Misconception #9: Service is not an important part of recovery

From my son, I learned: Living in sobriety is about giving and receiving. Reaching out a hand to help another person strengthens both the addict and those he tries to help.

My reflection: When my son was in the midst of recovering, I was afraid that others would lead him off track and divert his attention. I thought it best if he spent time dedicated to self-care and to his personal recovery program. Fear drove me.

Today’s Promise to consider: True recovery is learning how to have healthy, meaningful relationships and how to interact with others, without drugs. Service – reaching out a hand and helping another person – gives the recovering addict a sense of purpose, an opportunity to regain a feeling of self worth, and a forum to engage the world in meaningful ways. Today, I will encourage my recovering loved one in his efforts to contribute. It is in giving that he receives.

 

 

Misconception #8: Relapse is failure

From my son, I learned: that relapse happens. It happened often with Jeff. There are countless examples of recovering addicts like Philip Seymour Hoffman, who stay clean for years, relapse, and die. Drugs are powerful and addiction never rests. It bides its time and waits for the right moment to pounce.

My reflection: Through a dozen of my son’s relapses, I suffered. I wondered what I was doing wrong, and what I could/should be doing differently. Every relapse was a red, flashing light that blinded me with a sense of failure. It took me years to understand.

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse is a gut-punch, instantly dashing hopes and optimism. But the reality is that relapse happens. Each time it did for Jeff, I felt guilt, anger, and betrayal…until one day Dr. MacAfee told me, “Relapse isn’t failure. It’s one step closer to recovery.” I still hold that thinking close in my work with addiction. It buoys me when I hear about recovering people losing their footing. It helps me keep hope alive.

 

Misconception #7: Life in sobriety is easy

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

From my son, I learned: that life in sobriety is one-day-at-a-time. Recovering addicts must learn to take risks and live with courage. When Jeff went back to work in sobriety at a PR firm, he felt like he was constantly walking on eggshells, one step away from being fired every day for the first year. He didn’t feel qualified, felt in over his head, but he tried his best and became a strong employee. When he moved on to start his own company, his boss thanked him for his important contributions.

My reflection: Jeff and I spoke to a group of recovering addicts at a treatment center and, after our presentation, a seventeen-year-old boy said to Jeff, “I can’t even skateboard to the same music I used to. When I do, I think immediately of drugs.” Jeff replied, “Yep, I had to re-learn everything when I got sober. I didn’t even know what color I liked best.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovery requires a ‘control-alt-delete’ on the old life. Addicts know well how to exist in their illness, but when they are sober, everything is new: social time with friends, a Saturday night date, and how to be a responsible employee. Learning to live in sobriety is not easy. I respect those who stay close to the program and commit to living a healthy life in recovery.

 

 

 

 

Misconception #6: Life in sobriety can’t compare to the incredible highs of drugs

From my son, I learned that sobriety comes to outweigh all the excitement – big weekends and bursts of pleasure – that drugs provide. He says that being clean lets a person build a life of substance rooted in real relationships with people who truly care about him, and a career he’s proud of. Life unfolds to be profoundly gratifying without drugs. Jeff says this was the biggest realization of all.

My reflection: I still have a hard time understanding the true power of drugs. The excitement, the party, and the high life that drugs provide are foreign to me.

 Today’s Promise to consider: The juxtaposition that drugs entail is still confounding to me. They are parallel worlds of ecstasy and agony. I’ve heard many addicts say that they couldn’t quit drugs because of the deep comfort they provide, but all I saw were the devastating effects they had on my son and family. There is so much to learn with addiction.

 

 

Misconception #5. Families must walk away from their addict

From my son, I learned that the knowledge that our family was waiting for him when he got healthy was an important part of his recovery. He knew that when he made the decision to live a sober life, we would be at his side. 

My reflection: Years ago, a recovering alcoholic at San Patrignano in Italy taught me the meaning of stagli vicino (stay close to him). He counseled me to stay close, but out of the chaos of my son’s addiction. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a family disease and we are all involved, hurt and traumatized. Through it all, family can be part of the healing, a part of the medicine of recovery, keeping in mind that boundaries are important for all of us. Every day signifies the right to choose again – and again.

 

MISCONCEPTION #3: THE ADDICT CHOOSES TO STAY CLEAN FOR THOSE HE LOVES

From my son, I learned that as much as he loved his family, he had to choose sobriety for himself. Many of us, who love addicts, want to believe that the addict will change his ways for the family, a child, or another person. As a recovering person once told me, “Let’s face it. I had to decide whether I would live or die. I got clean for myself.”

My reflection: Several times I asked my son why he didn’t stop doing drugs when he saw all the damage addiction was spewing onto the family. He explained that he never wanted to hurt us, that he wanted desperately to keep us to the side, but that drugs are all powerful. Once he was locked in their grasp, he was overwhelmed with the hunt for more.

Today’s Promise to consider: One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that love wasn’t enough to save my son from addiction’s clutches. The disease takes the healthiest parts of love and smashes them into worry, helplessness and hopelessness. The reality is that addicts must choose to change for themselves. It’s the only way sobriety takes a lasting hold. Today, I’ll pray that my loved one makes the choice.

 

MISCONCEPTION #2: ADDICTS MUSCLE THEIR WAY TO SOBRIETY ALONE

Jeff and friend Jason

From my son, I learned: Recovering communities like Alcoholics Anonymous are a crucial part of recovery. There the addict finds people who know his journey and have walked in his shoes. As much as I wanted to help my son, I couldn’t understand all that he had lived. In groups like AA, they are sensitive to the nuances of this disease and the path out of it. They celebrate his successes and stand with him when he is in need.

My reflection: Much of the current research indicates that recovery is more successful when the addict is supported by people who understand his walk and who care about him and his daily struggle. As much as I wanted to be that person for my son, I couldn’t be.  

Today’s Promise to Consider: Fellowship with recovering addicts is often an essential part of a person’s journey to sobriety. We, as family members, can give them love and support, but people who know their walk provide community and understanding along the way. Today, I’ll encourage my loved one to attend AA, NA, or another support group. I, too, will attend a support group aimed at care for family members.

WHEN WILL HE CHANGE HIS LIFE?

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A mom wrote to me: My son is addicted to drugs. After four years of enabling and one forced rehab, my son made the choice between living with us or dealing and using weed on a constant basis. He no longer lives with us at age 18. He dropped out of high school, refuses to hold a legal job and has constantly betrayed us with lies, verbal abuse and stealing. Our only offer of help is 90 days in a residential treatment center when he is ready to change his life.

My reflection: When my son was 18, I made him leave the house because of his drug use. He wrote, “The party was in full swing. At eighteen, life was fresh and raucous and racing, and besides some minor arrests and fistfights, serous consequences were rare.” He didn’t choose recovery until many years later.

Today’s Promise: We all have choices to make, and most arrive in their own time. It’s excruciating to watch our children destroy their lives, but until they surrender to their addiction and reach a genuine hand out for help, there is no real change. The best I can do is to stay close to my son and enforce my own boundaries.

“IT IS A LIFE THING, THIS RECOVERY”

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mom, who is also a recovering addict, wrote to me: I was that teenage girl who did horrible things and stole from my parents. I got sober, finally, and my life got much, much better. I married and have two wonderful girls. Life was awesome. Then I had surgery, and guess what??? I got back on that roller coaster of lies, addiction, and betrayals simply from taking pain pills post-op. It is a life thing, this recovery. I was fortunate; I made it back before I lost everything.

My reflection: Fear drove me as a parent. When my son was in active addiction, I feared he would die, and when he was in recovery, I feared he would relapse. Addiction does crazy things to us.

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovery is life’s work for the addict. My son once told me that addiction is like a lion in a cage just waiting to get out. Our recovering loved ones must choose everyday to live in abstinence and to do the things recovery requires of them. I pray that all recovering addicts choose well, today.

 

 

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.