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BE A BEACON OF LIGHT FOR OUR CHILDREN

A mom wrote to me: Just as our children need to learn how to live in recovery, so do we. We can’t look back, and we must look forward. Using the tools we now have, let us be a beacon of light so our children know where we are when they’re ready.

My reflection: Placing a burning candle in the window is a tradition that dates back to colonial times as a sign that says you’re welcome here, we’re waiting for you.When my son was in active addiction, I wanted him to know that home was waiting for him when he was ready to live in the solution.

Today’s Promise to consider: We can be a beacon of light for our children. When they are drowning in the waves of addiction, they are lost to themselves and to us. Their life is focused on the chase of the high, and there is nothing but darkness. We can stand as a light that says, “When you are ready, your family and life are waiting for you.” We want our children to glow in the world, but maybe we need to teach them how by our example.

ON THIS THANKSGIVING: HARDSHIP AND HOPE

by libbycataldi under Hope

The Japanese Philosopher Diasaku Ikeda tells us: Hope is a flame that we nurture within our hearts. It may be sparked by someone else – by the encouraging words of a friend, relative, or mentor – but it must be fanned and kept burning through our own determination.

Diasaku Ikeda, “On Hardship and Hope.”

My reflection: The saying, “Where there is life, there is hope,” gave me great comfort when my son was in the throes of addiction, but I never thought about hope as a decision. I looked at hope as something that was good to have, like a lucky penny or a four-leaf clover. I struggled to see how we have agency in fostering hope. Nevertheless, in my own way, I held onto the belief that Jeff would find sobriety.

Today’s Promise to consider: With addiction, we are bombarded with negative emotions. People tell us to hope, but sometimes that feels like a dream that will never come true. Diasaku Ikeda reframes the concept, reminding us that hope is a choice. Instead of being paralyzed by despair, let us nurture our hearts with the flame of possibility. On this Thanksgiving, let us believe in the infinite opportunities that are available for both our children and ourselves. Let us hope and pray that our suffering loved ones come home.

NEVER GIVE UP

A mom wrote to me: I only know that to keep on loving is something one never regrets. I only know that hope and prayer work, even if prayers are not answered as we hope. I only know that finding a community can help us do more than survive. There we can find courage when we are most afraid, and there we can find a kind of grace and peace when we most need it.

My reflection: Addiction brings us to our knees, but we can (and must) find the strength to go forward. We have a choice: We can either crumble, and sometimes we do, or we can gather ourselves up and push forward. My dad used to tell me, “Daughter, with your children there is no quit.”

Today’s Promise to consider: There is no perfect family. Our closest relationships are inevitably painful, messy, and hard. The quality of family doesn’t hinge on living a problem-free existence, but rather on how we handle the tough issues. We can use these challenges to strengthen our faith, set boundaries, and learn to communicate with compassion and loving-kindness. Pain can be the bearer of many lessons.

ADDICTION: THERE IS NO BLAME

A mother wrote to her son:

As ashamed as you are
I, too, feel the same
But you or myself
Are not the ones to blame

My reflection: For most of my son’s addictive years, I wanted to blame someone, even myself. One of the major tenets of Al-Anon is: You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it; you didn’t make him a drug addict.

Today’s Promise to consider: I wanted to blame someone, anyone for my son’s addiction, even me. I’ve worn the yoke of guilt for years; better my fault than my son’s. It took me fourteen years and continual heartbreaks to realize – and accept – that blame is counterproductive. Today, let us put negative emotions behind us and move forward with hope and faith.

ADDICTION AND SORROW

Therapist Francis Weller writes: Grief and loss touch us all, arriving at our door in many ways. It comes swirling on the winds of divorce, the death of someone dear, as an illness that alters the course of a life. Left unattended, these sorrows can seep underground, darkening our days. This requires finding meaningful ways to speak of sorrow. It requires that we take up an apprenticeship with sorrow. Learning to welcome, hold, and metabolize sorrow is the work of a lifetime.

Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief, 2015

My reflection: Addiction is laden with grief. Even though my son is healthy today, I still feel grief – grief for our many years of suffering, grief for the burden he yet carries, grief for families still caught in addiction’s grasp.

Today’s Promise to consider: Many of us know grief intimately as we have suffered intense trauma and even the loss of loved ones. Instead of anesthetizing our grief, let us open our hearts to it. Let us acknowledge it, feel it, share it within our recovering communities, and attend to it. Let us hold it with tenderness and respect. Today, let us invite the healing balm of attention to comfort us and guide us to hope.

WE ARE NOT ALONE

A mother wrote to me:I’ve found strength in a very close Nar-Anon group and continue to attend meetings regularly. My husband, my son’s sister, and I are here for him when HE is ready to change. We know we can’t force him to change – we’ve tried. After three failed rehab attempts, we have nothing else to give him, only love.

My reflection: Dr. MacAfee says that addiction takes the healthiest parts of love and smashes them into worry, helplessness, and hopelessness. Waiting for our addicted child to return to us is like walking through hell, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who are suffering just as we are.

Today’s Promise: In family groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, we discover that we are not alone. We find other families who understand our pain, heartache, and powerlessness. Today, let us not isolate ourselves. Let us take the step to accept help from other parents who know our pain. Today, we’ll reach out our hand and trust that someone will reach back.

WITH ADDICTION, HOW DO WE TRANSFORM DISAPPOINTMENT, FRUSTRATION, AND ANXIETY?

A dad wrote: Through my son’s addiction, I learned to be forgiving and not disappointed, I learned to be loving and not frustrated, I learned to be patient and not anxious. Our children find recovery in their own way and in their own time.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I never quit loving him, but I certainly was disappointed and anxious. I was also cloaked in deep fear and worry. I’m sure my son felt my emotions and, probably, registered them as rejection.

Today’s Promise to consider: We want our children to be safe, healthy, and happy, but addiction overwhelms with fear, disappointment, and frustration. The father who wrote learned how to transform his negative feelings into gestures of love, forgiveness, and patience. Isn’t that what all our children deserve, especially those who are suffering from the disease of addiction? As hard as it can be, today and tomorrow, and tomorrow again, let us choose love.

 

 

ADDICTION IS ISOLATION; RECOVERY IS CONNECTION

Tara Brach told this story: In the first week of life of a set of twins, each one was isolated in her respective incubator. One was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought against the rules and placed both babies in one incubator. When they were together, the healthier of the two threw an arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. The smaller baby’s heart rate stabilized and her temperature rose to normal. Through connection and love, the weaker twin went on to live and thrive.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, the standard advice for parents was tough love. Although there were some aspects of merit to this thought, in Italy I learned a more effective approach for our family: “Stay Close. Don’t abandon him, but stay out of the chaos of his addiction.” By staying close, my son knew my boundaries, yet he also felt connected. He knew he was not alone in his battle.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, let us remember Rumi’s words:

Through love all that is bitter will be sweet. 

Through love all that is copper will be gold.

Through love all dregs will become wine.

Through love all pain will turn to medicine. 

Let us join together in prayer that love will be the healing energy in our suffering ones’ lives.

THREE OUT OF THREE: ADDICTION DOESN’T DISCRIMINATE  

A mother wrote to me: I have three children all touched by addiction: A daughter who is doing well in an extended-care program, a son who has been in and out of several rehabs and is currently in jail, and another child who was recently arrested while in a drunken rage for fighting. We are a “normal” family, kids raised in the Church with both parents who were very involved and loving. 

My reflection: How much pain must a parent carry? This mother reminds us that addiction is a disease. It happens in all types of families – spiritual or not, loving or not, and supportive or not. It is an illness and, maybe, no other explanation is necessary.

Today’s Promise to consider: Society often stereotypes those suffering from addiction as coming from neglectful, broken, uneducated, or economically disadvantaged families. Society is wrong. Addiction touches people regardless of wealth, religious affiliation, or family solidarity. Today, let us reach out a hand to another. Let us bring addiction out of the shadows. Society might be mistaken, but we know better.

 

IT’S EASY TO JUDGE…UNTIL ADDICTION ENTERS YOUR HOME

Dr. MacAfee once told me: I was often called into court to be an expert witness about addiction. My goal was not to defend anyone, but to share my knowledge and years of experience about the disease and treatment. Usually the judges and attorneys regarded me distantly, even hostilely. But when their child or loved one was in trouble with drugs or alcohol, I was the first person they called.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I felt judged by others, probably because I judged myself harshly for somehow ‘allowing’ addiction to enter our home. Since then, I’ve learned that our brains make involuntary, non-conscious criticisms of people before we even process who they are or what they look like. Judgment is an automatic reflex.

Today’s Promise to consider: Our brains are hard wired to make fast and effortless judgments. It’s one of the ways we keep ourselves safe, but it also can give us faulty information. Those who suffer from addiction are often automatically judged in the most negative of ways, even when the ‘judger’ knows nothing about the situation. We, who love those who suffer, are often the recipients of unsolicited critiques. Today, let us give the gift to others of not judging. Let us try to harness our brain’s automatic reaction. Let us lead with compassion.