A mom wrote to me: I once read, “The worst thing for an addict is to see his/her reflection in other people’s eyes.” I know this to be true. My son was sober for almost two years, but when he relapsed he texted his girlfriend that he felt upset because he let everyone down. It proved to be fatal. I am devastated beyond belief and forever haunted.

My reflection: When I read this mother’s message, it hit me hard. Her words make total sense. Our loved ones look into our eyes and see the deep hurt in our hearts.

Today’s Promise to consider: “The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them.” Our sensitive and suffering loved ones look into our eyes and see our sadness caused by their behavior, our disappointments in their progress, and our hurts with them as our children. This is sad and hard to avoid, but how could they not take this to heart? Today, I must be cognizant of the way I respond to my loved ones. I want them to see my love and hope.

  • quote, Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra


A person in recovery wrote to me: The illness of alcoholism thrives in the dark and isolating world of silence. Let the light in and the glimmer of hope be seen. We say in AA that ‘we are as sick as our secrets.’ We are lucky to be able to talk freely to our fellow members and this helps us manage to keep the darkness at bay. I’ve found hope and inspiration in other literature like ‘The Road Less Travelled’ and ‘A New Pair of Glasses.’ In my opinion whatever works is a good thing!

My reflection: This young man’s words tell the hard facts of the illness, “Alcoholism thrives in the dark and isolating world of silence.” He knows from experience that the world of addiction lives in the unlit corners. We have so much to learn from those in recovery.

Today’s Promise to consider: When I was young, we didn’t talk about abortion, homosexuality, or even breast cancer. Today we talk about these things, and the conversations bring us closer to truth, compassion, and understanding. Dr. MacAfee often told me, “Only by bringing addiction out of the shadows and into the light can we hope to defeat it.” Today, I will learn more about addiction, go to Al-Anon or family-group meetings, and talk with professionals and those in recovery. I will not allow addiction to grow stronger in my silence.


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 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: Our suffering loved ones are trapped in the disease of addiction and, although it doesn’t always look like it, they loathe the life they are living. When my son started using drugs as an adolescent, he never thought about the future consequences of his use and how they would destroy his life and relationships. He never intended to ‘end up where he was going.’ I will not feel betrayed. I will not feel self-blame. I will Stay Close in love and prayer.


A young girl, 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 I 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: What struck me most in reading this girl’s message was that, even in the midst of writing these rambling and tragic sentences, she is concerned about her mother. She loves her and doesn’t want to hurt her.

Today’s Promise: Our suffering loved ones often act in uncaring, selfish, manipulative, and abusive ways. While this might be true, as long as they are alive, they still exist underneath the disease. Their empathy and humanity are buried deep within as they grapple with their own demons.  I will remember this as I stay close, but out of the chaos of her addiction.


A mom wrote to me, My son was living at home, staying off drugs, working a job, and exercising, but he’s using again. He left our home today. With a heavy heart, I told him I loved him. This will be our last time of letting him live with us. Now, if he wants recovery, he needs to be the change. Love and detach…stay close…..so hard. We offered him treatment, but he’s not ready. My prayer is that he stays safe. God, give me the strength to accept this.

My reflection: Loving and detaching. I struggled with this dichotomy for years. How could I love my son and detach at the same time? But in the end, it was the blending of these two that made the difference in both my life and my son’s.

Today’s Promise to consider: Dealing with addiction is counterintuitive. It took me fourteen years of my son’s heroin addiction to learn to stay close, but out of the chaos. I answered his calls and texts, but I gave him no money or resources that would enable his behavior. I realized that living in sobriety could not be imposed on him.  He had to make the decision to change his life, while I needed to accept, surrender, and pray for strength, for both of us.


A mother wrote to me: My husband and I were always with our kids, but it seems to me that the kids who were on their own did better. Many of our neighborhood children grew up with our kids, and they are all very successful. How did mine turn out to be addicted to drugs?

My reflection: Many times, I asked myself this same question, “Why my child?” Why our family? For years, I felt shame and guilt, until I learned that self-blame was unconstructive.

Today’s Promise to consider: The Big Book of AA states that drugs are ‘similar to an allergy.’ Some people have it; some people don’t. After years of trying to answer the question, Why my child?, I realized that the why didn’t matter. My son had it, and I had to educate myself. I became a student in the halls of Al-Anon, with Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction therapist, and with my son himself.  In time, I learned how to be compassionate, but with boundaries. For me, education was the key.


A friend and mother, who has lived with the consequences of addiction, sent me this song: When I listened to it, I was deeply moved. It’s as if the song was written for our suffering loved ones:

You’ve owned your fear and all your self-loathing.  

You’ve owned the voices inside of your head.

You’ve owned the shame and reproach of your failure.

It’s time to own your belovedness.


You’ve owned your past and how it’s defined you.

You’ve owned everything everybody else says…


You’ve owned the mess you see in the mirror.

You’ve owned the lies that you’re just not enough.

You’ve been so blinded by all you’re comparing.

It’s time to own your belovedness.


Today’s Promise to consider: Our loved ones, who are suffering and have suffered from addiction’s grasp, have lived with feelings of self-loathing, shame, and reproach. What do they see when they look in the mirror? Do they see their value? Whether this song represents a heavenly father, a higher power, or a mother singing to her child, let us pray that all our children feel beloved.



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. His addiction has claimed him for five years. His drug addiction has had such a big impact on our lives. I want to see him whole and clean and well again, but it’s as if he’s in his own prison.

My reflection: Addiction affects all of us. Parents argue, siblings are confused and angry, and the addict is in his own world, chasing his next fix. Mothers cry until we have no tears left, and fathers watch helplessly, powerless to protect their families from the beast that is addiction. The entire family is immersed in sadness and trauma.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction thrives on chaos and pain. Not only does the immediate family suffer, but addiction spirals out to affect aunts and uncles, grandparents, teachers, and friends. As families, we are powerless to stop addiction, but we can remain faithful and compassionate, while maintaining boundaries to keep ourselves safe. Let us stay close to our loved ones and our support groups. Let us keep faith and hope alive.


From the Book of Joy: I asked the Dalai Lama what it was like to wake up with joy, and he shared his experience each morning: “I think if you are an intensely religious believer, as soon as you wake up, you thank God for another day. And you try to do God’s will. For a nontheist like myself, but who is Buddhist, as soon as I wake up, I remember Buddha’s teaching: the importance of kindness and compassion, wishing something good for others, or at least to reduce their suffering. Then I remember that everything is interrelated, so I set my intention for the day: that this day should be meaningful. Meaningful means, if possible, serve and help others. If not possible, then at least not to harm others.” 

My reflection: For years now the idea of loving-kindness has resonated with me, although when my son was in active addiction, this concept was not even on my radar. Every day was survival, a nonstop exercise in trying not to drown under the weight of all our problems.

Today’s Promise to considerKindness and compassion are lofty goals, especially when we’re battling the tidal waves of addiction in the family. Perhaps the best we can do some days is set an intention to ‘do no harm.’ For me, that requires constant presence of mind and body. My first reaction is not always a loving one, but if I’m able to observe my behavior against the criteria of whether it produces harm or not, I’m able to live without the regrets unskillful actions cause. And from there, I’m one step closer to the next rung of the ladder: loving-kindness.


Tara Brach, one of my favorite Buddhist practitioners, recently wrote, ‘While the holidays can be times of loving celebration, they can also highlight relational conflicts and challenges.’ Old patterns of behavior kick in, and we can get sabotaged by our own controlling natures. In her podcast, she offers ideas about how to bring loving kindness to ourselves and others. She posits, ‘We need to make space for us imperfect humans.’

My reflection: During my son’s many years of active addiction, I took no time to prepare my heart for the holidays. I was more like a train on an errant track, rushing to get through the holidays in one piece. Overwhelmed with emotions and fears, I plowed through each day.

Today’s Promise to consider: The holidays can be times of extreme stress for all families, and especially when addiction is involved. Let us prepare our hearts for the holidays and not place unreasonable expectations on ourselves or others. Life is limited and we aren’t guaranteed next year, so let’s make an intention – now and not in the New Year – to celebrate and be present for family and friends. As Tara says, ‘We are all imperfect. Let us connect with the gold inside us.’

Maya Angelou wrote:  

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

People will forget what you did,

But people will never forget how you made them feel.