“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.

TEN YEARS OF SOBRIETY

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Photo Credit: Audrey Melton

AN OPEN LETTER TO MY SON JEFF

Today, on July 21, you celebrate ten years of sobriety. This is a huge feat, especially after having suffered a fourteen-year addiction. What would have happened if we had lost you? You faced the demons and came home to yourself and to us. Some research says that only 4% of heroin addicts live and stay well. This is a day to honor.

How far you have come in these past ten years. You pray and meditate, and you radiate serenity and peace. You’ve started a successful music label, and you are a businessman of integrity and strength. Spirituality is at the center of your life, and you inspire me with your hard-fought wisdom and good sense. You have suffered and you have risen.

It took courage, dedication and hard work to reach this day. I call this out because it’s important to do so. A person in active addiction once told me, “If Jeff can do it, so can I.” You give others hope. You give back. You work hard to make the world a better place.

Dad, Jeremy, Iysa and I join your many friends and relatives, who love you and wish you well. We’re proud of you, my son. Here’s to another ten years, one day at a time.

Love you, always and forever. I’ll stay close,

Mom

 

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.

 

 

ALL ADDICTIONS ROB YOU OF YOUR LIFE

20150915101043237A mother wrote to me: I am a mother of a 25-year-old son, who lives with us. He is a compulsive gambler. It isn’t heroin, crystal meth or alcohol, but it is the same thing. Any addiction robs you of your life, your joy, and the natural and innate endeavor to survive and thrive. My son has boundless gifts – he is charming, handsome, an athlete – but now those qualities and God’s gifts to him are buried. He is almost unrecognizable. He is full of shame. He is anxious, lonely, in debt and he says he hates himself. 

My reflection: There are many kinds of addictions: drugs, alcohol, food, sex, shopping, smoking, gambling and more. They all take our loved ones and our families to the same desperate place.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addictions range from heroin to gambling, and from marijuana to shopping. Addicts of every type live a tortured existence. So do we, who love them. There are times we need to take off our blinders and see our loved one’s behavior for what it is: an addiction. Only in honesty can we find a place of commonality and healing.

WHAT MAKES FOR HAPPINESS?

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Uncle Jeff and Niece Iysa

There is a Japanese story that, One day in the outhouse a worm fell on a sheet of ice. A compassionate soul saw this pitiable worm in great danger and deposited it in a place where it could be warm all night. The next morning it was dead. What the man thought of as good luck was not good luck for the worm. We’re wrong to think that what makes for the happiness or unhappiness of some does so for others as well.

from: The Song of Awakening by Yōka Daishi

My reflection, When Jeff was in active addiction, I felt certain that I knew when he needed to enter into a treatment facility. I felt certain that I knew when he needed psychological help. In time, I learned that what I thought wasn’t important or, oftentimes, even correct. He needed to make the decision, not me.

Today’s Promise to consider, We parents often feel that we know what is best for our children. I often forced Jeff into treatment centers, threatening him with some dire consequence. He submitted to my demands, but usually walked out after a few days. We can’t find happiness or peace or recovery for someone else. They must find it on their own. We, parents, can stay close and love them.

 

 

TAKING TIME TO REFLECT

IMG_3400.TM (1)Last week, I spent a few days at New Camaldoli Hermitage, a working Benedictine monastery, located on 900 acres high above the Pacific Ocean in the Big Sur. Silence is required and there is no cell service or internet connection. This mountain sanctuary offered me an opportunity to reflect on all that is happening in my life. I felt God’s majestic presence and heard clearly Father Cyprian Consiglio’s message that this season of Lent is a time to be quiet and to nurture our inner life. It is the period to, “sink back into the source of everything….That time when we let what we think of as our real self dissolve, break apart, in order to find our real self.”  

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, I rarely (if ever) took time to simply be quiet and to reflect on my life. My head sang a song that sounded like, Do something now! Take control immediately! Don’t just sit here! I wish I had attended better to my needs. I wish I had taken a sacred pause.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction rejoices where we are frenetic, but we can’t give addiction that power. When I am at my wit’s end, anxious and distraught, I need to remember to quiet my soul and sink back into the source of everything. Today, I’ll take some time – even two or three minutes – to stop, reflect and feel the presence of my Higher Power.

FORGIVING

TM.3 (1)A mother wrote to me: My son has been in and out of addiction for years. He was very popular in school, graduated from college, and we thought all was well. We never would have believed he would fall into such depths. There have been many times when we thought he was winning the battle in his recovery, then – BAM – he would relapse. No one who has not lived the pain of a child in addiction can imagine the helplessness a parent feels. We have done many things right, but many more wrong.

My reflection: Denial happens. Even in the face of hard facts, we parents can continue to deny. Even when my son relapsed time and time again, I wanted to believe he was well. Even when he continued to lie to keep his addiction, I wanted to believe he was telling me the truth that he wasn’t using, again. “Trust me,” he would say. And I would.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will see with clarity the facts of my child’s addiction, for his good and my own. I will forgive myself for my mistakes. The only road to healing is one of truth and forgiveness.

I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS

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Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mom wrote to me: My son is still on the streets and I don’t know from one day to the next what will happen to him, but I survive by working my steps, having a sponsor, reading my books and calling people on the phone list. Most important of all, I try every day, all day, to put God first in my life and, in doing this, I have been able to Let Go and Let God. I’ll be a work in progress until the day I die.

My reflection: I join this mom in being a work in progress. Whether my son is struggling with his demons or not, I also try to live by the mantra Let Go and Let God. When I truly acknowledge the fact that I am not in control of others or their choices, I am able to live one step closer to peace.

Today’s Promise to consider: My mom once told me, It takes a lifetime to learn how to live. Today, I will pray for humility and for my Higher Power to direct my path.

 

FAMILY DISEASE        

TM.12 (2)A husband wrote to me: My wife has relapsed on alcohol after remaining sober for a period of twelve years. I am now the sole custodian of three children. This disease engulfs everyone in its path, including the addict and family. I have witnessed the progression of the disease from the perspective of the loving spouse, as well as through the lens of my children who battle on a daily basis through the scars of their mother’s addiction.

My reflection: Addiction destroys families. It breeds worry, helplessness and hopelessness. What happens to the children when a parent relapses? What happens to the spouse? No mother wants to hurt her children, and this story epitomizes the power of drugs.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a family illness and we all suffer. But through it all, I must protect my family. Today, I’ll take this disease out of the dark where it does its dirtiest work. I will open the lines of communication, and I’ll listen without judgment to my children and spouse as they share their feelings. I will provide a safe harbor.

TELL HIM TO STOP, DAMMIT

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Jeff, Granddad Cataldi, Grams Cataldi, Jeremy

My dad, who would have been 95 this month, didn’t understand addiction. He once pointed his finger at me and said, “Why don’t you tell him to stop, dammit? We can all see that he’s not right. Listen, daughter, you gotta do something. You gotta tell him to stop.” I just stared back at my dad and thought, “Don’t you think I’ve told him to stop, Dad? Do you think I can’t see that he’s not right? Don’t you think I’ve tried?” I didn’t say these things to my Marine Corps Drill Sergeant father.

My reflection: My father wasn’t an addict and for him addiction was non negotiable, something that shouldn’t exist in our family and a problem that ‘had to go.’ In his mind, I was the parent and I should have able to demand that my son quit using drugs. To Dad, it was black or white, two extremes, and Jeff’s behavior wasn’t acceptable and had to end.

Today’s Promise to consider: Many people think that addiction is a lack of character and a moral weakness and, with enough guts and grit, the person should be able to stop. Stop, dammit. My dad thought that way. I wish I had had the silver bullet or had know those magic words to make the destruction stop. Instead, addiction is a cunning, baffling and insidious disease that requires extreme patience, education, perspective and faith.