THE POWER OF COMMUNITY IN RECOVERY

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.

“MY MOM FINALLY SAW ME AS HER SON AGAIN”

A young man in recovery wrote to me: About two weeks after my mom finished reading your book, she and I had an unbelievable conversation. She told me that reading the book was very difficult for her at times, but that your story and her own life were strikingly similar. I think the reason that it was difficult for her had everything to do with the fact that she has never sought any kind of help or support outside of a couple of her friends.

What made the conversation with her remarkable was the tone in her voice and the way she spoke. She seemed calm and when I said something funny, she laughed. I cannot tell you how long it has been, since my mother actually listened to my voice and listened to what I was saying. I mean truly listened. Libby, I believe that you are the first person my mother has been able to relate to when it comes to my addiction and all of the pain our relationship has endured. Something magical happened when she read your book. She finally saw me as her son again. Something in what you wrote allowed her to look me directly in the eyes and finally, after about fifteen years, be able to stop giving me one armed, sideways hugs, and instead wrap both arms around me. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Today’s Promise to consider: Parents have a huge influence on our recovering children, even when they are adults. All people want to ‘be seen’ by those they love, but for addicts that need is imperative. Bobby’s last line says it all, “Something in what you wrote allowed her to look me directly in the eyes and finally, after about fifteen years, be able to stop giving me one armed, sideways hugs, and instead wrap both arms around me.”

 

SOMETIMES EVEN DEATH ISN’T A DETERRENT

A recovering addict told me: Dying didn’t matter. I couldn’t have been any worse off than I was, but I definitely didn’t fear death. If you die, that’s sort of a blessing. I was raised Catholic, but suicide didn’t scare me, didn’t scare me to be in limbo, or purgatory, or wherever you go. I don’t know, but I figured I had to stay here on earth and suffer for the shit I did to the people I hurt.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I would have sold my soul to know what it would take for him to put down the drugs and change his life. With each of his bottoms, I prayed for his salvation.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addicts are overwhelmed by the obsession to use – it often belies their own understanding. Sometimes even death isn’t a deterrent in the race for the drug. I pray that our loved ones choose life, but what will it take? I will stay close in love and hope.

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.

 

HOPE THROUGH RELAPSE

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mother wrote to me: My son is an addict and is currently working on recovery, again. I’ve been down this road so many times before that it’s hard to be hopeful, but it’s impossible for me not to hope. During all the years we’ve battled this disease, I haven’t given up on him. I don’t know if that’s good or bad – it just is. Now that I’m older, I wonder if this is the way it’s going to be until I die.

My reflection: We must remain humble in the face of addiction because it is stronger than we are strong. Perhaps addiction’s most devastating effect is that it suffocates our optimism. As parents, we feel that we need to do something, but we don’t know what to do. We fear that the addiction will never end, and the truth is that it’s up to our children to choose sobriety.

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse can serve as a deepening of our loved one’s resolve to get and stay sober. It highlights the magnitude of the problem and points to the imperative to work diligently at a program of recovery. As long as he attempts to remain abstinent, there is hope. Without hope, all is lost.

“I’M TIRED OF OTHERS JUDGING ME”

img_tm-1A mother wrote to me: I have seen firsthand the fallout caused by my son’s addiction. He has not progressed to harder substances, but legal troubles abound. He is currently facing a felony for a stupid bar fight between two drunk kids that he doesn’t even remember. I realize my son will do time in jail and that I can’t fix it. I’m not sure if helping him get legal representation is “enabling.” I’m tired of others judging me, and him.

My reflection: Where is the line between a helpful comment and harsh criticism? It’s easy for others to judge us and our choices. It’s easy to itemize what we should do or should have done differently. The reality is that most people, especially those without first-hand experience with addiction and alcoholism, have no idea of how deeply tricky is this disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a lonely journey, but I will walk this walk with my child and my family. Other people have many things to say, but I will find my help in Al-Anon, spirituality, and with professionals. I must stay strong and stay close.

A HUMAN BEING NOT A HUMAN DOING

Photo Credit: Audrey Melton

Photo Credit: Audrey Melton

A friend, whose brother is in recovery, wrote to me: We are living on a roller coaster with my brother. After two years of rehab, we see very little progress with him compared to other guys who started the program at the same time. Recently, I read a quote by Kurt Vonnegut that made a difference to me, “I am a human being, not a human doing.” It went straight to my heart and my mind as I thought about my brother’s addiction. We are all humans in an ongoing process of learning and failure. We aren’t our achievements and above all, our life is almost never linear.

My reflection: It’s easy to blame the addict for his failures, since his actions affect so many people. But the human condition is one of living and learning and making mistakes along the way. The prayer is that we learn from them and move toward health.

Today’s Promise to consider: Throughout the course of Jeff’s fourteen-year addiction, the keyword for me became compassion. Many days, compassion was impossible to muster, but as Kurt Vonnegut’s quote tells us, we are human beings – in our victories and in our failings. Today, I accept that I am human and so is my son.

 

 

FOUR YEARS: A MOTHER’S STORY OF HOPE

IMG_0351A mom wrote to me on facebook from 2012 – 2016: 

2012: My son had his first visit home on Thanksgiving. It was not good. When we told him that he wasn’t ready to live with his brother, he completely blew up and wouldn’t speak to us. He hasn’t called or texted or anything since then. It’s heartbreaking because I know he is hurting, but he has cut me off. I keep him close to my heart, but he doesn’t want to hear my voice or see me. When you look in your child’s dark and cold eyes and you know they feel unworthy of self love, it totally breaks your heart.

2014: My son celebrated 2 clean years Monday! He’s going to college in a few weeks…..living at home though.

2015: Yesterday, we were at the store looking for dress pants, shirts and ties, patterned socks and “pointy toe” shoes. He is headed back for sophomore year at a local university having finished on the Dean’s list. He is doing a summer internship with a legal company that works on regulatory shipping issues. When he was a small child, I envisioned him working in the legal field. I can’t help but smile!

2016: I wanted u to be the first to know. My son is 4 yrs clean, July 28! He’s going to law school!!! Still staying close!

Today’s Promise to consider: When our child is in the depths of addiction, it’s hard to have hope. Each day is a painful struggle and a reminder that he is alive under the drugs. This mother’s four-year notes tell the story of renewal and possibility. Where there is life, there is hope. I’ll continue to stay close.

 

 

I TRIED EVERYTHING HUMANLY POSSIBLE

jeff_TMA mom wrote to me: I tried everything humanly possible to save my son. And then I let go. I have so much love and gratitude for the peace I am now experiencing. I have no illusions for tomorrow. I went to three funerals of young people in ten days.

My reflection: I, too, tried everything humanly possible to stop my son’s addiction. I paid to get him out of trouble, forced him into recovery, and tracked him down whenever he couldn’t be found. After fourteen years of trying to control my son’s addiction, I surrendered with love.

Today’s Promise to consider: It was only after acknowledging that I did everything in my power to stop Jeff’s addiction, was I able to let go. It was sobering, but crucial for me to realize that no matter how much of myself I poured into his illness, the choice to stop was his alone. When I surrendered with love, I felt peace.

 

WHEN WILL HE BE READY TO CHANGE?

04-Jeff photo shoot 304A mother wrote to me: Our son, who is now 26, cannot get sober from heroin addiction. He was clean for eight months, got married and is back on it again. He has been an addict since he was 19, starting with marijuana, then methamphetamine and now heroin. He has been in jail, then prison and at this time he is on probation again. He has been to five or six rehabs. How long will this last? When will he ever be ready to change?

My reflection: The answer to this question would be like finding the Holy Grail. All of us who love an addict want to know, “When will that moment of clarity happen?” Our prayer is that it happens before it’s too late.

Today’s Promise to consider: I had to admit that I had no power over my son or his addiction. I had to admit that I wasn’t in control of when he would be ready to change. I had to admit that I had no ability to stem the endless stream of negative consequences that resulted from his using. All I could do was stay close and pray that he would soon reach that moment of grace when he would make a decision to change.