WHY ONE CHILD AND NOT THE OTHER?

A mother wrote to me: My life has been filled with my son’s arrests and multiple treatment attempts. My hope and trust have been shattered, rebuilt, and bounced around like a ping-pong ball. I have two sons who are such opposites, one brave and reckless, the other cautious and intellectual. I have volumes of photos of beautiful little boys dressed like superheroes: Zorro, Leonardo, Wolverine, Knights in Shining Armor, and Ghost Busters. My oldest son received a medal for the Dare Anti-Drug program best in class honors, yet went on to try all the drugs they warned against.

My reflection: How does one child become an addict and the other does not? Why does one child contract an illness while the other is unscathed? Why did I have cancer and my brother did not?

Today’s Promise:  There is a large body of research that identifies addiction an illness. It might be lying dormant from the time our child is born, like depression or diabetes, but when it’s activated the ramifications are serious. We look at the pictures of our children when they were young and innocent and we wonder why. Maybe what we’re really asking is what could we have done to stop it. Today, I accept that my child has a problem with substance abuse. I’ll continue to stay close, find solace in my support group and counselors, and pray he comes home to himself.

 

 

 

 

BOUNDARIES KEEP US SAFE 

An addiction counselor told me, My biggest challenge is helping clients establish boundaries with the addicts in their lives. Recently, a mother explained that her son, who is actively abusing drugs, lives with her while she cooks for him, cleans his room, and does his laundry. In order to help her take steps toward setting boundaries, I asked her, “Could you quit doing his laundry?” She did just that; however, the son screamed at her and accused her of not loving him. She immediately went back to doing his laundry and quit coming to sessions.

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, I was consumed with worry and thought I could control his behavior. For instance, when he lost his cell phone, I bought him another one because I wanted to stay in touch with him. He was as elusive with the new phone as the old one, and my resentment grew.

Today’s Promise to consider: Boundaries keep us safe. Dr. MacAfee explained that my addicted son needed to know what I would and would not do. “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” MacAfee recommended. “Jeff must know that your parameters are clear. It’s essential for both of you.”

STEADY AND PERSISTENT HOPE

by libbycataldi under Faith, Hope

A young man explained when he decided to change his life: I remember when I hit bottom: I was drunk, high, and sitting in my car in a field looking at a silver handgun that my older brother gave me for protection since he was just involved in a large drug deal that went bad a couple days before. It would have been so easy that night to pull the trigger and put an end to things, but I was not strong enough. I thought about it many times but I could not do it. I was so close. I was so tired. But I knew someone still believed in me.

My reflection: The young man who told me this story said that the person who believed in him was the mother of a close friend. Despite how tired and broken he felt by his addiction, this mother’s steady and persistent hope became his lifeline.

Today’s Promise: For those suffering from addiction, the knowledge that someone still believes in them can make a difference. When they are without hope, the feeling that someone, somewhere, hasn’t given up on them offers strength. Today, I’ll stay close to those I love, but I must stay out of the chaos of their choices. I will pray and believe that in time they’ll make the decision to come home.

ADDICTION REMAINS MY MOST INFLUENTIAL TEACHER

Recently, I was faced with a family issue that had nothing to do with addiction, but had everything to do with what I had learned through my son’s fourteen-year struggle with heroin. All the suffering and confusion of those addicted years taught me – in the end – to keep my wits about me, to breathe, and to stay close. Problems can be opportunities for learning, and I learned in spades that answers aren’t as important as love and hope. 

My reflection: Before and during the early years of Jeff’s addiction, my typical response was frustration, blame and anger. It took me years to accept that I was powerless to control his behavior, but what I could manage was my response.

Today’s Promise to consider: We can learn many valuable lessons from any trauma. Through my son’s fourteen-year addiction, my biggest breakthrough arrived in two words: Stay Close. For me this meant to love Jeff unflinchingly, but stay out of the chaos of his life. Today, I use that mantra with all of my loved ones.

SAN PATRIGNANO: ONE PLACE WHERE PEOPLE FIND LONG-TERM RECOVERY

Two mothers of children who entered San Patrignano (Rimini, Italy) wrote to me:  

Her son entered three years ago: I really believe if I hadn’t read your book and found out about San Patrignano that my son would not be with us today. He was so into his addiction that I believe nothing short of a long-term rehab in another country would help him – we tried everything else over fourteen years.

Her daughter entered two months ago: We received a letter from our daughter and I feel like I can finally start to relax. She’s working in the laundry sector and is happy to be there. She’s met some lovely people and has totally surrendered. Needless to say hearing this news from her allows me to loosen up. I know she’s okay and will only get better day-by-day.

My reflection: Jeff refused to go to San Patrignano because a three-to-five year commitment is required. But I have seen miracles happen there. The community, started in 1978 by Vincenzo Muccioli, offers 50 different sectors of education to its 1,500 residents. The stay is free to the client, to their families, and to Italian tax payers, and has a documented recovery rate of 73 percent after three years of exiting the community (research conducted by the University of Bologna).

Today’s Promise to consider: There are many models and places for recovery, and San Patrignano is one. Today, I will educate myself about the various centers and options. I can’t force my loved one into treatment, but I can learn about and offer him choices to consider when he is ready.

ADDICTION: WHEN MY SON WASN’T READY TO GET SOBER

My son wrote about his first recovery center: I was told that recovery required vigilance and a long-term commitment, that in order to stay sober I’d have to attend regular AA meetings and work with a sponsor. At the time I didn’t realize sobriety was an ongoing process. I wasn’t yet ready to do the work. Although my drug use was causing problems, it wasn’t devastating.

My reflection: My son saw the problems that drugs were causing, but he wrote that he wasn’t ready to do the work because the consequences of his using weren’t debilitating, yet. With an illness like cancer or diabetes, we must choose to fight and to do the work required to keep the illness under control, like eating well, taking medicine, or exercising. When I had cancer, I had to choose to fight it; when my son was in the throes of addiction, he also had to choose. He wasn’t ready.

Today’s Promise: Like treatment for any major illness, sobriety requires learning new behaviors. For the addict, attending AA meetings, working with a sponsor and cultivating a spiritual life are where it begins. My son had to choose to do this work. I couldn’t do it for him. In time, I learned how to stay close but out of the chaos of his addiction. I had to give him the dignity of his choices. 

 

EARLY DRUG USE: ACT FAST AND DECISIVELY

A dad told me his story: When my son was a junior in high school, I got a phone call from the police that he was in the hospital. When my wife and I arrived, he was out of it, but he told me that he had taken pills given to him by two local guys. I went looking for them to figure out what type of pills my son had taken. They were seniors and, when I found them, they were totally disrespectful so I called a policeman to check their car where he found drugs. The parents of the kids were furious with me for getting their kids in trouble, but I figured maybe I had saved their lives. After that, my son was on a tight leash. He had to call me when he got to work, when he was leaving work, and when he went out anywhere. I also had him drug tested randomly for the next year. We addressed the problem with love and honesty, and he knew he had to earn our trust back.

My reflection: Jeff got into trouble with the police during his high school years, but my husband and I were quick to believe Jeff’s lies. He swore that he was the innocent bystander and had done nothing wrong. Even though the facts were clear, we wanted to believe him. Our denial paved the way to bigger problems. 

Today’s Promise to consider: With early drug use, we must act fast, and act decisively. Our children need boundaries, and they need to understand clearly what they can and cannot do. Sure, our kids will make mistakes, but we must explain without hesitation our concerns, and set concrete limits on their behavior while under our roofs. Once addictive patterns take hold, it’s often too late and we have little control. 

THE NEW YEAR IS A CHANCE TO REFLECT AND RESET

When Jeff was new to recovery, he 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 and offer my time and experience 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 setting the intention to do something I knew I would abandon after a few weeks; however, I decided to follow Jeff’s lead and made a commitment to take time each day to read, meditate, pray, and become more centered in myself and with my God. I knew this would have a positive impact on myself and my family.

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, and I will do the same. I will grow stronger in my spirituality, reflect on what is important to me, and decide what I can do to enrich my life and the lives of others. Happy New Year!


CHRISTMAS: DON’T LET ADDICTION ROB YOU OF YOUR PEACE

I remember well the Christmas when my son didn’t come home: During the holidays of 2006, when Jeff didn’t come home for our large Italian family gatherings, no one knew what to do or say. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends didn’t know whether to ask about my addicted son or whether it would kinder to leave him out of the conversation. At Christmas Eve Mass, my older brother bent toward me and asked softly, “How’s Jeff?” I swelled with tears, tried to speak, but no words came. He nodded and turned toward the altar. I kept my head down and prayed.

My reflection: The holidays put the addict on center stage when the accumulated chaos of his or her life, and ours, is excruciatingly public. It is during these gatherings of joy that addiction mocks us most.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction can severely isolate us this time of year. We come face-to-face, over and over again, with the reality that our lives are not as joyful as Hallmark’s greeting cards tell us they should be. I will avoid this toxic place by being compassionate with myself, with others and my loved ones. I will find my serenity in honesty and prayer. I will not allow addiction to rob me of my peace.


CAN A RECOVERING ADDICT BE DEFINED A SUCCESS?

A friend recently wrote to me and asked: Who is the most successful person you know or are connected to?

My reaction: The question was not easy one and my answer depended on how success was defined and, moreover, how it was measured. For my dad, a child of the depression, success was money. For others, it might be prestige, international recognition, or fame. For me, success is about living right, doing the next right thing, and dedicating ourselves to becoming better people. It’s about living the golden rule and trying every day to make the world a better place.

Today’s Promise to consider: Just as Virgil toured Dante through hell, the addicted person can find his or her way out of hell – the grasp of drugs and alcohol. My son battled to regain his life after a fourteen-year addiction and lives today – in business and with friends – with honesty and ethics. Do I consider him a success? Do I consider all those who have fought the good fight – whether they have won or not – a success? I answer with a resounding yes.