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“MY MOM WRAPPED HER ARMS AROUND ME”

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.

 

 

LISTENING IS HELPFUL; JUDGING IS NOT

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.

HOW DO I TRUST AGAIN?

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.

ADDICTION: IT’S NOT A MATTER OF WILLPOWER

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.

 

“I WISH OTHER PEOPLE COULD UNDERSTAND WHAT OUR LIVES ARE LIKE”

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.

 

FENTANYL TEST STRIPS: KEY TO SAVING LIVES

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.

 

 

TALK LESS, PRAY MORE

Ten years ago, I wrote a blog entry with the same title…and here I am again, reminding myself that I am powerless over anyone except myself.

My personal reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I talked, ranted, threatened, and cajoled, but words never penetrated the tough exterior of addiction. My words fell on deaf ears and a stone heart. I finally learned to find comfort in talking less and praying more.

Today’s Promise to consider: The mantra, “Talk less, pray more,” is a reminder that I can’t control or change anyone. I can, however, listen more closely, respond with greater compassion and skillfulness, and continue to find strength in my Higher Power. And I will.

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.