Son Jeremy, Granddaughter Iysa, Libby, son Jeff

Son Jeremy, Granddaughter Iysa, Libby, son Jeff

An Italian friend wrote to me: For six months now, two or three days a week, my mother goes to my brother’s recovery community and helps the girls design and make bags. In this way, my mother has the possibility to ‘stay close’ to my brother without ‘staying attached’ to him. When she works on the bags, it feels like all the suffering was not so important: we live “Hic et Nunc”, Here and Now. We are able to joke, smile, laugh, cry, be happy and above all be HIC et NUNC! How many times I’ve prayed to be able to live ‘here and now’ and not think about all the ifs, buts and whys. My family has found the possibility to grow in spite of sorrow. We are understanding how to stay close without being dependent.

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, living in the present seemed impossible – my mind was a constant wash of regrets, past hurts and disasters yet to come. This didn’t serve me well and it didn’t serve our family. Jeff’s 14-year addiction is teaching me how to live “Hic ed Nunc” – to be mindful of the moments, the little victories. When I’m able to live in the present and without the ifs, buts and whys, life is more steady.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will live ‘Hic et Nunc,’ the Latin term for ‘here and now.’ I will let go of yesterday’s sufferings, and I won’t obsess over the future. I will work toward staying close without staying attached. I will be grateful for the moments.


TM.3 (1)Dr MacAfee told me: Parents need to know that their suffering is legitimate and the result of loving their child. I have heard dismissive and searingly hateful comments thrown at parents that they are victims of their own suffering. The stories of addiction are heart wrenching: murders, fatal overdoses and debilitating consequences. There are no volunteers to these heartbreaks. No one would sign up for these experiences.

My reflection: Nobody welcomes addiction into her home, but it happens. I didn’t volunteer for a 14-year journey of addiction, but the heartbreak deepened as I loved my son while he descended into the world of drugs.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are no volunteers in addiction. There are no volunteers to the heartbreak and suffering that addiction heaps on us. We simply love our addicted child or spouse or parent. When we love another person, we open ourselves to pain, as well as to joy.


TM.light (1)Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet and theologian, wrote, The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

My reflection: This one line touched me deeply. The wound caused by addiction is a place where the Light can enter. I can choose to learn from addiction and the destruction that it causes, or I can stay stuck in anger, resentment and bitterness.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will let hope and healing grow in the deep wounds that addiction left. I admit that we all suffered tremendously, but I will not be chained by bitterness and ugliness. I will learn from my pain. I will have faith in the future.


1410789462166A dad wrote: I have worked so hard on forgiveness. I know in my heart that God wants me to forgive, as He has forgiven. I have prayed for His Spirit to grant me the gift of forgiveness. I must somehow still be resistant. I sometimes, in prayer, feel I have forgiven, then the past comes back to haunt me and the anger and remembrance of betrayal returns and I am back where I do not want to be. Share with me, how do you forgive and stay in forgiveness?

My reflection: In the book Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach writes, When we forgive, we stop rigidly identifying others by their undesirable behavior. Without denying anything, we open our heart and mind wide enough to see the deeper truth of who they are. When we do, our hearts naturally open in love. 

Today’s Promise to consider: I don’t have a personal process for forgiving, but I do know that in preparation for Christmas, I want to open my heart and mind wide enough to forgive those who have hurt me. As one mom wrote, “It’s anger that keeps us hostage.”  Today I’ll pray.


16928A young man, hunched over and staring at the floor, said, When I was a child, I was sexually abused repeatedly by my uncle. Just saying these words makes my stomach ache and my ears burn. I hated him – he ruined my life and I’ve struggled with this all my life. When my father died, my uncle came to the viewing. When I looked at him, all I could see what a mangy, scared, grey and ugly dog. He didn’t speak to me and I didn’t speak to him, but he knew that I knew what he had done all those years. I’m talking about it now because I have to. I have to let it go, let the anger and hatred go, for myself. It has to be an act of my will. I won’t forget what he did, but I have to forgive him so I can move forward with my life. I need to set myself free. 

My reaction: My heart ached as I listened to this young man. The abuse is repulsive, and I have had a hard time forgetting the sadness and despair of his words. He will never forget the offense, but forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. I was grateful to be a witness to his decision to forgive and set himself free.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are hurts we suffer that debilitate us for a long time. Although it isn’t easy, forgiving those who hurt us allows us to open our hearts and to feel a sense of serenity and liberty. Today, I will work on forgiving those who have hurt me by turning my will toward love. I will pray for peace that will help me go forward with my life.






JB-Cascine-Photo-by-Stephanie-Seeley-and-Lindsey-DeWitt-300x199A recovering addict wrote to me: Anger is a clear and abrupt signal that something is wrong. I’m learning to respond to my anger by:

1) Not reacting in the moment. When I feel “hot,” let it sit – like a baking tray coming out of the oven.

2) Examining the anger when I’ve cooled down. What about it caused me to respond so negatively? What role did I play in the situation? What insight does my sponsor and support group have?

3) Taking action. How can I respond in a wise and constructive way to the problem?

My reflection: Anger is a normal response and one that can be healthy if it causes us to take good action. However, anger can also overwhelm and blind us from making smart choices. For me, I’ve learned that anger is usually a kind of fire blanket that covers up my deeper emotions of insecurity, fear or hurt.

Today’s Promise to consider: When I feel angry, I’ll stop and examine what is causing the reaction. What am I feeling under the rage? Am I afraid, depressed or shamed? Today, I won’t give in to the anger, but I will pause, think and pray for clarity about the path forward.




IMG_3792Jeff sent me a passage from a text he’s reading, Aversion is not the enemy; it is just the normal reaction of the mind and body to pain. Whatever the hurt we feel – whether of mind, body or emotion – our biological survival mechanism tries to get rid of it. The problem is that we don’t actually have the ability to escape from all of the painful experiences in life. It can’t be done. The good news is that by greeting those painful moments and feelings with compassion, we decrease our personal suffering and bring about an experience of well being.

My reaction: Facing a situation that is uncomfortable or painful is difficult. This can be as simple as having to clean the house or exercise, where I can think of ten things to do first like checking email or calling someone on the phone before I start. In this way, I avert facing what is unpleasant and substitute distractions that give me pleasure. Aversion can also be complicated and lead to huge trouble like drugs. Jeff tells me that drugs help in the same way, “Instead of facing painful situations, drugs allowed me to deaden my senses and go under.” Some people might use food or shopping, others might use pornography or drugs.

Today’s Promise to consider: When life becomes painful, I can find many ways to avoid or avert it – from the small tasks to the big problems. Today, I will face my problems without anger or disdain. I’ll see clearly the difficulty, call it out by name and face it with compassion for myself and others.






Jeff shared a story with me: “One day an Elder told a novice to go fetch a guinea hen. When he returned with it, the Elder told him to pluck it. The novice obeyed, and when he was finished, the Elder said, “Now, put all the feathers back.” Bewildered, the novice finally protested, “But it’s already plucked! I can’t put the feathers back.” “Correct,” the Elder replied, “and it’s the same when you say bad things about your brothers. You pluck away at their reputation, and if you keep on, it may be lost forever.”

My reflection: Gossip is a part of any community. I remember how awful it felt knowing that people were talking about Jeff and our family’s problems. In fact, in Stay Close, I wrote, “Convinced that Jeff was a major topic of conversation in the school, I spiraled into a kind of paranoia.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is perfect fodder for gossip, but it is destructive and does no good. Today, I won’t be a part of it and will refuse to pluck away at someone’s reputation or integrity. I’ll be mindful of what I say and will respond with compassion and respect.







Dancer with Cymbals by Antonio Canova

Woman Dancing (1809-1812) by Antonio Canova

Henri Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest and theologian, wrote, I once saw a stonecutter remove great pieces from a huge rock on which he was working. In my imagination I thought, That rock must be hurting terribly. Why does his man wound the rock so much? But as I looked longer, I saw the figure of a graceful dancer emerge gradually from the stone. (Turn My Mourning into Dancing)

My reflection: There were times in my life when I looked toward the heavens, screaming and beseeching God to stop my problems. I knew the saying, “God only gives us what we can handle,” and I had had enough. I felt pummeled and couldn’t understand why God thought I should be the grateful recipient of so much grief. Now, I better understand that everything in my life (both good and bad) provided a chance to learn and grow.

Today’s Promise to consider: Most of us want life to be easy, enjoyable and comfortable; however, today I acknowledge that the difficult times are what make us into the person we are. Like a sculptor chipping away at marble, the best version of me is underneath many layers.







jeff - 10A mom wrote to me: We had so many expectations for our children and us. Then, like a puff of smoke, they were gone. 

My reflection: I know this feeling of loss. When Jeff was young, he was a strong student, vice-president of student government, talented athlete, wonderful son and brother. We never dreamed that addiction would find its way into our home. We lost Jeff to drugs for fourteen years, but I thank the Lord that it was only fourteen years and not a lifetime. This journey steeled us together in a new way. A stronger way.

Today’s Promise to consider: Expectations, for me, are dangerous. Many of my biggest life’s disappointments stem from hopes I had for my children, myself or for others I love. When I release my expectations and accept life for what it is, I feel gifted with a renewed sense of peace. Today, I will pray for acceptance. I will relaxed my grasp on expectations.