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.




Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

New York Times, June 5, 2017: Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. (Josh Katz, Drug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever)

My reflection: Heroin is the cause of many overdoses, but numbers of deaths are increasing due to heroin laced with the illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Worse yet, there is now a substance called carfentanil that is used to tranquilize large animals like elephants and is 1,000 times more potent than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine.  

Today’s Promise to consider: The opioid epidemic is claiming young lives and it seems unstoppable. We must all join hands to educate our loved ones. Children need open and honest forums to talk about their experiences and to learn about the massive dangers of drugs. We must stay close, help our loved ones in need to find good recovery centers, work with legislators on stronger health care, and pray.



Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli-Cecconi

A recovering addict wrote, Things couldn’t be better for me. I’m almost nine months sober, very active in a 12-step program and working at Apple. Life is drama free and I’m keeping things as simple as possible. No sex and relationships for a year! I volunteer to be of service, and I even pray and meditate daily – most days that is. Life has finally smoothed out. No more daily pain and depression. I’m involved and present with my family and loved ones. I’m well, content! Can you believe it?? It took long enough! But I was blessed with the gift of desperation…finally! And I was ready for change. So here I am!

My reflection: This young man’s renewed enthusiasm for life is inspiring. He wrote that he was blessed with the gift of desperation which is something The Big Book of AA points to as a profound turning point in many lives. The desperation of drowning in pain caused by active addiction is a powerful force and provided him the willingness to make some crucial changes.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addicts are not the only ones who are blessed with the gift of desperation. When my son was at his worst, I, too, was desperate, and it was at that moment that I learned to surrender. Today, I pray that all our loved ones, who are suffering with addiction, will be gifted with the strength to start on the road to a healthy life. And I pray for all of us, who love them, for our peace.



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.

ONE LIFE AT A TIME: 41 years strong


Harry: A 22 year love affair with drinking, 17 years in the Navy, and now a drug/alcohol counselor celebrating 41 years of sobriety on March 23, gave me this poem:         

A little boy walked carefully along a crowded beach

Where starfish by the hundreds lay there within his reach.

They washed up with each wave, far as the eye could see

And each would surely die if they were not set free.

So one by one he rescued them, then he heard a stranger call,

“It won’t make a difference…you cannot save them all.”

But as he tossed another back towards the ocean’s setting sun,

He said with deep compassion,
”I made a difference to that one!”

My reflection: Harry has dedicated his life to helping those who are suffering find recovery. In his journey, he made a profound difference to my son and has made a difference to many others. Our family will be eternally grateful for his work.

Today’s Promise to consider: The Talmud says, “He who saves one life, saves the entire world.” Alcoholics Anonymous was started by one man: Bill Wilson. From there, countless lives have been saved. Great change can start with one person. Today, I’ll reach out my hand and help someone else. We can all make a difference – one life at a time.




IMG_1082A recovering addict wrote to me:
27 months.
Upward, outward.
Freedom, Choices.
The miracle of contented sobriety.
From the fiery wreckage of one life, the sprigs of a new life emerge…
for me, for my family, and for those around me.
Hope is available through God-dependence and service to others.

My reflection: This young man’s words are full of promise and gratitude. His chains of addiction now broken, his life is an example of sobriety in action. This is powerful and reminds those of us who love addicts that a sober life is indeed possible.

Today’s Promise to consider: When we feel desperate, at our wits-end, and ready to give up, let us remember that where there is life there is hope. For today, I’ll hold on to this recovering addict’s words, “From the fiery wreckage of one life, the sprigs of a new life emerge…Hope is available through God-dependence and service to others.”



Jeff wrote, This is the first year that my New Year’s resolution was crystal clear: contribution. I need to do more for my community, to give back in bigger, more consistent ways – roll up my sleeves every week and offer my time and experiences to the people around me. The Big Book says, “To keep what we have, we need to give it away.”

My reflection: For years, I scoffed at making New Year’s resolutions. I felt silly resolving to do something I knew I would abandon after a few weeks. When Jeff told me his resolution, I thought I’d try again to resolve something because I, too, knew what I needed to do to be a better person. I will commit time each day to reading, praying and becoming more centered in myself and with my God.

Today’s Promise to consider: Even though I may not be a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, this year I will try. Jeff will contribute more to his community. I will grow stronger in my spirituality. Maybe we’ll all take some time to reflect on what is important to us. Happy New Year!




Parent Life coaches Leslie Ferris and Cathy Taughinbaugh are hosting a complimentary teleconference on Wednesday, September 18, when we will discuss Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction. I thank Leslie and Cathy for this opportunity to reach out and help others. I hope you can join us or, if not, please pass this on to someone who might find it helpful. Addiction doesn’t discriminate and we are not alone. 

TITLE: Three Big Lessons Learned from Author of Stay Close, Libby Cataldi – Plus Wisdom from Italy Rarely Heard in the U.S. 

DATE: Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TIME: 1:00 PM Pacific, 2:00 PM Mountain, 3:00 PM Central, 4:00 PM EasternThere will be an opportunity for callers to ask questions during our interview.

WHERE: This event is free and via teleconference. Upon registration, you will receive dial-in information via email. 

Can’t make the call live? No worries, a recording will be sent to every registered participant within 24 hours after the event.

Register today at https://3biglessonslearned.eventbrite.com/ or  http://ow.ly/oG35P

“Searingly honest and moving…(Cataldi) has broken the taboos about being the parent of an addict.” New York Daily News




Jeff helping Jeremy, circa 1980

Jeff helping Jeremy, circa 1980

This weekend, a friend of mine and her son were asked to share their story at a Family Recovery Workshop, and they invited me to attend. I was humbled by the honesty and compassion in the room as they talked about their journey with addiction and recovery. Today the son is eighteen months sober and the mom is a grateful member of Al-Anon where she is finding her own recovery. For all the parents who attended this family session, the mom-and-son team approach recounted both sides of their journey and offered a true and victorious message of hope.

 My reflection: There is a saying in AA, “In order to keep it, you have to give it away.” Families, like this mom and son, are fortunate to have achieved recovery and they maintain it by reaching out to those still suffering. This requires courage for both the recovering addict and the parent. There are many ways to help others (to give it away). The important part is that through sharing our strength and faith, we help others to feel less alone and to find hope.

Today’s Promise for today: I am grateful for all those who held out their hands to help Jeff, Jeremy and me. I am grateful for all those who have the courage to help a brother, sister, parent or friend. I am grateful for people like my friend and her son, who believe that service is an important part of life’s living.