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NO MOTHER EXPECTS TO FACE THE CHAOS OF ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: With addiction, no mother dreams that she would ever have to do the things she learns to do. How do we keep channels open with our children, while also keeping our boundaries clear? How do we manage self-care so that we can be there the next time, and the next time, and the time after that? Let us never give up on our children, and let us keep hope alive. If the worst were to happen, we can say, “I did the very, very, very best I could do.” Just keep accepting and loving where they are. We are warrior women fighting for clarity in the midst of a disease that brings chaos.

My reflection: There were times during my son’s fourteen-year addiction that I wanted to give up. I just wanted it all to go away, and there were times that I didn’t care if I lived or died. My hope was crushed, and I was devastated by what addiction was doing to my family.

Today’s Promise to consider: When our children are young, we never anticipate that our children will suffer with the disease of addiction. In the face of the chaos, we live a nightmare of pain and trauma. But we are mothers, and we must rise up and be strong. Let us dig deep. Let us engage our support groups and trust our higher powers. We are not alone. We can and must survive.

RAYS OF RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF ADDICTION

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote: People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.

My reflection: Was I resilient through my son’s fourteen-year addiction? Did I withstand adversity and bounce back from the chaos? Did I have an ‘inner light’ that shone through the darkness? For most of those years, the answer is NO, but for the last six months of his journey, the answer is YES.

Today’s Promise to consider: When events in our lives are going smoothly, it’s easy to sparkle and shine, but when things become chaotic and dark, it’s a challenge to keep our emotions steady. Prayer, faith, and hope can help us withstand the barrage of suffering. With addiction and every trauma, let us try our best to dig deep into our spirits to find a light from within. For me, the concept “Stay Close, but out of the chaos” made all the difference and provided a framework to be resilient.

 

 

WHEN DEALING WITH ADDICTION, EXHAUSTION INTERFERES WITH CLARITY

A mom wrote to me: With addiction, love never dies, but exhaustion can interfere with clarity and decisions. Big picture thinking makes for resilient, compassionate hearts.

My reflection: The words above resonate deeply with me. When my son was in active addiction, exhaustion took a mighty toll on all of us, even him.

Today’s Promise to consider: No matter how much we love someone, exhaustion can take over in the face of hardship. It’s our body’s natural reaction to all the chaos, trauma, problems, money issues, car crashes, fights, physical depletion, and emotional desperation. During my son’s fourteen-year addiction, I finally learned to wait 24 hours to make any important decision. Why? Because most of my immediate decisions were hasty and reactive. Today, let us care for our own needs first. Let us strengthen our inner resources before we respond.

ADDICTION CAN MAKE US STRONGER 

My son and I had a conversation about how families survive trauma, particularly with addiction: The dynamics around addiction are complicated and personal to each family. Addiction brings us to our knees, but we don’t have to collapse. Every family trauma – including things like infidelity, financial ruin, legal issues, and death – severely tests us. We have a choice: we can either crumble (which is sometimes the best response in moments of deep pain), or we can gather ourselves up, lean into our community, and push forward. My dad used to tell me, “Daughter, with your children there is no quit.” Families suffering from addiction have the choice to quit, but we also have the choice to prevail. Addiction and other traumas can make us stronger.

My reflection: There is no perfect family. Relationships are inevitably messy, hard, and hurtful. Pain is a bearer of many lessons.

Today’s Promise to consider: Family traumas happen, and every family has them. Addiction is particularly difficult because it wants to suffocate us and take our loved ones away from us, and themselves. But we can survive. We can use these challenges to strengthen our faith, set boundaries, and learn to communicate with compassion. The quality of the family doesn’t depend on living a problem-free existence. It depends on how we navigate life’s many hard issues.

 

WILL SURGERY CURE DRUG ADDICTION?

The Washington Post reports that the surgical intervention, deep brain stimulation (already approved to treat epilepsy and Parkinson’s), has been used to treat drug addiction. Gerod Buckhalter allowed surgeons to cut two nickel-size holes in his skull and plunge metal-tipped electrodes into his brain. The electrodes produce electrical impulses that regulate the brain and affect the chemicals and reactions within the brain. “Buckhalter still requires anti-drug mediation, counseling, and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He still experiences cravings, depression, and the anxiety that drove his drug use, but for more than 600 days after he underwent the experimental surgery, Buckhalter has not touched drugs again.”

My reaction: When my son was in active addiction, I searched for a ‘silver bullet’ to cure the disease. I wanted a pill, a person, something or someone to cure him. There was nothing. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Research is shedding light on the disease of addiction and identifying methods for curbing or stopping drug abuse. Deep Brain Stimulation might become a viable option in the future, but according to Ali Rezai, director of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at West Virginia University, who performed Buckhalter’s surgery, “This is not a magical cure. And it’s not going to work for everybody. This is a treatment that allows you to dial down the anxiety, improve the mood, make people more in charge of their bodies, make them less fragile and susceptible.” For my son, recovery was a slow build as he worked the steps, developed a relationship with a higher power, and fellowshipped with others living in the solution. Medical treatments are increasingly effective, but I believe they must be paired with the painstaking process of working a program.

 

“I DON’T WANT TO BREATHE MY FEAR INTO YOU”

I talked with a friend, whose son is suffering from substance abuse, and I was moved by her words to her son. “I believe in you,” she told him, “Sure I’m afraid of what the future holds for you and our family, but I don’t want to breathe my fear into you. I want to give you hope.”

My reflection: There is a song lyric that I memorized years ago, “Fear can be catching worse than a cold.” Research indicates that emotions are ‘contagious,’ and that negative emotions transfer most easily. When my son was in active addiction, I’m sure he saw tension in my eyes and heard anxiety in my voice, more often than he saw or heard peace or compassion.

Today’s Promise: It’s difficult for our suffering loved ones to carry our anxieties, as well as their own. When they are in the throes of their addiction, they are struggling with obsession, shame, and the chase of the drug. When they are in early recovery, they face countless fears daily – how to get a job, how to pay rent, and how to go the next day without drugs. Today, I’ll try to bolster my serenity and breathe hope into my loved one.

THOSE WHO HAVE WALKED-THE-WALK MAKE A DIFFERENCE 

A mom wrote to me: My son is miraculously almost a month sober thanks to some guardian angels in AA, who are showing him there is a better way. He has been to many rehabs, but never fully bought into the message of AA. This time he has been embraced by some very good people, and this has been the missing link all along. The program has done for him what no amount of love, effort, or money has been able to do before.

My reflection: My son was also in dozens of rehabs, half-way houses, and detox centers, and I’m sure they made some difference, like drops of water on a rock. But for fourteen years, he continued his decline into a life of drugs, ultimately heroin, until he was almost dead.

Today’s Promise to consider: We can love, cajole, weep for, and finance our loved ones as they suffer the consequences of their disease, but they are the ones who need to make the final decision to live in the solution. They have to want it and have the courage to fight for it. For my son, the good folks in AA made an undeniable difference. There he found his ‘angels,’ who understood his trauma and supported his many steps along the path to wellness. They had walked-the-walk, and they helped my son find his way out of the chaos of addiction’s grasp.

WALKING ‘WITH’ OR WALKING ‘FOR’

A friend wrote to me: The hardest thing of all for me is to see that we, families and friends, walk a different and separate path from those we love who suffer from the disease of addiction. How can we feel happiness or find peace when someone we love is in pain? We each have to answer that in our own way. I do not always follow this or do it with grace, but I keep trying.

My reflection: I went down the rabbit hole of grief with my son. As he suffered the ravaging consequences of his disease, so did I. As he fell deeper and deeper into addiction’s grasp, so did it. This didn’t help either of us. 

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s normal for us to feel deeply the pain of our suffering loved ones, but we can take this to the extreme and behave in ways that hurt family members, friends, and ourselves. Boundaries are difficult to maintain and they can be different for each of us, but we can’t allow addiction to swallow us whole. Let us meet our loved ones where they are. Let us pray for grace and wisdom.

LOVING WITHOUT RESCUING

A friend wrote to me: I think no one but an addict’s mother, family, and loved ones will ever truly understand how much courage, love, and suffering it takes to do nothing. Even staying close means the sacrifice of witnessing without taking the actions that blind love demands. How admirable and impossibly painful it is to love without attempting to rescue.

My reflection: When our children are young, we kiss their wounds and make things better. Addiction robs us of that ability, of that gift. As they get older, we can provide counsel and support.

Today’s Promise to consider: If love could have cured my son, he would have never suffered a fourteen-year heroin addiction. Sadly, love can’t eradicate an illness. Through that stretch of time, I stayed close and continued to love him, but I was powerless to change the course of his disease. The decision to live in the solution had to be made by him. Today, let us act with compassion. Let us find our boundary between loving and rescuing.

A TRAILER ANNOUNCING “THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA” featuring Dr. Gabor Maté

THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA is a seven-day series with Dr. Gabor Maté, a Hungarian-Canadian physician, who is a renowned addiction expert. His seminal book In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts draws on science and real-life stories to posit that all addictions originate in trauma and emotional loss. He says that “all is not well” in our society as supported by the rising numbers of addictions, overdoses, suicides, mass shootings, and child abuse. He calls for a more compassionate approach toward the issues facing humanity, especially addiction.

My reflection: Gabor’s movie airs between June 8 – 14, but this trailer touched me deeply. I asked my son to watch it, and he responded, “Maté seems so earnest and dedicated. You can tell he’s driven by a higher calling.” 

Today’s Promise to consider: Education is key to understanding. Today, we have many quality resources, including cutting-edge research in the field of addiction, harm-reduction advances, and help from psychologists, counselors, and those in recovery. Maté emphasizes compassion when dealing with our suffering loved ones. Today, let us  bring the healing light of compassion to trauma and the wounded human soul.