WE ARE NOT ALONE

A mother wrote to me: Two of my three children are addicted to drugs and my life has been forever altered. The relationship between mother and addicted child is unique, but I know that that does not diminish the experiences of other family members. Through group work, I talked with another mother who just found out that her child is addicted. She is panicked, confused, and said that she feels isolated, alone, shamed, scared and angry. I realized that I am not alone.

My reflection: There are four S’s used with addiction: shame, secrets, silence and stigma. We feel as though we are drowning in our own emotions and we don’t know what to do. I kept the secret of my son’s addiction because I felt shame. In silence, the addiction grew. But when I reached out my hand for help, I realized I was not alone.

Today’s Promise: Together we can bring addiction out of the shadows where it can be healed. Our loved ones are fighting a powerful, terrifying force and, today, we will talk with other mothers and fathers and break the silence. In our pain, we will understand. In our stories, we will find hope. In our love, we will continue to believe.

THERE IS FEAR, BUT THERE IS ALSO TRUST … in this crisis and with addiction

Photo Credit: Ferdinando Risi

Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland, wrote:

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them…

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love….

Today’s Promise to consider: Trust and hope matter, now more than ever. A friend from Florence, Italy, wrote, “The canals in Venice are clearing and baby fish are visible; dolphins have reappeared at Trieste; and in Florence the air quality has drastically improved.”

Today, let us trust that, during these uncertain and dark days, there is goodness at work. Today, let us reach out to members of our support group. Today, let us remember that, all across the globe, we are not alone.

 

HOPE WHEN THERE IS NO HOPE – WITH ADDICTION AND DURING THESE TROUBLING DAYS 


2018 International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission, Dragon Boat Festival

A mother wrote to me, When my son was in active addiction, my mother always said to me, “Hope when there is no hope.” I have repeated this over and over again through the years, and it has always brought me comfort. She also said, there is no sense worrying – it doesn’t help anything, it doesn’t change anything, it just makes us miserable. Give it all to God. Hope when there is no hope. Amen.

My prayer for today: Today, let us join together in solidarity as we face the crises that confront us individually and as a global community. Today, let us help one another and reach out our hand in love and unity. Today, let us give our burdens to our Higher Power, the God of our understanding, because worrying doesn’t change anything. Today, let us hope when there is no hope. Amen.

ADDICTION: DOES HOPE REALLY SPRING ETERNAL?   

Poet Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Man (1732) that hope springs eternal. Is it true? 

A mother wrote to me: I am the mother of two sons. The older one is fine, but my younger son is an addict currently working on recovery, again. I’ve been down this road so many times before that it’s hard to be hopeful, but it’s impossible for me not to hope.  During all the years we’ve battled this disease, I haven’t given up on him. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It just is. 

My reflection: We don’t know when our suffering loved one will start to live life in the solution. We pray that today is the day that our child takes control over his life, but relapse happens. How many relapses does it take? The answer is different for every family.

Today’s Promise to consider: I don’t know how long addiction will rein terror in the life of my loved one or my family, but I will continue to pray, to hope, and to seek the counsel of my support group. Even though parents will be sorely tested, it’s simply not in our nature to give up on our children. Where there is life, there is hope.

WHEN OUR CHILDREN ARE IN THE THROES OF ADDICTION, IT’S HARD TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES…BUT WE MUST

A mom wrote to me: Logically I can convince myself I have to let go and not enable my son. I know I can’t do it for him. Then at a stoplight, in the grocery store, or just sitting having coffee, it overcomes me. My tears, my fears, my anger, but most of all my loneliness for my son and all the plans and dreams he/we had. How can I keep pretending day in and out that I am fine? I feel like I’m in the middle of everyone’s anger, blame, confusion, heartache, and loss. How can I be “normal,“ strong, full of faith and hope, and calm for everyone, including me, when I can’t stop crying? How do I keep my marriage and family strong and healthy, and the rest of my life under control, when I am so afraid for my son?

My reflection: This mom’s words hit me hard. How well I remember the tears, fears, anger, and loneliness. How well I remember grieving for the lost dreams and broken promises of a united family. How well I remember trying to be normal, strong, and full of faith and hope, while inside I was dying and overwhelmed with fear for my son.

Today’s Promise to consider: Parents suffer profoundly when our children are in addiction’s grasp. The need to protect them and save them is baked into the marrow of our bones. We try to be strong for our family, and we try to keep hope and faith alive, but it’s hard. I know I can’t fix my child or force him to change his life, but I also know that I can’t force myself not to feel. Today, I will be compassionate with myself. I will be patient with myself. I will pray, go to Al-Anon and family meetings, talk with others, reach out my hand – I will take care of myself.

 

RECOVERING FROM ADDICTION: ACTION TAKES COURAGE

My son’s sponsor wrote, Action takes courage. We often feel like fish out of water, separate and different from the world around us, but fish out of water can learn to swim in a new air of consciousness, and with a new purpose in life. Perhaps our clinging to our addictions keeps us feeling separate – not only dependence on drugs, sex, or alcohol, but also addictions like fear of failure, the need for approval, or fear of desertion. Discover your own power and meaning by having the courage to give up your addictions. Then live your power with courage.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I needed to find my courage to disentangle myself. When the phone rang in the middle of the night, I was distraught. When my son was arrested, I ran to his aid. When he called and needed money for another rehab, I paid – only for him to walk out in short order. Life was a vicious merry-go-round that I couldn’t get off and it was destroying me, until I learned to Stay Close and out of the chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovering from addiction takes courage and action, but so does recovering from loving someone who is in addiction’s grasp. The situation affects the entire family, and we all suffer. Today, I will find my courage and set my boundaries. I will pray for wisdom, and then I will act with purpose and stand strong. As my son’s sponsor wrote – I will live my power with courage.

 

MEETING THE FEROCIOUSNESS OF ADDICTION WITH THE FEROCIOUSNESS OF HOPE AND PRAYER

When I visited my brother this past weekend, he used the word ‘ferocious’ in terms of prayer. I interpreted this word not as vicious or ruthless, but as strength to the nth degree, faith filled with passion and conviction.

For years, I felt ferociousness of a different kind – of anger, both with my suffering son and with addiction itself. What if I had transferred that passion into ferocious prayer and hope?

At the end of my son’s fourteen-year heroin addiction, I learned to stay close with love. This revelation was the product of much pain and suffering. I also learned to find comfort by bombarding the heavens with prayer.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a ferocious disease and it takes over the very soul of the suffering person. Today, I, too, will become ferocious. I will be a mother lion. I will stay strong in love and prayer. I will protect my family, my son, and myself by staying close and out of the chaos. I will pray with vigor and never give up hope.

AL-ANON AND FAMILY SUPPORT GROUPS: WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER

Family and friends

A mother wrote to me: I’ve been to many Al-Anon meetings and they were all terrible experiences. I came away feeling worse and even more hopeless. I know it takes a good fit, but I’ve never found one. Maybe I’m too old for the BS. I have no faith in therapy. I went to a counselor myself and it was a waste of time. A person’s mind is his own and no one else can do anything about it. 

My reflection: I went to three Al-Anon meetings before I found one where I felt comfortable. During the first two, I wept, buried my head in my lap, and never said a word. I left those meetings confused and defeated.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction wants to keep us consumed with feelings of shame and stigma, while it flourishes in the silence. When I finally found my home group, I knew I was surrounded by support and compassion, and I was safe to be vulnerable. Al-Anon became my lifeline. Continuing to reach out a hand for help takes courage, but today, I’ll remember that we’re stronger together.

 

ADDICTION DEPLETES US, EMOTIONALLY, MENTALLY, AND FINANCIALLY

A mother wrote to me: My husband and I have bailed our son out of financial trouble for so long that we have nothing left. And it didn’t even help. I don’t know if we were trying to keep him from hitting rock bottom or trying to keep ourselves from hitting rock bottom. He was a brilliant, athletic, friendly, and respectful child, and we are a close supportive family. None of this makes sense.

My reflection: Every addiction story is filled with suffering, chaos, and trauma. At the end of my son’s fourteen-year heroin addiction, I, too, was depleted.

Today’s Promise to consider: We bail out our children, over and over again. When our addicted loved one calls desperate for help, money is often what they want. In the end, money is not the answer. In the end, the solution is in the person, who must make the decision to change his life. It is his decision to get well, to do what it takes to remain clean, and to choose a different way of living. Today, I will stay close, but not allow the addiction to deplete me.

ADDICTION: OUR LOVED ONE’S HUMANITY IS ALIVE UNDER THE DRUGS

A recovering addict wrote to me: I was a good friend and fellow drug user with your son. I’ve been clean for three years. Your son was one of the few truly decent addicts I ever met, meaning that he had a kind side that most addicts had already destroyed within themselves. He actually CARED about what his drug use was doing to you, his brother, and his dad. I remember when your father died and you had cancer. He drove over to my apartment and we talked late into the night. But after that, we went out and copped more drugs, came back, used, and he called into work and faked sick.

My reflection: This message above didn’t surprise me, but what did surprise me is that I didn’t see my son’s kind side – not in the moment. I knew his true, good nature was under the heroin use, but my anger, disappointment, and deep sadness blunted my vision. It was hard for me to set my own feelings aside long enough to see his anguish and humanity.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a confounding illness. The family lives a tortured existence; the addict lives a tortured existence. My son told me that he was filled with guilt, regret, and self-blame. He says that addicts hate themselves for what they are doing to the people around them, despise the destruction they are causing, but they simply can’t imagine a life without drugs. “I never wanted to hurt you, Mom. I love you. But I’m an addict.” Today, I will keep my heart open and know my son is alive, under the drugs.