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LOVE WILL NOT STOP AN ADDICTION

A mother wrote to me: My son got arrested and we hired a lawyer, bailed him out, but he kept using and stealing. He got arrested again and bailed himself out. We knew he was dying so we asked the lawyer to have the judge put him back in jail. We told our son we would not bail him out, that we loved him but would no longer let his addiction destroy the family. All the love in the world was not enough to make him stop.

My reflection: Dr. MacAfee once asked a young man, “What is your drug of choice?” The boy thought carefully and responded, “More.” MacAfee explained, “His answer was not an attempt at humor. Instead, the group answered with a consensus of silence, affirmative head nods. No addict ever intends to end up where he’s really going.”

Today’s Promise: My addicted loved one is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living. I will not feel betrayed. I will not feel self-blame. I will Stay Close and pray that my suffering child makes the decision to ask for help and change his life.

UNDERNEATH IT ALL, THEIR HUMANITY REMAINS

A young girl, who relapsed with a crystal meth addiction, wrote to me: I am addicted again. It’s been two years since l relapsed. I am convinced everyone hates me. I constantly hear voices that tell me that they will kill me, I’m ugly, I’m disgusting or that l smell. Some days l have eight showers, and other days it takes all day to have one. Most days, I don’t trust the water out of the tap. I can’t talk with my mom – I’m afraid the stress will kill her. My lifelong friends and family have nothing to do with me. I abuse my mom day and night, and I hate myself for this.

My reflection: Even in the midst of writing this rambling and tragic message, this young girl is concerned about her mother, loves her, and doesn’t want to hurt her. She’s aware of the pain she’s causing and is remorseful, despite her ability to stop using.

Today’s Promise to consider: People suffering from the disease of addiction often act in uncaring, selfish, and manipulative ways. Under the haze of addiction, their behavior often belies their true nature, and their empathy and humanity seem nonexistent. But as long as they are alive, we must hold on to the fact that their core self exists underneath the disease. Today, I’ll continue to hope. I’ll continue to stand by my suffering loved one. I’ll stay close, but out of the chaos of her addiction.

SOMETIMES IT’S THE PAIN THAT SETS US FREE

A dad wrote to me: For ten years, I fought the chaos of addiction. With each relapse, I blamed both myself and my son. I was enmeshed in saving him and was convinced that I could. Eventually, the disease of addiction created so much pain in me that I could no longer deny the truth that recovery was HIS decision, his choice, and that I was powerless. I joined a 12-step program, educated myself, and sought out professional help. It takes great pain to set us free, but in our own recovery we find renewed strength, peace, and even serenity.

My reflection: I, too, fought the chaos of addiction. It took me fourteen years until I finally ‘let go and let God.’

Today’s Promise to consider: We parents don’t want our children to suffer. We want to protect them from pain, but sometimes it is the pain that sets us free. Many recovering people have told me that they made a decision to change their life when the consequences of their addiction became too heavy to bear. The same often happens to us.

WHEN IT’S YOUR PARENT, BROTHER, SISTER, OR FRIEND

by libbycataldi under family

A young woman wrote to me: Libby, something important struck me when I read this line you wrote  – ‘My child’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living.’ If I replace child with father, this is one of the most impactful and life-altering realizations that helped me heal my relationship with my dad. I saw that he was trapped in a disease rather than deliberately choosing drugs over family.

My reflection: Addiction’s tentacles strangle all of us: children, brothers, sisters, parents, and loved ones. We, as a recovering community, have an obligation to reach out our hands to all those impacted from the effects of this disease.

Today’s Promise: Children of addicted parents, siblings of addicted children, and all those in pain need our support. Our loved ones are alive, under the drugs. My son once told me, “Society loathes addicts, and addicts loathe themselves.” Today, let us not take addiction personally. Let us face it with compassion and take it out of the shadows and into the light where it can be healed.

AM I ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM?

A mom wrote to me: My son is two years sober, has his own place, has been at his same job for almost two years, and is managing his own money. His best friend, with whom he spends lots of time, just had surgery and has been given pain pills. Unfortunately this brings me to an old, scared place. I wonder if the pain pills tempt him? Do I ask him or just calm my inner self and thoughts? I never really know if talking or even asking would make him upset or be helpful? Am I allowed to ask about the elephant in the room or will that not be healthy for him? The fear is always there, isn’t it Libby?

My reflection: I know this place of fear, this ‘elephant in the room.’ 

Today’s Promise to consider: Maybe the fear of relapse is always in the back of our parent mind. I wonder if it’s in the back of our recovering loved ones’ minds, too? No matter how justified, our worry can’t be laid at the feet of our sons and daughters, who are working hard to stay the course, to live a good life, and to manage their own anxieties. It’s normal to be concerned about ‘what will be,’ but all we have is today. Let us stay close and trust our children. Sure, this is tough, and continued recovery isn’t guaranteed. We’ve been vigilant a long time, but maybe it’s time to put our fears aside and enjoy the present.

RELAPSE AND RECOVERY

A young man wrote to me: As a recovering addict, I know well that relapse happens. It took me many attempts to find sobriety. Each addict is unique in his or her own way, but for me I spent more than a decade avoiding the true problem – myself. Drugs filled the void inside me, an empty space of insecurity and anxiety (and sure a rebellious side when I was young). The road to recovery is a long one and the answer lies within the addict.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I threatened, cajoled, pleaded, and would have sold my soul for his recovery. But all my machinations were futile. My son had to find the answer inside himself, and for himself.

Today’s Promise to consider: It took me fourteen years of addiction’s trauma to accept that relapse happens. By the grace of God, my son survived his many relapses. Lots of families aren’t as fortunate. Throughout it all I was forced to admit that I didn’t have the ability to cure the addiction, fix it, or make it go away. I was powerless, and my son needed to find the answer inside himself.

THE HARD PART: STAYING OUT OF THE CHAOS OF ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: Your story meant I was not alone. I loved  my son even as I was terrified and, for so so long, I thought I could do something to fix him. When he was little and struggled so much, I always seemed to be able to make it better. But addiction is not like that. The hard part for me was not staying close, but staying out of the chaos. And because the chaos of this disease is crazy making for those who love a suffering child, it is so hard at times to not get sick oneself from worry and fear. Depressed. Worn down. Giving in and giving money– which could have killed him. Such a fine line at times to walk.

My reflection: I, too, thought I could heal my son, change his life, and make things better. I couldn’t.

Today’s Promise to consider:  As parents, we often turn ourselves inside-out in an effort to ‘fix’ our suffering loved ones, until we realize that our help isn’t always helping. It took me fourteen years to accept that I couldn’t change my son’s destructive behavior. In time, I learned to stay close and continue to love him while I disengaged from the chaos of his addiction.

RECOVERY: THE STATE OF TOTAL SURRENDER

Alessandro Rodino Dal Pozzo, the president of San Patrignano, said, The path to recovery happens when you truly and deeply accept that things have to change.

My reaction: When my son was in active addiction, I thought that I could gauge when he was ready to accept recovery, when the pain had reached critical junctures, and when he would be open to professional help. I never could.

Today’s Promise to consider: Moments of extreme suffering can lead to important epiphanies for those suffering from substance abuse. The Big Book calls the opening that follows these periods, “The Gift of Desperation.” My son’s fourteen-year heroin addiction took him to a place where he was lost and a shell of himself. He was at the crossroads of continuing drugs or dying. He later told me, This was one of the most profound moments in my recovery process.

RECOVERY CAN BE TERRIFYING

My son wrote this in Stay Close about getting and staying sober: I was terrified – faced with getting clean, again. With nothing but failed attempts to reference, sobriety seemed impossible. It’s easier to want to change your life than to actually do it. Following through takes total courage, and I was scared to my bones.

My reflection on the above passage: During the critical months when my son made the decision to change his life, he worked with Dr. MacAfee, an addiction therapist who was highly intuitive and knowledgeable. He explained to Jeff that, when the using stops, a period of grief would inevitably come, for all the lost time, the years gone by, the people hurt, and the trail of destruction. He said, “The grief will overtake you, and it will be hard. But it’s also a sweet time. Savor it.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Our suffering loved ones know the chaos of court systems and legal problems. They know how to lie, deceive, and manipulate in service of their disease. What they need to learn how to do is to live a transparent life – how to be honest and faithful, and how to find serenity. Today, I pray for all those suffering that they source the courage they need to confront the demon of addiction.

I’M IN CONTROL OF JUST ONE PERSON: MYSELF

by libbycataldi under family

A dad wrote to me: I got so tired of the lies and the constant drama that our family had to endure. We parents care so much for our children that it’s really difficult to watch them self-destruct. I’m getting much better at realizing that I am in control of just one person: myself. I think prayer is the only answer.

My reflection: It’s incredibly difficult to admit that we can’t control the behavior of our addicted loved ones. My dad’s words rang in my ears, “Just tell him to stop.” It took me years of pain to realize that my best efforts couldn’t end the chaos of addiction in our family.

Today’s Promise to consider: Once at an Al-Anon meeting, the speaker held a hula-hoop over her head and then dropped it around her and onto the floor. She pointed to her feet and the space inside the hoop, “I can control only what’s inside this hoop.” It was a simple visual that resonated deeply with me. My son had his own hoop. I had mine. There’s only room for one in an addiction.