“They can make their lips say anything”

A friend told me that her partner often said these words above. Even through his depression and addiction, he was well aware that people said things to him that were insincere. There were times when a family member said, “I love you. I’m here for you,” but they never contacted him again.

My reflection: Toward the end of my son’s years in active addiction, I finally learned that his words were far less important than his behavior. Words come easily, especially to those enmeshed in addiction.

Today’s Promise to consider: The old adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” perennially rings true. Addicts lie in order to keep the fiction of their disease, “I’m OK, Mom. I haven’t used in a month.” For me, I often chose not to confront my son with the truth of what I thought. This only made me resentful, while allowing him to continue the charade. Today, I’ll speak my truth with love and compassion. I trust that he’ll do the same.

THOSE WHO ARE RECOVERING: LEARNING TO LIVE IN ABSTINENCE

A mother wrote to me: My son is a recovering alcoholic, but he doesn’t know how to live in recovery. Sure, he knows that he can’t drink or hang out at parties, but it’s tough for him. He was used to having drinks with his brothers and friends. When they were young, my husband and I had parties where there was drinking. Now I wish I had never drunk in front of my kids. We are a big football family, so I don’t have to tell you what Sundays are like around this town. Very hard for a recovering addict.

My reflection: How do addicts learn to live in abstinence? Dr. MacAfee says this is the essential question.

Today’s Promise to consider: We know a lot about addiction, but we don’t know much about how addicts learn to live in sobriety. My experience is that AA and NA gave Jeff a recipe for living that underscored accountability, faith and contribution. Simultaneously, Al-Anon provided me a community of people who helped me prioritize self care. Today, I will support those I love with compassion and understanding as they relearn how to live life. This includes me.

BOUNDARIES KEEP US SAFE 

An addiction counselor told me, My biggest challenge is helping clients establish boundaries with the addicts in their lives. Recently, a mother explained that her son, who is actively abusing drugs, lives with her while she cooks for him, cleans his room, and does his laundry. In order to help her take steps toward setting boundaries, I asked her, “Could you quit doing his laundry?” She did just that; however, the son screamed at her and accused her of not loving him. She immediately went back to doing his laundry and quit coming to sessions.

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, I was consumed with worry and thought I could control his behavior. For instance, when he lost his cell phone, I bought him another one because I wanted to stay in touch with him. He was as elusive with the new phone as the old one, and my resentment grew.

Today’s Promise to consider: Boundaries keep us safe. Dr. MacAfee explained that my addicted son needed to know what I would and would not do. “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” MacAfee recommended. “Jeff must know that your parameters are clear. It’s essential for both of you.”

CONVERSATIONS WITH OUR LOVED ONES IN RECOVERY

A mom wrote to me: My son is new to recovery, and I’m wondering if I can ask him all the questions that I have? Sometime I feel like I can’t say how I have been hurt, or how I feel, or how his addiction has affected our family. I don’t’ want to drive him away or make him feel more ashamed than he already feels.

My reflection: When Jeff read a draft of Stay Close, his response was, “You stripped me naked in this book.” I said, “But why didn’t you stop? Why did you continue to hurt all of us?” His eyes filled with tears and he said, “You wrote an entire book about addiction and you still don’t understand. I never wanted to hurt you. I tried to keep you to the side and out of the way. You’re my mom and I love you, but I’m an addict, Mom. I’m an addict.”

Today’s Promise to consider: With my son, a recovering heroin addict, HOW I asked the question was more important than what and when I asked. He was already beaten-up by the addiction and felt guilt and shame, so I needed to be gentle. Today, when we talk about the stormy years of his addiction, I ask questions calmly, without judgment, and in love.

“I SAW WHAT I WANTED TO” – ADDICTION AND DELUSION

While I was listening to a song by O+S, the words “I saw what I wanted to” made me think about addiction. During the early years of my son’s drug use, I was quick to see what I wanted to: the boy who earned high grades, the athlete who was the captain of the soccer team, the son who spoke with respect and commanded an impressive grasp of the English language. I’ve wondered why I didn’t see the boy who insisted on spending every weekend out of the house and with his friends, the boy whose clothes smelled like cigarettes, and the boy who dressed in black and had multiple stories as to where he spent the weekend nights.

My reflection: I saw what I wanted to. I believed the son I loved. I chose to look at the good grades and athletic prowess, and I refused to see the reality of what I think I knew was happening.

Today’s Promise: Today, I choose to live in honesty. The early years of my son’s addiction were filled with fiction – the stories I accepted, and those that Jeff projected. I believed them because, maybe, it was easier. If that’s true, what was easier became a nightmare. There is only one way out of addiction: seeing and telling the truth.