Johann Hari, author of Chasing The Scream, writes: When I returned from my long journey, I looked at my ex-boyfriend, in withdrawal, trembling on my spare bed, and I thought about him differently. For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along.
My reflection: Tough love was the mantra-of-the-day when my son was in the deepest throes of his heroin addiction. People told me to kick him out of the house, cancel him from our lives, and to have an imaginary funeral for him.
Today’s Promise to consider: Shame, neglect, and ridicule often drive the addict deeper into his addiction. None of these negative behaviors ever helped my son get closer to health. Stay Close became our mantra, and this worked for us. War or Compassion? I choose compassion.3734
Thank you for this very important reminder and confirmation of what I also believe to be true. A family member told me to drop our son off at a homeless shelter. I replied that he was our son and it was our responsibility to help him and that we wouldn’t drop off a child with a different disability at a hospital or institution and just walk away.
Charlie, The thoughts about addiction are finally changing a little, and I’m grateful. What worked for us was to ‘Stay Close,’ which means to stay close, but out of the chaos of the addiction. My son always knew he was loved, but he also knew that he needed to accept help. In the end, HE chose to get well. There is hope for recovery. Let’s keep our sons in our prayers.
We so relate to this week’s post. The tough love approach did not make sense to us then or now. We chose keeping open to hope. And love. Such a hard thing to do when often people mistake any other approach as “enabling” behaviour. The judgement of others -this is something we learned to navigate as well. But when you choose the way of love and compassion, an amazing thing happens — you see clearly– and you do not enable, you support a way forward and conditions for healing. You take care of yourself. We used to use the term fierce compassion –a Buddhist expression we came across. It allowed us to accept there were times we had to say no, make boundaries- and those sometimes changed — but chose love as a way forward. Travelling towards the light is always right. Not saying it was always easy to get there –!. Then there was the other mantra=– stay close, stay out the chaos- Libby’s wisdom– and this wonderful community we found here that helped us feel were not alone. No one knows except those of us who love the addicted ones .. the afflicted ones, that loving in the hardest of circumstances is tough –maybe what tough love really is –, but that expression tough love as a form of punishment really has been distorted, and defies all instincts of mothers and most parents. Love is gentle and kind and patient the Bible tells us, love never dies. Offers Hope, always.
Throughout all the years that we’ve messaged each other here, you have held stalwartly to HOPE. I agree with you, I stand with you, and I admire you. Even through the loss of your son, you chose love. He knew he was loved.
Your point about the judgment of others is critical. When Jeff was sick, everyone had something to say, and most of them knew nothing about addiction. Fierce Compassion! What a lovely thought.
I will hold on today with Fierce Compassion for everyone in my life. Love is gentle and kind and patient, love never dies.
Thanks for staying close all these years. Your wisdom is a ray of light for all of us.
I struggle with choosing between “War or Compassion” My son is 19 an addict which started when he was 13 years old. When he turned 18 we had to kick him out of the house because he was destructive, basically a ticking time bomb, and we never new when he would explode and when he did it would take the police to end it. We were unable to leave the house because you didn’t know what would be left when you returned.
I love my child more than life itself but for many reason we can’t have him at home, no matter how much I want him to. I have had to drop my son off at the homeless shelter with him begging to come home but he couldn’t come home because I know within hours of him being home he would be begging for money, ride, or whatever behavior it would take to get the fix that he needed. I would give anything to be able to have my son live with me so I can make sure he is safe, warm, and feed during this time but I can’t and it hurts. I choose compassion so that there is no war.
My dearest Erica,
With addiction, there are no silver-bullet answers. Each of us has to choose what is best for our family. There are so many variables that I would never offer advice. Only a professional addiction specialist is qualified to do that.
That said, what helped us what the thought “Stay Close” – which means to stay close, but out of the chaos. Addiction takes the best parts of love and smashes them. We all need boundaries – us and the addict.
My son suffered a 14-year heroin addiction, and he says what brought him to choose health was that the consequences of his addiction became too heavy for him to carry. HE had to choose health. I chose to stay close, to continue to love him, to pray, to answer his texts, but I, too, did not allow him to come home while he was using.
Compassion doesn’t mean being abused and afraid. To me, it means continuing to love. You are doing that.
My love to you, and my prayers for you and your family. Please keep our family in your prayers. Every day is a choice.
How do you stay close but out of the chaos? I gave my daughter a 2 choices, get help and we will help you and you can stay with us and your 18 month old daughter, not get help and you cannot stay with us or come to stay and recouperate after a binge. She chose to leave but blames me and tells people I kicked her out. I want to stay close and help but not quite sure how to do this. We have been getting 2-3 days a week of her being “normal” and then she is lost again
Staying close and out of the chaos means that there are boundaries – for all of us: parents and addicted loved ones. My son and I made a video that might answer this question better than anything I can write here: go to the tab that says ‘books,’ and scroll down to the first video. In addition, if you put in the search box on the blog page the word ‘boundaries,’ you’ll find many posts about the necessity of maintaining boundaries.
Addiction is confounding, and we each need to set the boundaries that we think are correct for our family and our addicted loved ones. Dr. MacAfee always counseled me to, “say what you mean and mean what you say.” I always found this easier said than done, but I got better at it.
I’ll stay close.