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.



Photo credit: Audrey Melton

Terry Gorski writes, Addiction comes into our lives posing as a friend and then slowly grows into a monster that can destroy us.

(Terry Gorski, Straight Talk About Addiction)

My reflection: I was deluded by addiction. It entered our home and looked like a phase. I shrugged off my concerns with the thought my son’s behavior was normal because many teenagers smoked pot and drank beer. Surely, Jeff would grow out of it. Silently and rapidly, addiction grew fat, fed on our angst and misery and, in the end, mocked us with its strength and power.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. It’s crucial that we parents pay close attention to the signs of impending danger so that we can intervene early. We are part of the medicine that can heal this disease. Education and closeness are the keys.



A recovering addict told me: Dying didn’t matter. I couldn’t have been any worse off than I was, but I definitely didn’t fear death. If you die, that’s sort of a blessing. I was raised Catholic, but suicide didn’t scare me, didn’t scare me to be in limbo, or purgatory, or wherever you go. I don’t know, but I figured I had to stay here on earth and suffer for the shit I did to the people I hurt.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I would have sold my soul to know what it would take for him to put down the drugs and change his life. With each of his bottoms, I prayed for his salvation.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addicts are overwhelmed by the obsession to use – it often belies their own understanding. Sometimes even death isn’t a deterrent in the race for the drug. I pray that our loved ones choose life, but what will it take? I will stay close in love and hope.


vivek-murthyDr. Murthy recently wrote, I’m calling for a cultural change in how we think about addiction. For far too long, people have thought about addiction as a character flaw or moral failing. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and it’s one that we have to treat the way we would any other chronic illness: with skill, with compassion and with urgency.

My reflection: I had the good fortune of attending the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), 2016, in both Vienna and New York City. Jeff joined in New York and spoke about recovery from addiction. At both sessions, the world’s stance was clear: Addiction is a disease.

Today’s Promise to consider: As our medical community learns more about addiction, the worldview is changing in a fundamental way. For many of us, parents and family members, it can’t change fast enough. Our addicted loved ones have felt society’s scourge and loathing for too long. Today, I will help educate others, and I will pray for addiction treatment to meet the needs of the suffering.



Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

Photo Credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mother wrote to me: My son is an addict and is currently working on recovery, again. I’ve been down this road so many times before that it’s hard to be hopeful, but it’s impossible for me not to hope. During all the years we’ve battled this disease, I haven’t given up on him. I don’t know if that’s good or bad – it just is. Now that I’m older, I wonder if this is the way it’s going to be until I die.

My reflection: We must remain humble in the face of addiction because it is stronger than we are strong. Perhaps addiction’s most devastating effect is that it suffocates our optimism. As parents, we feel that we need to do something, but we don’t know what to do. We fear that the addiction will never end, and the truth is that it’s up to our children to choose sobriety.

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse can serve as a deepening of our loved one’s resolve to get and stay sober. It highlights the magnitude of the problem and points to the imperative to work diligently at a program of recovery. As long as he attempts to remain abstinent, there is hope. Without hope, all is lost.


Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A mother wrote to me: My eighteen-year-old son is dying in the next room. It started with severe headaches that became an every day occurrence. I took him to an internist who prescribed for him oxycontin. He became addicted in a matter of weeks. He lost thirty pounds, had black bags under his eyes, and did nothing but lay in his bed. We found a rehab center, but after two weeks he signed himself out. He is home now and trying so hard, but he is quickly losing faith as his body is turning against him again. I am so afraid that he will never get better and will die before my eyes.

My reflection: When relapses happened with my son, I thought that treatment centers were the answer; however, he never stayed very long and constantly walked out before his time was up. Their response was always the same, “We can’t keep him if he chooses to leave.” I, too, lived in constant fear that he would die.

Today’s Promise to consider: We want to save our children. It’s instinct. It’s what we do as parents. But drug addiction is powerful and it doesn’t let go easily. Today, if my son relapses and asks for help, I will steer him toward recovery and other recovering people, not necessarily with money, but with emotional support and love. I’ll stay close.


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.


IMG_0222A recovering addict wrote to a friend, who had relapsed, I’m sorry you fell off the wagon. Get back in. Stop drinking and go to a meeting. Don’t show up drunk. You have to nip this in the bud because it will get worse. Go to 90 meetings in 90 days. I guarantee you that you’ll be in a much better state of mind. Ask someone to be your sponsor, someone who has time and who seems like they’re living the life you want. You’ll be surprised by how many friends you make in a short amount of time, the type of friends that will really be there for you when you need their help.

My reflection: There is help available to those suffering from addiction. AA isn’t the answer for everyone, but it is a program that has worked for millions of people. The 12 steps provide scaffolding for a way of living within a base of spirituality, and the AA community provides support from people who have walked the walk.

Today’s Promise to consider: I thought I could guide my son along his path to recovery, but no matter how hard I tried or how much I learned, I realized that I couldn’t be his ‘go to’ person. He found the help he needed from people who knew firsthand his suffering.


jeff_TM_22 (1)A mother wrote to me: I’m afraid. Recovery was going well, I thought. Making meetings, new job he likes, nice girlfriend…I was beginning to trust and hope. In the last week, money taken from my purse, relapse, violation of probation. Now it’s back to court and maybe prison this time. I’ve given up hope. I can’t do this again.

My reflection: There were many times when I, too, felt like giving up on hope and giving into fear. When Jeff’s addiction rose up again and again, the pain was overwhelming and I felt suffocated. I didn’t know what to do.

Today’s Promise to consider: Hope can be fragile and fear can be powerful. But if we lose faith and hope, we lose our oxygen. Today, I’ll stay close to my loved one and allow him to fight his own battles. I’ll keep hope alive – for him and for me.

“We can’t be armor for our children. We can only be supporting troops.” Irwin Shaw



jeff_italy_09_smallA mother wrote to me: Tonight we had our son arrested under the mental health act because we were so concerned with his safety. He broke down and said that he wished he could die. We didn’t know if this was drunk/drug talk or if this was a cry for help, but I knew we had to take this seriously. This was the hardest and most painful thing I have had to do in my life. We had the police come to our home and handcuff him and take him to the hospital’s psychiatric unit. When you watch the police take your own son away in handcuffs because you called them, a little piece of you dies.

My reflection: Addiction is a monster and it changes our children into people we don’t recognize. It wreaks havoc in our lives and twists our love into unimaginable shapes. We don’t know what to do in the face of addiction, but we try our best. We do what our hearts tell us to do. Are we right or wrong? I’m not sure there are answers to some questions.

Today’s Promise: Every minute of every day, addiction kills little pieces of our families. Today, I admit that I am powerless to change my loved one, but I am not powerless to change myself. I will search for my strength and I will find my balance. I will pick up my cross and carry it.