ADDICTION TAKES PRISONERS

A mother wrote to me: My son walked out of his fourth rehab, and in November of last year my husband kicked him out of our house, again. I couldn’t help but mourn. I lay on my bed and didn’t move for two days. He’s presently in an outpatient methadone program. His addiction has claimed him for five years. Methadone is not the answer I wanted for my son. I want to see him whole, clean, and well again. His drug addiction has had such a big impact on our lives. 

My reflection: No matter how hard I tried to keep my feelings and suffering to myself, my angst seeped into all my relationships, including my family, friends, and work. Yes, addiction has a huge and undeniable impact on all our lives.

Today’s Promise: Addiction takes prisoners: Parents argue, mothers mourn, siblings are heartbroken and angry, while our suffering loved one is in his own world, chasing his next fix. The entire family spirals into chaos and despair, which is why we must learn to take care of ourselves. When we maintain boundaries, participate in our support groups, and lean on faith, we’re better versions of ourselves – and better able to support our family ecosystems. It all starts with reaching out our hands. We are not alone.

BOUNDARIES: ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

A mother wrote to me: Today I am struggling with Staying Close as I fear my son’s addiction is taking hold of him again. Part of me wants to say Stay Away, “I don’t want to be your mother anymore. I can’t continue to deal with your addiction.”

My personal reflection on the above passage: I know this feeling of wanting to run away from all the chaos that is addiction. There are times when we, as parents, are so overwhelmed with its myriad problems, legal issues, car crashes, lies, and betrayals that we just want to opt out. Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction psychologist, told me, “Obliterating relationships won’t obliterate addiction. I know that parents want the pain to stop, but disowning their child does not alleviate the pain.”

Today’s Promise to Consider: Good, solid, and meaningful boundaries are essential when dealing with addiction. Every parent needs to say what she means and do what she says. This clarity will help not only the parent, but also her suffering child, who needs to know what he can expect. Today, I will tell him clearly what I can and cannot do, and I will mean it. I will follow through. I will respect my boundaries for his sake, and mine. I will stay close and pray that he chooses a different life.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T LEARN TO SAY NO?

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.

 

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.