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. 

THE NEW YEAR IS A CHANCE TO REFLECT AND RESET

When Jeff was new to recovery, he wrote, This is the first year that my New Year’s resolution was crystal clear: contribution. I need to do more for my community, to give back in bigger, more consistent ways – roll up my sleeves and offer my time and experience to the people around me. The Big Book says, “To keep what we have, we need to give it away.”

My reflection: For years, I scoffed at making New Year’s resolutions. I felt silly setting the intention to do something I knew I would abandon after a few weeks; however, I decided to follow Jeff’s lead and made a commitment to take time each day to read, meditate, pray, and become more centered in myself and with my God. I knew this would have a positive impact on myself and my family.

Today’s Promise to consider: Even though I may not be a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, this year I will try. Jeff will contribute more to his community, and I will do the same. I will grow stronger in my spirituality, reflect on what is important to me, and decide what I can do to enrich my life and the lives of others. Happy New Year!


A DIVINE PAUSE: MAKING SPACE TO RESPOND AND TO HEAL

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Judy Brown wrote: “The Fire”
“… a fire
grows
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.”

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I felt an urgency to respond quickly as if a delayed response would cause greater harm to him. What I learned was that when I took the time to pray for wisdom and think about my response, the results were better for all of us.

Today’s Promise to consider: A Divine Pause gifts us with the time and space that we often need to respond skillfully. Fire grows in the openings between the logs, music seeps into our being in the pauses between the notes, and our interior growth happens in the quiet of our soul. Today, I will take time to pause, pray, contemplate, and heal.

Misconception #10. Spirituality isn’t central to sobriety  (and last in the series)

From my son, I learned: that his sobriety is rooted in his spiritual practice. Every morning he maintains a routine: he reads from a spiritual or philosophical text, stretches, meditates and prays. Today, his life is based on a set of principles and he must be honest with everyone he meets, including himself.  He says that he acknowledges his past and strives for a better tomorrow.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, he was spiritually bankrupt, self centered, dishonest, and isolated from family and those who love him. Naively, I thought that abstinence from substance equaled recovery, but I’ve learned that it’s so much more.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will support my loved one as he works his program of recovery. My son wrote: Through all my years of cynicism and turbulence, I’ve seen with my own eyes something at work on this earth that’s bigger than I am big – good natured and unexplainable. It appeared when I looked for it. Abstinence helps the brain heal; spirituality helps heal the heart.

WHEN THE SADNESS IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HIDE

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me: Sometimes I feel like I am just too hard to be around because the sadness is impossible to hide.

My reflection: When addiction takes over our lives, our sadness can be overwhelming. When Jeff was in active addiction, my family didn’t know whether to ask about him or not. My older brother once asked me, “How’s Jeff?” I looked at him with eyes swelled with tears. He nodded and said nothing more. 

Today’s Promise to consider: When I felt suffocated in sadness by addiction, fighting my feelings never helped. I had to accept my deep sense of loss and call it by name. I found comfort by attending Al-Anon meetings. I wrote daily, exercised, and prayed. And I also had to accept that there were times I could just be sad.

THE PRISON OF FEAR

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Rumi, a 13th century poet, was quoted by Tara Brach at the end of her guided meditation:

Why do you stay in prison

when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.

My reflection: I lived in the prison of fear for many years. Fourteen years with my son’s addiction, but there were other years where I feared my parent’s wrath, my family’s disintegration, and the loss of my own health to cancer.

Today’s Promise to consider: Sometimes fear can be healthy because it signals oncoming danger, but it often can be crippling and suffocating. Addiction feeds on this dread. “What if my child dies?” “What if my child is sleeping on the streets in the freezing weather?” Fear is normal, but it amplifies itself and grows bigger and bigger. Today, I’ll face my fears, call them by name, and cultivate constructive ways of dealing with them.

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.

SUPERMAN WITH KRYPTONITE AROUND HIS NECK

A sister of an addict wrote to me: My heart bleeds for my mother. My brother’s addiction, his emotional battles, problems, and heartache hurt her terribly. Mom needs to know that she’s not alone. She needs to find her hope again. This has been her life’s battle. I wish I could bottle the son she once had and give him back to her. God knows I’ve tried, but sadly I’m not magic. There is nothing more than I want for her but for her to have her son back. And for me to have my brother back.

My reflection: Addiction is a family disease, and we all suffer. My younger son, Jeremy, once told me, “I tried my best to help take care of Jeff, but I was powerless. Jeff was like Superman with kryptonite around his neck.”

Today’s Promise: As the mother of an addicted child, I have the responsibility to take care of all my children. I will tell them that the addiction is not their fault, or their responsibility. No one can fix it, except the addict. We are powerless in the face of addiction. Today, I will listen to their concerns with love and support. Today I will be present for the important people in my life.

BETTER TOGETHER: A NEW WEBSITE

In 2010, we developed the Stay Close website and blog. We started with a small team of three dedicated people who believed that we could make a difference and bring hope to others who were facing addiction’s chaos. Jeff and I wrote weekly meditations, and Aamir Syed brought our vision to technological life. Mikele Roselli-Cecconi’s photos offered a visual interpretation of addiction.

This week, the first Thursday in 2018, we’re sharing with you a new site. Two creative women, sisters Maria and Carolina Usbeck, worked tenaciously to create a new digital presence for the website and blog. Jeff and Aamir helped along the way, while Davood Madadpoor, a talented street photographer in Florence, contributed many outstanding shots.

I thank all these people: Aamir, Carolina, Maria, Mikele, Davood and my son, Jeff. Our team invites you to take a look at the new site. Let us know what you think.

My reflection: There is power in a good and diverse team. Others bring talents, strengths, insights, and creativity that are unique to them. With addiction, the power of community is essential. I learned my greatest lessons in the rooms of Al-Anon, in conversations with another mother of an addicted child, or when listening to a recovering addict. I need others to help me. I think we all do.