NO ONE INTENDS TO BECOME ADDICTED

A mother wrote to me: My son got arrested and we hired a lawyer, bailed him out, but he kept using and stealing. He got arrested again and bailed himself out. We knew he was dying so we asked the lawyer to have the judge put him back in jail. We told our son we would not bail him out, that we loved him but would no longer let his addiction destroy the family. All the love in the world was not enough to make him stop.

My reflection: Dr. MacAfee asked a young man, “What is your drug of choice?” The boy thought carefully and responded, “More.” MacAfee explained, “His answer was not an attempt at humor. Instead, the group answered with a consensus of silence, affirmative head nods. No addict ever intends to end up where he’s really going.”

Today’s Promise: Our suffering loved ones are trapped in the disease of addiction and, although it doesn’t always look like it, they loathe the life they are living. When my son started using drugs as an adolescent, he never thought about the future consequences of his use and how they would destroy his life and relationships. He never intended to ‘end up where he was going.’ I will not feel betrayed. I will not feel self-blame. I will Stay Close in love and prayer.

COURAGE: THEIRS AND OURS

My son wrote this in Stay Close about getting and staying sober: I was terrified – faced with getting clean, again. With nothing but failed attempts to reference, sobriety felt impossible. It’s far easier to want to change your life than to actually do it. Following through with the process takes courage, and I was scared.

My reflection: Dr. MacAfee told me, “Your son knows how to live in addiction – in the chaos of court systems and legal problems. He knows how to lie, deceive, and manipulate. Now he needs to learn how to live a transparent life – how to live clean and honest, how to live with serenity.”

Today’s Promise to consider: It takes courage to change: Courage for our loved ones and courage for us. Dr. MacAfee explained that when the using stops a period of grief for all the lost time, the years gone by, the people hurt, the trail of destruction is inevitable. He said, “The grief will be hard, but it’s also a sweet time. Savor it.” As a parent, I, too, felt the grief of all the lost time, the years gone by, and the people hurt. Today I will have the courage to change the things I can. Instead of pointing out how others need to change, I’ll start with me.

CAN WE FORCE SOBRIETY?

A young man in recovery told me, You can’t force sobriety on anybody. Cause Mum tried everything. She gave me money, didn’t give me money, made me go to rehab, didn’t make me go to rehab, drove four or five hours to pick me up, and then left me somewhere. No matter how many rehabs I’ve done or how many counselors or meetings I went to, I never got it until, one day, I was just sick of it and had enough. 

My reflection: Over fourteen years, I tried to force sobriety on my son in countless ways. I wept, yelled, bargained, and threatened. I would have sold my soul if that would have made the difference.

Today’s Promise: We can try to force our loved ones into sobriety, but with the majority of people coercion doesn’t work. People must be ready to change. It’s a deeply personal decision that can only be made by them. Today, I’ll encourage my loved one to attend an AA meeting or at least talk with someone in recovery. I’ve never seen coerced recovery work, but I have experienced the power of encouragement and ‘staying close.’

UNDERNEATH IT ALL, THEIR HUMANITY REMAINS

A young girl, with a crystal meth addiction, wrote to me: I am addicted again. It’s been two years since l relapsed. I am convinced everyone hates me. I constantly hear voices that tell me that they will kill me, I’m ugly, I’m disgusting or that l smell. Some days I have eight showers and other days it takes all day to have one. Most days, I don’t trust the water out of the tap. I can’t talk with my mom – I’m afraid the stress will kill her. My lifelong friends and family have nothing to do with me. I abuse my mom day and night, and I hate myself for this.

My reflection: What struck me most in reading this girl’s message was that, even in the midst of writing these rambling and tragic sentences, she is concerned about her mother. She loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her.

Today’s Promise: Our suffering loved ones often act in uncaring, selfish, manipulative, and abusive ways. While this might be true, as long as they are alive, they still exist underneath the disease. Their empathy and humanity are buried deep within as they grapple with their own demons.  I will remember this as I stay close, but out of the chaos of her addiction.

HOW DO WE FACE RELAPSE?

A mother wrote to me: It’s May 21st at 10:24 pm and about an hour ago I got a call that my daughter walked out of the rehab. Just today, I was telling my coworkers that I had such a good feeling about this rehab – a full one-year, Christian-based program. No outside contact, only immediate family. Twice I talked with her on the phone, and she loved it there. She didn’t even make it one full week.

My reflection: I lost count of how many times this happened with my son. He entered a rehab center and, after a week or two, he walked out. Hope smashed. We parents feel betrayed, and our dreams feel suffocated.

Today’s Promise to consider: Dr. MacAfee told me that that relapse is not always failure, “It can be a great stepping-stone that directs the individual toward her own understanding of loss of control of her use, and how much work yet needs to be fostered.” When our children accept help and enter rehab, we celebrate with trepidation, hoping this is the time long-term recovery will stick. Today, I will pray that if my child relapses she remains safe and is able to learn more about her illness. I will acknowledge the powerful hold that the drug has on her. I will stay close.

RESPONDING TO ANGER: LESSONS FROM A PERSON IN RECOVERY

A young man in recovery 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 insights do my sponsor and support group have?

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

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, there were countless times when I erupted in anger. I felt powerless and didn’t know what to do with the rage that engulfed me. My explosions helped no one – not me, my family, or my son.

Today’s Promise to consider: Anger is a normal response and, with addiction, one that seems to come easily. It can be constructive if it causes us to take good action, but it can also 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 fear, insecurity, or hurt. Today, I won’t be overwhelmed by anger, but I will pause, think, and pray for clarity. Those persons in recovery have much to teach us. Let me try this young man’s three steps.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING READY AND BEING WILLING TO CHANGE

Dr. MacAfee explained: There is a difference between willingness to change and readiness to change. Many times, an individual has a moment of clarity when he becomes willing to see his situation, reaches out for help, or even stops using for a while. However, willingness doesn’t mean he is ready to stop. Moving from willingness to readiness happens when the consequences of using become more painful than the use itself. This begins the crises.

Today’s Promise to consider: This paradigm shift is made clear in my son’s words: I was done using and I knew it. Even my bones knew it. My obsession to use with control had disappeared. I saw where things were going and knew that if I didn’t stop, I was inches away from another devastating run. I’d been in the same space countless times before, and it always ended badly. Before getting out of bed, I called a friend from treatment who was still sober and active in the program. I explained my situation, and he understood. Things changed that day. 

Recovery is a painstaking process, a time of transformation when our loved one fundamentally changes from the person he was and becomes the person he wants to be. The decision to stop using is in his or her hands. Let us help, encourage, and support that decision.

THE EXTRAORDINARY PAIN OF ADDICTION

Dr. MacAfee told me that the pain of addiction is the agony of being trapped. Using becomes critically important because it answers every problem in a person’s life … until it doesn’t. The use is the solution until it becomes handcuffs. The juxtaposition is baffling, and the addict literally has to fight for his life.

My reflection: I never fully understood the grasp that addiction had on my son. His drug use started as a party, and ended as a prison.

Today’s Promise: During the early years of my son’s fourteen-year addiction, I thought that he could simply turn off his drug use. I told him to stop and expected it to happen. In time and with education, I learned that it would take my son great pain and courage to change his life. Our loved ones are unable to see the impact their sickness has on those who care about them. Today, I’ll offer my loved one compassion.

THE WORLD IS FULL OF ANGELS – GOD BLESS THEM

I recently read a story about a mother who saw a homeless boy on the streets and, in the young boy, she saw her own son, who also suffered from the disease of addiction. She talked with the boy and asked him his name. He told her that he wanted to get clean, but that he felt lost and couldn’t figure out how the system worked to be able to access free recovery. He’d given up. She helped him find a treatment center, and he entered of his own accord. The world is full of angels.

My reflection: In my own life, there have been people who have, by coincidence ‘shown up,’ seemingly, out of thin air to help me. When I called a woman whom I didn’t know and asked about Al-Anon, she immediately and without a question, took me to three different meetings until I found my home base. That began my healing.

Today’s Promise to consider: During my son’s fourteen-year struggle with addiction, many angels entered his life, particularly his sponsors in AA. In those rooms, he found people, who knew his walk and were willing to guide him, and to love him back to health, however momentarily my son’s health lasted before he continually relapsed. Over and over again, he reached out his hand, and someone was there. Dr. MacAfee was the angel who helped my son to ultimately find himself, and to this day we honor the good doctor’s memory. God bless all our children’s angels.

“LOVE AND DETACH…STAY CLOSE…SO HARD”

A mom wrote to me, My son was living at home, staying off drugs, working a job, and exercising, but he’s using again. He left our home today. With a heavy heart, I told him I loved him. This will be our last time of letting him live with us. Now, if he wants recovery, he needs to be the change. Love and detach…stay close…..so hard. We offered him treatment, but he’s not ready. My prayer is that he stays safe. God, give me the strength to accept this.

My reflection: Loving and detaching. I struggled with this dichotomy for years. How could I love my son and detach at the same time? But in the end, it was the blending of these two that made the difference in both my life and my son’s.

Today’s Promise to consider: Dealing with addiction is counterintuitive. It took me fourteen years of my son’s heroin addiction to learn to stay close, but out of the chaos. I answered his calls and texts, but I gave him no money or resources that would enable his behavior. I realized that living in sobriety could not be imposed on him.  He had to make the decision to change his life, while I needed to accept, surrender, and pray for strength, for both of us.