RECOVERY: STARTING LIFE OVER, WITH A MEMORY OF A LIFE BEFORE

Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction therapist, wrote, Learning to live drug free touches every facet of a recovering person’s life. He has to learn to laugh without using. He has to learn to “do today” without using. He has to learn to be intimate without using. There is no part of his existence untouched by his drug history. It is literally like starting his life over, yet with a memory of a life before.

My reflection: I remember well the day Jeff and I talked with a group of young recovering people, who were attending a sober living high school in Texas. One boy said, “I can’t listen to the same music as before. I have to find new music that I like.” Jeff responded, “I understand. When I got sober, I didn’t even know what color I liked best.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Compassion for recovering addicts is imperative. They have to relearn everything: ways to be social on a Saturday night, what to do on a date, and how to relate to themselves without the cloak of drugs and alcohol. As Dr. MacAfee writes, “It’s literally like starting life over, yet with a memory of a life before.” Today, I’ll remember the courage it takes for my loved one to begin anew.

IN THE MIDST OF ADDICTION: DON’T JUMP INTO THE QUICKSAND

Felix Scardino, LCSW, a friend of mine wrote: Take care of yourself while you try to understand that you cannot support another person unless you keep your own footing. The following analogy helps me: It will not serve either of us if I jump into quicksand with a person to save him. I’ll best help the person if I stand strong and throw him or her a rope. To care for myself I might need to take a break from listening or even choose not to be with another if their problems overwhelm me.

My reflection: It took me fourteen-years to learn how to live this advice. At my first Al-Anon meeting, I heard these words, but they made no sense to me. How could I take care of myself when my son was dying? In time, I learned how to Stay Close, but out of the chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider: Many of us have thrown ourselves into the fire as we try to help our addicted loved ones. When we lose ourselves, we are of no help to our families, our children, or ourselves. Today, I’ll take care of myself so that I am able to take care of others.

 

HELP THROUGH ADDICTION: WE ARE NOT ALONE

A mother wrote to me: When we learned that our 19-year-old son was addicted to heroin, I remember praying and searching for other parents who would truly understand. All I really wanted was to talk with another parent – especially a mother – who could really understand the brokenness in that special bond between a son and mother. Al-Anon meetings helped, and our good God led me to a meeting made up mostly of parents of addicted children. 

My reflection: Addiction floods us with emotion and confusion, and we want to command the addiction to go away, order it into the pit of the earth where it belongs. When I was lost in addiction’s grasp, other parents, who walked in my shoes, helped me find my way to sanity, serenity, and faith.  

Today’s Promise to consider: After an Al-Anon meeting, I wrote, “I found a peace that has eluded me. My soul quieted there, in the basement of a church. I heard such pain from others, and I listened intently to how they are struggling to survive. Maybe I can find strength and comfort in Al-Anon, and ultimately in myself.” Today, I will open myself and my story to other parents of addicted children. I know that I am not alone.

ADDICTION HARMS: HURT PEOPLE, HURT PEOPLE

A mom wrote to me: Sometimes, during this nineteen-year journey with my son, it is difficult to see the bridges he continues to burn and how “Hurt People Hurt People.” I will always show him love . . .the one consistency.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, he was forever in pursuit of the next high and in need of the comfort that drugs provided. He was in addiction’s grasp, and he had no ability to think about the hurt that he caused his family, or himself.

Today’s Promise to consider: Suffering people in the clutches of addiction hurt others as a result of their own inner turmoil, distress, and drug use. Today, I will do my best to respond to my child’s pain with compassion and love. If I must keep my distance, I will, but I won’t reply with anger or disgust. As the Dalia Lama said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

 

TWO SIDES OF ADDICTION: MOTHER AND SON

Not many people know that my son helps me with every post about addiction. I want to acknowledge his contributions over these many years.

Dr. MacAfee told me that, as a parent, I can speak about addiction, but that Jeff speaks from addiction. The difference is huge.

As a mom, I know only my walk, my suffering, and my desperate attempts to save my son during his fourteen-year journey. I learned that, for us, STAY CLOSE made all the difference.

Jeff knows his walk and how he found recovery. Only he knows his suffering. Only he knows his desperation. Only he knows what it feels like to live on the streets, be locked up in jails, and to lose all sense of dignity and hope.

Thanks, Jeff, for your help, support, compassion, and care all these years. Thanks for reaching out a hand to help others. Thanks for your service.

My son and I walk together today, but only he and his Higher Power found recovery.

To all recovering addicts, we need your voice in order to understand addiction. You inspire us.

A PRAYER

This is my daily prayer: Dear Lord, Remove the veils so I might see what is really happening and not be intoxicated by my stories and my fears. 

– Written by Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of Omega Institute, adult education center, focusing on health, wellness, spirituality, and creativity.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I was rooted in stories and fears. If I didn’t hear from him, I fell prey to contriving horrendous situations that I could imagine happening. When I did hear from him, I constructed other sequences of foreboding times ahead. Bottom line is that I was never present, and never at peace.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction plunges us into despair as we construct stories in our heads. We fear the worst: jails, hospitals, and death. Today, I’ll work to get out of my head and out of my stories. I’ll pray for my loved one. I’ll pray for her safety and ultimate recovery.

A STEP TOWARD RECOVERY

Our beloved Dr. MacAfee said: For the addict, an opening to recovery appears when the pain of maintaining the fiction becomes greater than the pleasure the drugs provide.

My reflection: The Big Book calls this moment, “The Gift of Desperation.” When my son was in active addiction, I thought that I could gauge when these breaks occurred in his life, when the pain had reached critical junctures, and when he would be open to professional help. I never could.

Today’s Promise to consider: Dr. MacAfee’s words proved true with my son, who told me that he chose sobriety when the consequences of his addiction outweighed the solace he got from drugs. For Jeff, his fourteen-year addiction took him to the crossroads of continuing drugs or dying. I thank God every day that he chose recovery, and I pray for all those who continue to suffer.

FINDING PEACE WITH ADDICTION: “I KICKED OUT THE LADIES IN THE ATTIC” 

A friend and mom of adult children, who battle addiction, wrote to me: Today I stay out of my kids’ business. I work a wonderful 12-step program, have a sponsor, and am a sponsor. Today my God is first in my life and I start every morning by asking, “What is Your will for me today?” I can hear my God talk to me clearly because I kicked out the ladies in the attic.

My reflection:  “I kicked out the ladies in the attic,” reminds me of the Buddhist term ‘monkey mind,’ which means restless, unsettled, confused, and cluttered. When my son was in active addiction, I needed to kick out the ladies in the attic. They did nothing but conjure problems that might occur and remind me of past resentments.

Today’s Promise to consider: I cannot control the actions of my suffering loved one, but I can control my anxious thoughts. My constant mental machinations help no one – not my addicted child or me. I will work my program, talk with others who understand addiction, exercise, meditate – I will do whatever it takes to stop the incessant chattering of “the ladies in the attic.”

ADDICTION: WHEN MY SON WASN’T READY TO GET SOBER

My son wrote about his first recovery center: I was told that recovery required vigilance and a long-term commitment, that in order to stay sober I’d have to attend regular AA meetings and work with a sponsor. At the time I didn’t realize sobriety was an ongoing process. I wasn’t yet ready to do the work. Although my drug use was causing problems, it wasn’t devastating.

My reflection: My son saw the problems that drugs were causing, but he wrote that he wasn’t ready to do the work because the consequences of his using weren’t debilitating, yet. With an illness like cancer or diabetes, we must choose to fight and to do the work required to keep the illness under control, like eating well, taking medicine, or exercising. When I had cancer, I had to choose to fight it; when my son was in the throes of addiction, he also had to choose. He wasn’t ready.

Today’s Promise: Like treatment for any major illness, sobriety requires learning new behaviors. For the addict, attending AA meetings, working with a sponsor and cultivating a spiritual life are where it begins. My son had to choose to do this work. I couldn’t do it for him. In time, I learned how to stay close but out of the chaos of his addiction. I had to give him the dignity of his choices. 

 

EARLY DRUG USE: ACT FAST AND DECISIVELY

A dad told me his story: When my son was a junior in high school, I got a phone call from the police that he was in the hospital. When my wife and I arrived, he was out of it, but he told me that he had taken pills given to him by two local guys. I went looking for them to figure out what type of pills my son had taken. They were seniors and, when I found them, they were totally disrespectful so I called a policeman to check their car where he found drugs. The parents of the kids were furious with me for getting their kids in trouble, but I figured maybe I had saved their lives. After that, my son was on a tight leash. He had to call me when he got to work, when he was leaving work, and when he went out anywhere. I also had him drug tested randomly for the next year. We addressed the problem with love and honesty, and he knew he had to earn our trust back.

My reflection: Jeff got into trouble with the police during his high school years, but my husband and I were quick to believe Jeff’s lies. He swore that he was the innocent bystander and had done nothing wrong. Even though the facts were clear, we wanted to believe him. Our denial paved the way to bigger problems. 

Today’s Promise to consider: With early drug use, we must act fast, and act decisively. Our children need boundaries, and they need to understand clearly what they can and cannot do. Sure, our kids will make mistakes, but we must explain without hesitation our concerns, and set concrete limits on their behavior while under our roofs. Once addictive patterns take hold, it’s often too late and we have little control.