“TEMPTATION IS A BITCH”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wrote in Time Magazine: Temptation is a bitch. All my life, I’ve gone through periods of horrific anxiety…that squeezes my brain in an icy grip…a bottomless pit of fear. Ouch. Man, drugs fixed all that in a flash. Once you’ve opened the door to drug use, it’s always there, seducing you. Perfectly sane people become addicted and end up dead.

My reflection: Drug overdoses kill more than 64,000 people each year and are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. The latest research from the Center for Disease Control estimates that overdoses will increase by 30% in 2017. These dire statistics point to the high price of succumbing to temptation for addicts.

Today’s Promise to consider: Temptation is everywhere – whether it’s sweets, extra sleep, shopping, or narcotics. Recovering addicts have worked hard to distance themselves from the deadly seduction of drugs. Today, I’ll reach out my hand with compassion to all those who are fighting the ravaging temptation of drugs in order to survive another day.

 

ADDICTS HELPING ADDICTS: “IT WORKS IF YOU WORK IT”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

A recovering addict told me, In AA or in a recovering community, I was surrounded by people who had gone through what I had gone through. I trusted them. I don’t think doctors or psychologists ever helped me in the same way. Sure, experts have a place in recovery, but for me it was AA and the recovering community that made the biggest difference. I needed to hear from people who had been through it themselves. I needed to hear how they learned to live with their families and in society again. Trust is the first step to opening up, and I trusted those in community.

My reflection: I would have sold my soul if I could have helped my son when he was in active addiction. I dragged him from psychologist to psychiatrist to priest with the hope that someone could stem the tide of his use. Maybe some of these experts helped, but it wasn’t until my son met other recovering addicts that he made the decision to change his life.

Today’s Promise to considerPeople in pain respond best to others who have walked in their shoes – this is especially true for addicts. The overwhelming obsession that drugs incite is something non-addicts most often aren’t able to comprehend. Those of us who love them can ‘stay close’ with compassion, but real help often comes from within their community. Today, I’ll encourage my loved one to reach out for help in AA or another support group.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD

My seven-year-old granddaughter and I were traveling together and I said, “Iysa, I’m feeling stressful about all that I have to do for the holidays when we get back home.” “Don’t worry, Nonna,” she replied as she sat next to me in the waiting area of the Amtrak station, “Let’s meditate.” With this, she crossed her legs, put her hands on her knees, closed her eyes, and became quiet and still. As I watched her, I was struck by her ability to go inside herself and find peace, right in the middle of the busy train station.

My reflection: With all the stress the holidays can bring added to the chaos addiction adds, this time of year often feels overwhelming. Iysa reminded me of the value in developing a “refuge” – someplace we quickly go that gives us a sense of wellbeing. Hers is meditation and breathing.

Today’s Promise to consider: Stress can be debilitating, but we each have the power and responsibility to find our way to serenity. Some of us meditate, while others might run, write, exercise or cook. Whatever we choose, it’s critical that we make these activities a priority during busy periods. As we approach the New Year, let’s make the choice to do something constructive to help ourselves find peace.

“I DON’T WANT TO BREATHE MY FEAR INTO YOU”

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

I talked with a dear friend, whose son is a recovering heroin addict, and I was moved by her words to her son. “I believe in you,” she told him, “Sure I’m afraid of what the future holds for you and our family, but I don’t want to breathe my fear into you. I want to give you hope.”

My reflection: There is a song lyric that I memorized years ago, “Fear can be catching worse than a cold.” Research indicates that emotions are ‘contagious,’ and that negative emotions transfer most easily. When my son was in active addiction, I’m sure he saw tension in my eyes more often than he saw peace or love.

Today’s Promise to consider: Our children can’t carry our anxieties, as well as their own. In early recovery, they face countless fears daily – how to get a job, how to pay rent, and how to go the next day without drugs. The last thing they need is to look in our eyes and see doubt. Today, I’ll not worry about tomorrow. I’ll pray, meditate, and find my serenity. Today, I’ll breathe hope into my son.

HOW SCIENCE IS UNLOCKING THE SECRETS OF ADDICTION

 

The National Geographic Magazine, September, 2017, reports: “Scientists are challenging the view that addiction is a moral failing and researching treatments that could offer an exit from the cycle of desire, bingeing, and withdrawal that traps tens of millions of people. Addiction hijacks the brain’s neural pathways. By analyzing brain scans of recovering cocaine addicts, clinical neuroscientist Anna Rose Childress, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, studies how subliminal drug cues excite the brain’s reward system and contribute to relapse.”

Written by Fran Smith, source: National Geographic

My reflection: No one knows whether the risk of becoming addicted is due to genetics, trauma, stress, or other factors, but science continues to support the fact that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. They are discovering how addiction changes the brain’s chemistry and how it must be retrained for long-term sobriety to take shape.

Today’s Promise to consider: Brain chemistry is altered with addiction – this has been proven by research. Addict’s brains are highjacked by the cycle of desire that drugs and alcohol create. With increased understanding, doctors are experimenting with ways of regaining chemical balance by using electromagnetic waves, medication, psychotherapy, support groups, even mindfulness training. The answer is not incarceration, but treatment.

 

IT’S EASY TO JUDGE

Two days ago, I saw this painting by Alessandro Allori (circa 1577), and I was struck by the theme of judgment, with a history dating back to John 8:7. This post isn’t about religion. What it is about are the words, He that is without sin among you, let him cast a first stone at her. As I examined the painting, both the contrite face of the adulteress and the look of tenderness in Christ’s eyes moved me. I wondered if it is human nature that we so easily sit in judgment of others? Is it human nature for those who are healthy to marginalize those who are not? Is it human nature for those who have never suffered from an addiction to condemn those who have?

My reflection: Before my son endured a 14-year addiction, I’m sure that I, too, judged others dealing with addiction. We need to use our judgment to make good choices, of course, but we also need to fortify ourselves with education, an understanding of issues unfamiliar to us, a strong moral compass, and solid principles.

Today’s Promise to consider: We know the negative words used to describe addicts. However, for those of us who love someone battling this disease, we also know the courage it takes for them to change their lives. We see the physical pain they endure to put down the drug that takes away their pain. We know their hearts are good because they are our sons, our daughters, our husbands and wives. They are our loves.

LET’S SHARE THE GOOD NEWS

Son Jeff, Libby, granddaughter Iysa, and son Jeremy

A mom wrote to me: I hesitate to share good news, yet I realize I don’t hesitate to share bad news. The reality is that both can change in an instant! My son called, and the conversation was positive and encouraging. He sounded good and he used the words happy. He apologized for his earlier outbursts of being spiteful, confused and angry. He said there is a bed available in the recovery house he wants to go to and they welcome him back. He is also considering an Intensive Outpatient Program. That, too, encourages me. On top of that, looks like he’ll be able to attend a family wedding in a sober state! He asked for prayer that he would take care of himself and trust God that it will be okay.

My reflection: When Jeff was deep into his addiction, I didn’t want to share any news – good or bad. Every moment was fleeting. Every action was up for grabs. Our lives were chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are joyous moments when our addicted loved ones make good choices, say the words we’ve been waiting to hear, and choose to do the next right thing. We, as parents, know too well the heartache of the bad choices and the life of destruction, but the positive news is essential to share because it gives us hope.

 

 

DR. MACAFEE: TELL THE TRUTH, LIVE THIS DAY, AND DECIDE NOT TO USE

This is part of a series of monthly posts that reference many conversations with Dr. MacAfee. Thanks, Doc. 

Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Dr. MacAfee said, For recovering people, let’s go back to some basic pieces: tell the truth, live only this day and decide this day not to use. That’s one heck of a premise. That’s a profound world trio. It sounds amazingly simple, but it’s very, very difficult. To be in recovery, you see your own unfolding, you’re aware of it. You’re always looking to be more and to live a better way.

My reflection: Truth is the defining characteristic of recovery. The Big Book of AA says that recovery can only be found in rigorous honesty. This is essential for the recovering addict, and I found it to be essential for me, too.

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovery is based in truth – being honest with ourselves and with others. Dr. MacAfee helped me to understand that recovery is bigger than not using. Real recovery means living in transparency, being present each day, and consciously trying to make good decisions, one day at a time.

 

 

 

RETHINKING TREATMENT AND INCARCERATION 

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A social worker wrote to me: I agree completely with the philosophy of Stay Close. I have learned to be very tolerant and understanding of the pain and choices made by young people in recovery. I believe that our society must develop a new paradigm in terms of treatment vs. incarceration. The American prison and juvenile justice systems have become a dead end for so many. I hope for a time when drug addiction and mental illness will be treated with the same compassion as any other disease.

My reflection: Incarceration seems to be our society’s first answer to addiction. Sure, locking up the addict gets him off the streets and might even save his life, and the lives of others – but the problem is that we’re putting people is jail who are ill. Addicts need help or else their sickness resumes when they later hit the streets.

Today’s Promise to consider: Every nineteen minutes, someone dies of drug overdose. This can’t continue. Our addicted loves ones need help and treatment. The problem is that THEY must choose to get help. We can’t force them into sobriety. I pray that our judicial systems become enlightened to the realities of this disease and develop new ways to steer our children toward the help they need.

 

YOU’RE BRAVER THAN YOU BELIEVE

A former student, friend and now psychiatrist, sent this: 

If ever there is a tomorrow

When we’re not together

There is something you

Must always remember

You are braver than you believe

Stronger than you seem

And smarter than you think

 

But the most important thing is

Even if we are apart

I’ll always be with you

My reflection: The words above epitomize Stay Close, a way of saying to our addicted loved ones, “I love you and you can beat this thing. But you have to do it. I can’t do it for you. You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem. Fight, son, fight.”

Today’s Promise to consider: We can’t force our loved ones to live a sober life, but we can Stay Close and continue to hope. Jeff once told me, “You believe in me more than I believe in myself. Please never quit believing, Mom.”