RELAPSE REQUIRES COURAGE FOR ALL OF US

A mother wrote to me: My son is still on the revolving road to recovery. He has been in detox three times, rehab (both inpatient and outpatient), in a sober house, involved in AA with a sponsor, and is presently trying the suboxone route with individual counseling. My heart is broken, but I will find my courage.

My reflection: Our suffering loved ones must learn to live in abstinence and that’s a new and scary place for them. They know how to occupy addiction, but sobriety requires skills that are foreign to them or skills they’ve long forgotten.

At one point Jeff wrote the following about a friend who relapsed, which helped me understand in a deeper way how complicated it is, “I know that place. He was in pain, and it was too much. He used to kill it. Then he needs to keep using because the addiction has kicked in. An addict loses all sense of free will; you’re thrown back into the space of obsession, of always needing something more. I’m sure he’s scared and confused.”

Today’s Promise to Consider: Relapse scares me as a mom, but I will remember that it’s also frightening for my loved one. I can’t fix my child’s addiction or fight his battles, but I can love him with distance. His goal is to learn to live in the solution. My goal is to have the courage to stay close.

SUFFERING: WE ALL SUFFER, BUT WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?

I once called our beloved Dr. MacAfee, my son’s addiction therapist, to talk about suffering: During the fourteen years of my son’s addiction, I suffered, as we all do when we see our child destroy himself and his life. At that time, I received an email from a mom in which she wrote, “You need to quit complaining about your suffering. You need to learn from it.” Although I understood the concept of learning from pain, I also felt confused and hurt. Was I not ‘allowed’ to talk about or feel the constant heartache? I needed help putting things together. 

Dr. MacAfee’s responded: “Life is suffering. Until we get this concept, we can’t move on. Although days are filled with many beautiful moments, suffering is part of life. The question is not how do we live without pain, but how do we allow that pain to transform us. Suffering can be redemptive, sculpting us into better people if we let it. The problem is when we get mired in our own suffering, and resist it, then it becomes nonproductive. Acceptance of pain allows it to pass through us.”

Today’s Promise to consider:  Addiction taught me that pain is both the cross and the resurrection. We all suffer, and no one is immune. Whether the pain we experience is part of the current pandemic, addiction, health issues, money problems, or a myriad of other heartaches, today I will allow it to flow through me. I will breathe deeply, not resist the hurt, and let the trauma help me to grow.

 

 

 

COURAGE: RECOVERING FROM ADDICTION TAKES A LOT OF IT

A dad wrote to me: Our children have to fight their addictions and win. We, as parents, will never know how hard their battles are or understand the strength they need. I think that anyone who has battled through addiction deserves a lot of credit.

My personal reaction: Dr MacAfee told me, “Addiction is loss.” Recovery, he said, offered my son the space to rediscover his identity and, in time, the real Jeff would emerge. This was a journey that Jeff would have to do alone. I came to realize the enormity of the fight that he had to face in order to win his battle against addiction.

I once told Jeff, “You have a lot of courage to do this again.” He paused and then said quietly, almost to himself, “Courage? That’s a word rarely used with people like me. Yeah, it takes courage.”

Today’s Promise to Consider: Words like strength, courage, and hope are seldom used in the same sentence with addicts. My son and I faced journeys of despair and self-discovery. We both needed courage as we made decisions that would lead to our health and wholeness. My son chose to fight his addiction. I chose to fight my fear. We each chose to change, and we each took action.

 

 

HOW TO LIVE THROUGH ADDICTION and THIS HEALTH CRISIS

Henri Nouwen, priest, professor, and author of 39 books of the spiritual life, teaches that the great challenge in life is living through your wounds instead of thinking through them. For example, it’s better to cry than to worry, and it’s better to feel your wounds deeply than to intellectualize them. It is in our heart where we discover they will not destroy us.

My reflection: I analyze my thoughts. I write about them and talk them to death. When my son was in active addiction, I made myself sick with worry, had difficulty sleeping, and struggled throughout the day to remain present. I finally learned that thinking about and fighting my feelings just made them stronger.

Today’s Promise to consider: Pain is a part of life, but suffering is optional. Today, I will open my heart to my feelings of grief, and I will allow them to simply be with me. I will let them run their course and trust that they will pass in time. Today, I will pray the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

WE ARE NOT ALONE

A mother wrote to me: Two of my three children are addicted to drugs and my life has been forever altered. The relationship between mother and addicted child is unique, but I know that that does not diminish the experiences of other family members. Through group work, I talked with another mother who just found out that her child is addicted. She is panicked, confused, and said that she feels isolated, alone, shamed, scared and angry. I realized that I am not alone.

My reflection: There are four S’s used with addiction: shame, secrets, silence and stigma. We feel as though we are drowning in our own emotions and we don’t know what to do. I kept the secret of my son’s addiction because I felt shame. In silence, the addiction grew. But when I reached out my hand for help, I realized I was not alone.

Today’s Promise: Together we can bring addiction out of the shadows where it can be healed. Our loved ones are fighting a powerful, terrifying force and, today, we will talk with other mothers and fathers and break the silence. In our pain, we will understand. In our stories, we will find hope. In our love, we will continue to believe.

THERE IS FEAR, BUT THERE IS ALSO TRUST … in this crisis and with addiction

Photo Credit: Ferdinando Risi

Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland, wrote:

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them…

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love….

Today’s Promise to consider: Trust and hope matter, now more than ever. A friend from Florence, Italy, wrote, “The canals in Venice are clearing and baby fish are visible; dolphins have reappeared at Trieste; and in Florence the air quality has drastically improved.”

Today, let us trust that, during these uncertain and dark days, there is goodness at work. Today, let us reach out to members of our support group. Today, let us remember that, all across the globe, we are not alone.

 

WHEN OUR CHILDREN ARE IN THE THROES OF ADDICTION, IT’S HARD TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES…BUT WE MUST

A mom wrote to me: Logically I can convince myself I have to let go and not enable my son. I know I can’t do it for him. Then at a stoplight, in the grocery store, or just sitting having coffee, it overcomes me. My tears, my fears, my anger, but most of all my loneliness for my son and all the plans and dreams he/we had. How can I keep pretending day in and out that I am fine? I feel like I’m in the middle of everyone’s anger, blame, confusion, heartache, and loss. How can I be “normal,“ strong, full of faith and hope, and calm for everyone, including me, when I can’t stop crying? How do I keep my marriage and family strong and healthy, and the rest of my life under control, when I am so afraid for my son?

My reflection: This mom’s words hit me hard. How well I remember the tears, fears, anger, and loneliness. How well I remember grieving for the lost dreams and broken promises of a united family. How well I remember trying to be normal, strong, and full of faith and hope, while inside I was dying and overwhelmed with fear for my son.

Today’s Promise to consider: Parents suffer profoundly when our children are in addiction’s grasp. The need to protect them and save them is baked into the marrow of our bones. We try to be strong for our family, and we try to keep hope and faith alive, but it’s hard. I know I can’t fix my child or force him to change his life, but I also know that I can’t force myself not to feel. Today, I will be compassionate with myself. I will be patient with myself. I will pray, go to Al-Anon and family meetings, talk with others, reach out my hand – I will take care of myself.

 

RECOVERING FROM ADDICTION: ACTION TAKES COURAGE

My son’s sponsor wrote, Action takes courage. We often feel like fish out of water, separate and different from the world around us, but fish out of water can learn to swim in a new air of consciousness, and with a new purpose in life. Perhaps our clinging to our addictions keeps us feeling separate – not only dependence on drugs, sex, or alcohol, but also addictions like fear of failure, the need for approval, or fear of desertion. Discover your own power and meaning by having the courage to give up your addictions. Then live your power with courage.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I needed to find my courage to disentangle myself. When the phone rang in the middle of the night, I was distraught. When my son was arrested, I ran to his aid. When he called and needed money for another rehab, I paid – only for him to walk out in short order. Life was a vicious merry-go-round that I couldn’t get off and it was destroying me, until I learned to Stay Close and out of the chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovering from addiction takes courage and action, but so does recovering from loving someone who is in addiction’s grasp. The situation affects the entire family, and we all suffer. Today, I will find my courage and set my boundaries. I will pray for wisdom, and then I will act with purpose and stand strong. As my son’s sponsor wrote – I will live my power with courage.

 

MEETING THE FEROCIOUSNESS OF ADDICTION WITH THE FEROCIOUSNESS OF HOPE AND PRAYER

When I visited my brother this past weekend, he used the word ‘ferocious’ in terms of prayer. I interpreted this word not as vicious or ruthless, but as strength to the nth degree, faith filled with passion and conviction.

For years, I felt ferociousness of a different kind – of anger, both with my suffering son and with addiction itself. What if I had transferred that passion into ferocious prayer and hope?

At the end of my son’s fourteen-year heroin addiction, I learned to stay close with love. This revelation was the product of much pain and suffering. I also learned to find comfort by bombarding the heavens with prayer.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a ferocious disease and it takes over the very soul of the suffering person. Today, I, too, will become ferocious. I will be a mother lion. I will stay strong in love and prayer. I will protect my family, my son, and myself by staying close and out of the chaos. I will pray with vigor and never give up hope.

AL-ANON AND FAMILY SUPPORT GROUPS: WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER

Family and friends

A mother wrote to me: I’ve been to many Al-Anon meetings and they were all terrible experiences. I came away feeling worse and even more hopeless. I know it takes a good fit, but I’ve never found one. Maybe I’m too old for the BS. I have no faith in therapy. I went to a counselor myself and it was a waste of time. A person’s mind is his own and no one else can do anything about it. 

My reflection: I went to three Al-Anon meetings before I found one where I felt comfortable. During the first two, I wept, buried my head in my lap, and never said a word. I left those meetings confused and defeated.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction wants to keep us consumed with feelings of shame and stigma, while it flourishes in the silence. When I finally found my home group, I knew I was surrounded by support and compassion, and I was safe to be vulnerable. Al-Anon became my lifeline. Continuing to reach out a hand for help takes courage, but today, I’ll remember that we’re stronger together.