WHAT DOES ‘LETTING GO AND LETTING GOD’ MEAN?

A mother wrote to me, ‘Letting go and letting God’ must have no strings attached, that is, any expectations of outcomes. Death is a very real outcome in our stories. I remember when a friend confronted me with this. Yes, it is terrifying, and I lived in fear and worry for many years, often reacting in unhealthy ways, trying to fix and control. When I realized nothing I did made my son’s situation any different and, in fact, often made things worse, I hit my bottom. I had to save myself. This did not mean I turned my back on my son. I talked with him often, but I stopped trying to determine if he was sober or if he was using. I realized that I was powerless over another human being, no matter what the situation.

My reflection: Although ‘Let go and let God’ was my mantra for years, I just couldn’t relinquish the thought that I could change my son. I was convinced that love was stronger than the pull of addiction.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s natural that want to save our children. When they are suffering, we are quick to jump into the fire and rescue them. It took me fourteen years to admit that I was powerless over my son’s addiction. I fought the good fight, but in the end HE had to save himself. Today, I will stay close and love my child, but I will stay out of the chaos of his addiction.

FACING THE PAIN OF ADDICTION WITH THE ‘CANDLE LIGHT’ OF COMPASSION

Gabor Maté, Hungarian-born Canadian physician and author of the highly respected book, In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, posits that addiction is rooted in the pain of individual trauma and family history. He emphasizes that addiction must be met with compassion and quotes the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: “Whatever you do, don’t try and escape from your pain, but be with it. Because the attempt to escape from pain is what creates more pain, and that’s the reality with addiction.”

My reflection: Dr. MacAfee, my son’s beloved addiction therapist, said, “Shining a flashlight on Jeff and his addiction never helped. I had to work with him with candle light.” MacAfee knew that my son needed gentle understanding.

Today’s Promise to consider: Gabor Maté asserts that addiction is rooted in pain and compassion is needed to counter the suffering. Several years ago, I surveyed forty-one recovering people and asked them, “What made you choose recovery?” Thirty-eight said, “When I was ready to change, someone was there for me after all the destruction. Someone still loved me and had stayed close.” Today, let us stay close and join in prayer that our loved ones choose sobriety. We will be there.

STAY CLOSE THROUGH ADDICTION: ‘HE IS MY SON’

A mother wrote to me: My first-born son is an addict. He is 24, beautiful, smart, and the love of my life. He just received 60 days in jail and to be honest I am thrilled and relieved – at least he’ll be safe and sober for 60 days. Everyone tells me that I should give up on him, turn my back on him, and cut him out of my life. How does a mother do that? I love him unconditionally. My friends think that I am insane, crazy, but he is my son.

My reflection: I tried to cut my addicted son out of my life, but it never worked. I told him to forget the address, but when he called, my resolve crumbled and all I could do was pray that this phone call would be the one that led to recovery. Love for my son is in my DNA. I couldn’t give up on him.

Today’s Promise to consider: It took me fourteen years to accept that I couldn’t change my son’s destructive behavior. In time, I learned how to stay close and continue to love him, while I disengaged from the chaos of his addiction. When he chose to fight for his sobriety, I stepped forward.

RELAPSE: THAT ‘MOTHER’ FEELING

A mom wrote to me: My son and I went to an AA meeting together, and I was delighted and proud that he allowed me to accompany him. His recovery is so important to me (maybe even more important to me than to him?), and I know he has relapsed several times. He’s not honest enough to tell me. I wish he were. I just sense that he has tripped along the way – just a feeling, that mother feeling.

My reflection: At the beginning of my son’s recovery, I wish I had understood more clearly that relapse happens and can happen often. I thought that when my son left treatment he was healed. Wrong. It was at those times that he needed more support than ever – and he needed honesty. Relapse isn’t about ‘catching’ the addict, but it is about everyone learning how to stay centered through life’s daily struggles.

Today’s Promise to consider: If I have the feeling my son has slipped, I pray that I’ll have the fortitude to talk compassionately with him as he battles for his life, again. Relapse is not moral failure; my son is an addict. Relapse, if handled well, can be one step closer to full recovery.

 

RECOVERY: STARTING LIFE OVER, WITH A MEMORY OF A LIFE BEFORE

Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction therapist, wrote, Learning to live drug free touches every facet of a recovering person’s life. He has to learn to laugh without using. He has to learn to “do today” without using. He has to learn to be intimate without using. There is no part of his existence untouched by his drug history. It is literally like starting his life over, yet with a memory of a life before.

My reflection: I remember well the day Jeff and I talked with a group of young recovering people, who were attending a sober living high school in Texas. One boy said, “I can’t listen to the same music as before. I have to find new music that I like.” Jeff responded, “I understand. When I got sober, I didn’t even know what color I liked best.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Compassion for recovering addicts is imperative. They have to relearn everything: ways to be social on a Saturday night, what to do on a date, and how to relate to themselves without the cloak of drugs and alcohol. As Dr. MacAfee writes, “It’s literally like starting life over, yet with a memory of a life before.” Today, I’ll remember the courage it takes for my loved one to begin anew.

HOPE IS FRAGILE; FEAR IS POWERFUL

A mother wrote to me: I’m giving up on prayer, I’m afraid. Recovery was going well, I thought. My son was 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 can’t do this again.

My reflection: Fear is powerful. There were many times when my son was in active addiction that I, too, was in danger of giving up hope. Sometimes it felt easier to abandon hope and faith than to risk them being crushed, again.

Today’s Promise to consider: If we lose faith and hope, all is lost. We need to stay close to our children, while allowing them to fight their own battles. I will never give up hope that my child finds her way back home.

MIRACLES DO HAPPEN

A dad wrote: I spent weeks trying to find my addicted son. Eventually, I found him and my plan was to kidnap him and take him to safety. I did kidnap him – he looked like a prisoner from a concentration camp – but I didn’t take him to safety. Once I had him with me, I called my counselor who told me to release him immediately. I opened the rear doors to the van, and he stepped out, hugged me, and said, “I love you, Dad.” With tears in my eyes and a broken heart, I hugged him back, and told him I loved him, too. Then I watch him disappear into an apartment complex. I was sure I would never see him again. Today, he is six years clear and sober, a licensed electrician, and a true joy to be around. Miracles do happy. Never give you hope.

My reflection: I, too, thought I could ‘bring him to safety.’ It took me years to realize that the miracle had to come from Jeff, and his God.

Today’s Promise to consider: My son suffered a fourteen-year addiction, ending with him regularly shooting heroin into his neck and damaging the superficial vein system in his arms and legs. Today, he is almost thirteen years sober, productive, spiritual, and an inspiration to me and others. Miracles do happen. Never quit believing.

 

ADDICTION HARMS: HURT PEOPLE, HURT PEOPLE

A mom wrote to me: Sometimes, during this nineteen-year journey with my son, it is difficult to see the bridges he continues to burn and how “Hurt People Hurt People.” I will always show him love . . .the one consistency.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, he was forever in pursuit of the next high and in need of the comfort that drugs provided. He was in addiction’s grasp, and he had no ability to think about the hurt that he caused his family, or himself.

Today’s Promise to consider: Suffering people in the clutches of addiction hurt others as a result of their own inner turmoil, distress, and drug use. Today, I will do my best to respond to my child’s pain with compassion and love. If I must keep my distance, I will, but I won’t reply with anger or disgust. As the Dalia Lama said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

 

LOVE IS THE WAY TO BEAT DOWN ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: Love is the way to wear down the demon of addiction. Not fear. You will never regret your loving response in the face of the chaos of addiction. Miracles happen. Souls do come back from the darkness.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I lived in constant fear: fear of the phone call in the middle of night, fear of another arrest, and fear of death. Fear was a constant companion. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Love might not change the course of addiction, but it opens the space for us to confront addiction with greater equilibrium, faith, and hope. Today, I’ll put fear aside and bring compassion forward because, if the worst happens, I will never regret responding with love.

WE ARE NOT ALONE

A daughter of addicted parents wrote to me: I still struggle with the pain of what it’s like to live with and love addicts. I still struggle with issues of anger and despair over all of the ‘what if’s’ and ‘what could have been’s’ that circle around and around in my mind. But it is always cathartic to hear other people’s tales of their battles with this disease – whether they’re the addict or love someone who is.  It reminds me that I’m not alone.

My reflection: There are millions of us affected by this disease, either directly as addicts or those of us who love them. That’s why groups like AA and Al-Anon work. There, I found friendship and a lifeline. In our stories, I found compassion and support. I found that I was not alone.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s easy to isolate and sink into deep suffering when facing addiction. It took me years before I finally sought help in Al-Anon. My ego got in the way. I didn’t want people to know about my family’s problem, and I didn’t want to break my silence. Today, I will accept the help of others. In return, I will reach out my hand to help. No one has to be alone.