with a wife and child and very committed to his church.

My reflection: Does early intervention stop addiction? There is a body of research that indicates that a fast response is critical and, although it might not stop the addiction, it can bring up the bottom and possibly curtail the devastating effects of the disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: If I had the early years of my son’s 14-year addiction to do over again, I would have taken my head out of the sand, educated myself more thoroughly, talked openly with him and our family, and put him into a long-term rehab program as soon as possible. Jeff’s addiction was like a fire that was left unattended for too long and, before we acknowledged it, the entire forest was ablaze. With all the deaths happening today from drug overdoses, every minute is critical.

 

“I WORKED HARDER THAN HE DID”

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A mom wrote to me, I worked harder for my son’s recovery than he did and I always came up empty. When I finally let go and allowed him to feel the dignity of his triumphs and pain of his failures, things changed. Just for today he chooses recovery. So do I.

My reflection: This mom’s words resonated strongly with me because for many years I, too, worked harder for my son’s recovery than he did. When he was living on the streets and brushing his teeth at the Seven Eleven, I thought, “He has hit his bottom,” so I rushed in to get him into rehab. When he got arrested for the umpteenth time, I bailed him out and forced him into yet another rehab. Nothing changed.

Today’s Promise to consider: As much as I wanted to save my son, to rescue him from the consequences of his addiction, and to pick him up when he fell, none of my attempts helped. In the end, HE had to make the choice to change his life, and I had to make mine. There was only room for one person in his addiction and that didn’t include me.

A FATHER ASKS, “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?”

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A father wrote to me: I have three sons. Two out of three have an addiction, and I have been dealing with this for six years with the oldest and five years with the youngest. I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I try not to enable and am getting better. I write short stories about their lives and how their addictions have affected them and everyone else, but I can never seem to gather my thoughts fully in order to complete anything. Maybe it’s because I am always on my guard.

My reflection: As parents of addicted loved ones, we are forever on guard and our attention is scattered. Our lives become torturous and we find it almost impossible to concentrate on anything other than our child’s chaos. Even when they are clean and sober, we remain vigilant, watching and listening for any pattern of old – something that will give us a clue that our addict is using again. Every day is clouded with our fears and worries.

Today’s Promise to consider: Too often we make our children’s addictions personal and ask ourselves what are we doing wrong: are our boundaries not strong enough, are we enabling, should we step in with financial help, why one child and not the other? The questions are endless. Today, I’ll stop allowing addiction to beat me up. I’ll pray, reach out to my support group, and prioritize my spiritual program. I’ll remember that I’m not alone.

 

 

NO ONE TO BLAME

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mother wrote to me: My son was a star athlete in high school and at age seventeen he began his downward spiral into this insidious disease. I taught in the school district that he attended so it was doubly hard. I got calls just about every day from the RN to take him for a drug test. He would fall asleep in class or didn’t even show up for school. I blamed myself – his dad and I had separated before this nightmare began so I assumed he took drugs to medicate himself or to use as a band-aid.

My reflection: We parents often blame ourselves for our child’s addiction. We think that it must be our fault. Addiction is a nightmare and we want someone to accept responsibility for the sadness. The bottom line is that no amount of blame will break addiction’s grasp on my addicted loved one or our family.

Today’s Promise to consider: Most experts agree that addiction is an illness. Our family is affected by an addiction. Who is to blame? Today, I will point a finger at no one. I will accept what is. I will find support in the rooms of Al-Anon and in my higher power. I will go forward, one step at a time.

HIS HUMANITY WAS IN CONSTANT CONFLICT WITH HIS ADDICTION

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A recovering addict wrote to me: Libby, I was a good friend and fellow drug user with your son. I’ve been clean for three years. Your son was one of the few truly decent addicts I ever met, meaning that he had a kind side that most addicts had already destroyed within themselves. He actually CARED about what his drug use was doing to you, his brother and his dad. I remember when your father died and you had cancer. He drove over to my apartment and we talked late into the night. But after that, we went out and copped more drugs, came back, used, and he called into work and faked sick.

My reflection: Jeff and I have talked a lot about those years when my father died and I had cancer. He tried his addicted-best to be present during those times. His words held the truth, “I never wanted to hurt you, Mom. I love you. But I’m an addict.” Jeff’s humanity and love were in constant conflict with his illness.

Today’s Promise: My son tells me that addicts, even those who can’t mouth the words, despise the destruction they are causing, but they simply can’t imagine a life without drugs. Today, I will not feel guilt, regret, or shame. Today, I will live in hope and faith that my child comes home to us and to himself.

 

“I WISH OTHER PEOPLE COULD UNDERSTAND WHAT OUR LIVES WERE LIKE”

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A mother wrote to me: My son was handsome, respectful, smart, athletic, and a funny young man. Unfortunately, at fifteen, he made a bad choice to experiment with drugs. His life and ours were never the same. He tried to get clean. In fact, he was clean for forty days before he died. I have been blessed with wonderful people in my life, but I know the average person looks down on people who do drugs. I wish other people could understand what our lives were like.

My reflection: Even with the recent public outcry about addiction, society often considers the addict an abyss of moral failure. Many people judge the addict’s family as non-caring, absent, abusive, or non-communicative. Those of us who have addicted children know that this illness doesn’t discriminate. Addiction happens in happy families and unhappy families.

A young addict once told me, “I was raised on a farm in Kansas. My mom and dad were always home, and my entire family worked together on the land. I was fully loved and my family was wonderful. I’m a heroin addict.”

Today’s Promise to consider: I realize that many people judge me when they hear that my son is a heroin addict. I understand that society might criticize me and hold me at fault, but these are the chains of addiction. Today, I will find strength in my support group and continue to love my child without regard for other’s opinions.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD

My seven-year-old granddaughter and I were traveling together and I said, “Iysa, I’m feeling stressful about all that I have to do for the holidays when we get back home.” “Don’t worry, Nonna,” she replied as she sat next to me in the waiting area of the Amtrak station, “Let’s meditate.” With this, she crossed her legs, put her hands on her knees, closed her eyes, and became quiet and still. As I watched her, I was struck by her ability to go inside herself and find peace, right in the middle of the busy train station.

My reflection: With all the stress the holidays can bring added to the chaos addiction adds, this time of year often feels overwhelming. Iysa reminded me of the value in developing a “refuge” – someplace we quickly go that gives us a sense of wellbeing. Hers is meditation and breathing.

Today’s Promise to consider: Stress can be debilitating, but we each have the power and responsibility to find our way to serenity. Some of us meditate, while others might run, write, exercise or cook. Whatever we choose, it’s critical that we make these activities a priority during busy periods. As we approach the New Year, let’s make the choice to do something constructive to help ourselves find peace.