ADDICTION TAKES PRISONERS

A mother wrote to me: My son walked out of his fourth rehab, and in November of last year my husband kicked him out of our house, again. I couldn’t help but mourn. I lay on my bed and didn’t move for two days. He’s presently in an outpatient methadone program. His addiction has claimed him for five years. Methadone is not the answer I wanted for my son. I want to see him whole, clean, and well again. His drug addiction has had such a big impact on our lives. 

My reflection: No matter how hard I tried to keep my feelings and suffering to myself, my angst seeped into all my relationships, including my family, friends, and work. Yes, addiction has a huge and undeniable impact on all our lives.

Today’s Promise: Addiction takes prisoners: Parents argue, mothers mourn, siblings are heartbroken and angry, while our suffering loved one is in his own world, chasing his next fix. The entire family spirals into chaos and despair, which is why we must learn to take care of ourselves. When we maintain boundaries, participate in our support groups, and lean on faith, we’re better versions of ourselves – and better able to support our family ecosystems. It all starts with reaching out our hands. We are not alone.

TODAY LET’S LIGHT UP THE SKY WITH GRATITUDE

The Great Sufi Master, Hafiz, wrote:

THE SUN NEVER SAYS

Even

After

All this time

The sun never says to the earth, 

“You owe

Me.”

 

Look

What happens

With a love like that,

It lights the

Whole Sky. 

Today’s Promise to consider: The greatest gift we can give ourselves and others on this Thanksgiving Day is to be grateful for what we have, instead of grieving over what we have not. Let us hold our suffering loved ones in our prayers and ask for nothing in return. Let us open our hearts today and simply wish others well. Today, there is no self-benefit, no pain, no angst. Let’s allow our love and gratitude to light up the whole sky.

BOUNDARIES: ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

A mother wrote to me: Today I am struggling with Staying Close as I fear my son’s addiction is taking hold of him again. Part of me wants to say Stay Away, “I don’t want to be your mother anymore. I can’t continue to deal with your addiction.”

My personal reflection on the above passage: I know this feeling of wanting to run away from all the chaos that is addiction. There are times when we, as parents, are so overwhelmed with its myriad problems, legal issues, car crashes, lies, and betrayals that we just want to opt out. Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction psychologist, told me, “Obliterating relationships won’t obliterate addiction. I know that parents want the pain to stop, but disowning their child does not alleviate the pain.”

Today’s Promise to Consider: Good, solid, and meaningful boundaries are essential when dealing with addiction. Every parent needs to say what she means and do what she says. This clarity will help not only the parent, but also her suffering child, who needs to know what he can expect. Today, I will tell him clearly what I can and cannot do, and I will mean it. I will follow through. I will respect my boundaries for his sake, and mine. I will stay close and pray that he chooses a different life.

PROTECTING THE INNOCENT ONES

by libbycataldi under family

 A mother wrote to me: My husband and I have tried everything, even letting our son stay in jail. I don’t know how our journey will end, but I pray that he will accept the help he so desperately needs. I feel such despair and such anger that this is happening to us. What makes it worse is that he is a father to a beautiful seven-year-old little boy, who I worry about all the time. He is such an innocent.

My personal reflection: Addiction brings entire families to their knees. We, as grandparents, often struggle doubly as we watch the damage extend from our children to theirs, who don’t deserve this turmoil.

Today’s Promise to Consider: Addiction isn’t fair and stops at nothing but full destruction. The children of our suffering loved ones get caught in the chaos, and we need to help them through their confusion and feelings of insecurity. I will stay close to my innocent ones and provide them a safe space in which to share their feelings. I will be strong for them and support them always, especially when their family systems are spiraling out of control.

 

HOW INVOLVED SHOULD WE BE IN OUR CHILD’S RECOVERY?

A dad told me: When I visited my son at his halfway house, I asked him, “If you feel yourself slipping or getting into the danger zone, what should I say or do to you to help?” He answered, “Nothing. If I need help, I need to reach out to these people around me. They know my walk.” I felt relieved when he said this to me because I just want to be his dad.

My reflection: As parents, we put huge pressure on ourselves to solve our children’s problems and lift them out of the chaos drugs create. In reality, we’re not best suited for the job. Our children have entire communities in AA, NA, or other groups who know their walk and who are ready to reach out their hands.

Today’s Promise to consider: We, as parents, can offer our children our support, love, and words of wisdom. We can and should Stay Close. But we also must acknowledge that programs like AA and NA are more helpful in providing the help they need. There, they will find people who are also on the path of sobriety. Today, I’ll step aside and allow my child to be part of their recovering community. I’ll be ‘just his mom,’ or ‘just his dad,’ the person who will always love him.

BOMBARD THE HEAVENS

A mother wrote to me: I wonder how many prayers we have lifted up as parents of addicted children? And how many prayers others have lifted up on our behalf in an effort to do something, anything to support our both tender and strong parent hearts. How many prayers are lifted up, especially during those times when there is no clear answer to, “What do I do?”

My reflection: When I was too beaten up by addiction’s blows even to pray, my mother prayed. I remember how she would tell me, “I put you on our church’s prayer list. My prayer group will flood the heavens for you and my grandson.” This gave me comfort and reminded me how much strength comes to us through those who never hesitate to ‘pray us along.’

Today’s Promise to consider: Whether I believe in the power of prayer or not, today I will send forth into the universe positive thoughts and energy for my loved one and all those who are suffering. I will bombard the heavens with requests for love and strength.

FINDING OUR VOICES

Our beloved Dr. MacAfee, my son’s addiction therapist, told me: Silencing your feelings, your most potent inner instincts, will leave you living in fear as you wait for the other shoe to drop. Speak your truths for your benefit and the benefit of your son.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I worried about every word that I said to him. Would he hear my love for him, or would we dissolve into confrontation? Would he walk out and be lost, once again. I shoved my thoughts into my belly until I got sick. I felt invisible, powerless, and angry.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will speak up. I will stop the cycle of swallowing my voice and holding my feelings inside until they spew out in destructive ways. Walking on eggshells is no way to live. The dynamic of this unhealthy dance between my suffering loved one and me must stop. I am determined to keep myself balanced, respected, and heard.

 

 

 

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T LEARN TO SAY NO?

This week, I watched Gabor Maté’s movie, THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA. I also listened to one of the many conversations he had with experts, one of which included five physicians, who discussed how stress negatively affects our health. They cited a plethora of clinical studies that reported how unchecked or unresolved stress suppresses the immune system and can be the breeding ground for chronic disease. Their warning was, “If you don’t know how to say no, your body will eventually say no for you.”

My reflection: As I listened to The Wisdom of Trauma, I thought about how I had allowed many of my years to be consumed with stress, worry, and fear. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease, and breast cancer. I wonder what role unresolved stress had to do with my illnesses?

Today’s Promise to consider: If we don’t take care of ourselves, how will we be able to care for anyone else? I remember well the many years of my son’s suffering. Did I take care of myself? No. Many nights found me awake and writing in my journal about my fears. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my uppermost thought was not about my healing, but who would help my addicted son while I recovered. Today, let’s take time and think about what this sentence means for us: If you don’t know how to say no, your body will eventually say no for you.

 

WHY DO WE FORGIVE?

Years ago, a young man told a story that I will never forget: 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, and my heart aches still today. The abuse is repulsive, and I haven’t been able to forget his sadness and despair. He will never erase the offense, but forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. I was humbled to be a witness to his decision to set himself free.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are traumas that debilitate us for a long time. The body remembers intense pain, and we harbor feelings of anger, sadness, shame, and confusion. But instead of being consumed by bitterness, forgiving those who hurt us allows us to feel a sense of serenity and liberty. Today, I will turn my will toward love. I will pray for a peace that sets me free.

 

CAN WE FORCE SOBRIETY?

A young man in recovery told me, You can’t force sobriety on anybody. My 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 down 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: Many times I tried to force sobriety on my son. I threatened him that if he didn’t go to rehab I would never give him another cent or allow him to come home again. I cried, yelled, and bargained. 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 recovery. We can demand they live a sober life. But with the majority of addicts, coercion, threats, or even kindness aren’t enough. People have to be ready to change for themselves. For those of us with  suffering children, we can encourage them to enter a recovery community, go to an AA meeting, or talk with someone who is living in the solution. I understand that it’s not my choice, but theirs.