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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.



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.



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.


by libbycataldi under Faith, Hope

A mother wrote to me: I’m giving up on prayer. Recovery was going well, I thought. Making meetings, new job he likes, nice girlfriend…I was beginning to trust and hope. In the last week, money taken from my purse, relapse, and violation of probation. Now it’s back to court and maybe prison this time. I’m afraid, and I can’t do this again.

My reflection: Why does fear seem so much stronger than hope? I don’t know, but there were countless times when I, too, felt like giving up on prayer. Often it’s easier to abandon hope and faith than to keep feeling crushed.

Today’s Promise to consider: When addiction’s chaos rises up again, smacks us, and knocks us to the ground, we hurt and feel despondent. It is then that we are in danger of giving up hope. But if we lose faith, all is lost. While it’s true that our loved ones need to fight their own battles, we can choose to stay close in hope and prayer. Today, let us make that choice.


A young man in recovery wrote to me: My mom told me that reading the book STAY CLOSE was very difficult for her, but that she recognized her own life throughout the story. When she told me this, our conversation was remarkable – the tone of her voice and the way she spoke to me. She seemed calm and, when I said something funny, she laughed. I cannot tell you how long it has been since my mother actually listened to my voice and listened to what I was saying. Something magical happened. She saw me as her son again. She looked me directly in the eyes and finally, after about fifteen years, she was able to stop giving me one-armed, sideways hugs, and instead she wrapped both arms around me. For that, I will be forever grateful.

My reflection: When we open our hearts and listen deeply to our suffering loved ones, we make room for magic to happen. Stories about addiction often allow for that by reminding us that we’re part of a large and worldwide community of others who know our struggles and pain.

Today’s Promise: Those brave souls in recovery desperately want to ‘be seen’ by those they love. They need to feel a connection, especially with their families and, even more so, with their mothers. The young boy above eventually relapsed and passed away, but he left this earth knowing that his mom, “saw me as her son again.” God bless him.




A mom wrote to me: My dad just passed, and my mother was having some dear neighborhood friends at her home after the service. I almost avoided the gathering because I didn’t want to be asked how my sons were doing and have to pretend all was well. I went and, while I was there, one of his dearest friends asked me how I was doing with my boys. I answered honestly, “Not the best.” He replied with kindness, “I’m sorry. I see you are struggling.” He understood and didn’t judge me. I was blessed to have shared a few minutes with him. 

My personal reaction: There were many times I lied about my son’s struggles and our family problems by responding, “We’re fine. Our family is in good shape.” After many years of embarrassment and shame, I finally decided to respond honestly.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s such a relief when we feel safe enough to share our feelings without fear of retribution or judgment. This is one of the reasons I find Al-Anon meetings sacred because people understand my heartache. Today, I will reciprocate that respect by listening to others with my total presence. We each have the right to respond to questions with our truths, and I will be there for them, just as others were there for me.


A mom wrote to me, I wrote to you a few years ago about my son’s addiction. As every parent, we barely functioned for almost three years. After his marriage of two years ended, he went to rehab and a halfway house for some time. Today, he has a good job, met a great girl, and seems to be doing well. He just announced his engagement and, even though things seem better, I worry. I know I should have a positive outlook, but the past haunts me. How do you ever begin to trust and live without fear?

My reflection, I once asked Dr. MacAfee this same question, “How do I learn to trust again? The past is hard to forget and I worry what might happen in the future.” The good doctor said, “Your feelings are normal. You’ve been vigilant a long time. Be patient with yourself.”

Today’s Promise to consider, Trusting that a recovering loved one will stay well and not return to the chaos of addiction is difficult. Most of us have been deeply scarred by years of turbulence. Today, I’ll be gentle with myself. I’ll breathe, acknowledge my fear, and move toward releasing my worry. My loved one deserves this effort. So do I.


A person in recovery told me, Many people out there try to get clean and can’t. I know, certainly in my case, if this were about willpower, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Because when I set my mind to do something, it gets done. Not this. Not this. 

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I told him, Stop. Just stop. I, too, thought that it was a matter of resolve,  strength of character, or pure emotional muscle. It took me fourteen years to learn how wrong I was.

Today’s Promise to consider: If addiction were a matter of sheer willpower, we would have many fewer suffering people. There’s a reason Step One in AA is: We admitted we are powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable. For our family, recovery was found when we acknowledged that willingness, as opposed to willpower, was the bridge to healing. Let us muster compassion for loved ones who are struggling, and let us support their efforts when they become WILLING to seek help.



A mother wrote to me: My son was handsome, respectful, smart, athletic, and funny. Unfortunately, at fifteen, he made a bad choice to experiment with drugs. His life and ours were never the same. He tried to get clean. In fact, he was clean for forty days before he died. I have been blessed with wonderful people in my life, but I know the average person looks down on people who do drugs. I wish other people could understand what our lives are like.

My reflection: Even with the recent public outcry about addiction and deaths, society often considers the addict an abyss of moral failure. People judge the family as non-caring, absent, abusive, or non-communicative. Those of us who have addicted children know that this illness doesn’t discriminate.

Today’s Promise: Judgment comes swiftly when people hear that our children are suffering from drug abuse. Society criticizes us and holds us at fault, but these are the chains of addiction. Maybe it’s impossible for others to understand the crisis we parents face when the nightmare of addiction enters our homes. Maybe it’s impossible for others to understand the toll it takes on the entire family and the countless efforts we make to stem the tide. I’ve come to realize that all I can do is educate myself, follow my heart, lean into my support group, and pray for my child’s healing.



My son sent me this picture from a local coffee shop in Los Angeles. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 – 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl test strips can be used to detect the presence of fentanyl in a wide range of street drugs. You don’t need to be a medical professional to run the tests. The user simply dips the strip into water containing a small amount of drug residue and waits a few minutes for the result. The appearance of a single line signifies the presence of fentanyl, and two red lines signify its absence. The strips are inexpensive ($1 each), can be carried in a purse or wallet, and are an evidenced-based method of averting drug overdoses.

My reflection: Most fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths, according to the National Institutes of Health, are linked to fentanyl sold illegally for its opiate-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy  – with or without the user’s knowledge – to increase the drug’s impact, often to tragic effect.

Today’s Promise to consider: Overdose deaths involving Fentanyl have quadrupled. Street drugs are awash with it – sold alone as a powder or added to a wide range of other narcotics. The Fentanyl Test Strip Pilot Program was initiated in San Francisco in August 2017 in response to the rapid increase in Fentanyl deaths. What makes it so effective is that it puts control in users’ hands allowing them to test the toxicity of the drugs they’re about to ingest. Today, let’s not only pray that this program expands around the world, but let’s work to make the strips easily available and widely distributed. This can help save many, many lives.