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.

 

 

ADDICTION CAN MAKE US STRONGER 

My son and I had a conversation about how families survive trauma, particularly with addiction: The dynamics around addiction are complicated and personal to each family. Addiction brings us to our knees, but we don’t have to collapse. Every family trauma – including things like infidelity, financial ruin, legal issues, and death – severely tests us. We have a choice: we can either crumble (which is sometimes the best response in moments of deep pain), or we can gather ourselves up, lean into our community, and push forward. My dad used to tell me, “Daughter, with your children there is no quit.” Families suffering from addiction have the choice to quit, but we also have the choice to prevail. Addiction and other traumas can make us stronger.

My reflection: There is no perfect family. Relationships are inevitably messy, hard, and hurtful. Pain is a bearer of many lessons.

Today’s Promise to consider: Family traumas happen, and every family has them. Addiction is particularly difficult because it wants to suffocate us and take our loved ones away from us, and themselves. But we can survive. We can use these challenges to strengthen our faith, set boundaries, and learn to communicate with compassion. The quality of the family doesn’t depend on living a problem-free existence. It depends on how we navigate life’s many hard issues.

 

THOSE WHO HAVE WALKED-THE-WALK MAKE A DIFFERENCE 

A mom wrote to me: My son is miraculously almost a month sober thanks to some guardian angels in AA, who are showing him there is a better way. He has been to many rehabs, but never fully bought into the message of AA. This time he has been embraced by some very good people, and this has been the missing link all along. The program has done for him what no amount of love, effort, or money has been able to do before.

My reflection: My son was also in dozens of rehabs, half-way houses, and detox centers, and I’m sure they made some difference, like drops of water on a rock. But for fourteen years, he continued his decline into a life of drugs, ultimately heroin, until he was almost dead.

Today’s Promise to consider: We can love, cajole, weep for, and finance our loved ones as they suffer the consequences of their disease, but they are the ones who need to make the final decision to live in the solution. They have to want it and have the courage to fight for it. For my son, the good folks in AA made an undeniable difference. There he found his ‘angels,’ who understood his trauma and supported his many steps along the path to wellness. They had walked-the-walk, and they helped my son find his way out of the chaos of addiction’s grasp.

A TRAILER ANNOUNCING “THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA” featuring Dr. Gabor Maté

THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA is a seven-day series with Dr. Gabor Maté, a Hungarian-Canadian physician, who is a renowned addiction expert. His seminal book In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts draws on science and real-life stories to posit that all addictions originate in trauma and emotional loss. He says that “all is not well” in our society as supported by the rising numbers of addictions, overdoses, suicides, mass shootings, and child abuse. He calls for a more compassionate approach toward the issues facing humanity, especially addiction.

My reflection: Gabor’s movie airs between June 8 – 14, but this trailer touched me deeply. I asked my son to watch it, and he responded, “Maté seems so earnest and dedicated. You can tell he’s driven by a higher calling.” 

Today’s Promise to consider: Education is key to understanding. Today, we have many quality resources, including cutting-edge research in the field of addiction, harm-reduction advances, and help from psychologists, counselors, and those in recovery. Maté emphasizes compassion when dealing with our suffering loved ones. Today, let us  bring the healing light of compassion to trauma and the wounded human soul.

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.

THEY NEED SOMEONE TO BELIEVE IN THEM

A mom wrote to me, As I type this, our son just started methadone treatment, and our daughter is in a 28-day treatment program after being released from detox. I have to admit that I think it’s unfair that both our children are drug addicts, but I never lose faith. I keep praying for them to get well. It has been a nightmare of epic proportions and my husband and I are so very tired of living all that comes with dealing with addicted children. We just want them to get better and be able to lead healthy and productive lives.

My reflection: This mom is correct that addiction is a nightmare of epic proportions. I remember well the depression, the ache, and the suffering that our family endured during Jeff’s illness. I remember praying to find the silver bullet that would cure my son and stop the addiction. Unfortunately, there isn’t one.

Today’s Promise to consider: We all need someone to believe in us. Living in the solution takes monumental faith, courage, and determination from us and our suffering loved ones. While they try to find their way home to themselves, they need to lean on someone else’s strength. Positivity is a super power – one we can transmit. My son once asked me, “Never quit believing, OK, Mom?” I answered, “I won’t quit believing. Never.”

 

CREATING JOY IN THE MIDST OF ADDICTION

Lynn Lyons, LICSW, offered her thoughts about how important it is for us to create moments of joy for our children, especially when we are making our way through difficulties.

Her mother sent her a 15-second video of her 79-year-old father vacuuming while blasting his favorite 50’s music. While she watched her father dance and sing, she said, “It made me have this sense that things will be OK.” She went on to say that our children need to see us laugh, smile, sing, or do anything that shows some happiness. These moments can help our family members feel more secure during the crises of addiction.

My reflection: When my son was using and on the streets, the chaos, worry, and fear affected every part of my life. For example, when my sons were little, we used to dance around the kitchen as I cooked and they helped. When addiction entered our lives, the dancing stopped.

Today’s Promise to consider: This day is all we have, and we’re not entitled to tomorrow or the day after. Yet, we often allow ourselves to become so embroiled with the fear of what might happen in the future, that we forget to create joy today. We forget about self-compassion and self-care. We owe it to our other children, to our husbands or wives, to throw off the shackles of addiction – if even for a moment. Today, let us take a minute or two to smile, dance, sing, or skip. Let us show our family that addiction doesn’t rule our lives.

HOW DO WE FORGIVE?

A dad wrote: I have worked so hard on forgiveness. I have prayed for His Spirit to grant me the gift of forgiveness. I must somehow still be resistant. I sometimes, in prayer, feel I have forgiven, then the past comes back to haunt me and the anger and remembrance of betrayal returns and I am back where I do not want to be. Share with me, how do you forgive and stay in forgiveness?

My reflection: The Big Book tells us that resentments are toxic in the lives of recovering addicts. I think that’s also true for those of us who loved them. Was I resentful and unforgiving when my son was in active addiction? Yes. Did I try to blame others for the pain addiction caused? Yes. Did my resentments help my son? No. Did it help my family? No. Did it help me? No.

Before my mother died, she said, “Forgiveness comes in waves.”

Today’s Promise to consider: I don’t have a personal process for forgiving, but I do know that the release of resentment is central to my wellbeing. It’s easy to ruminate on past hurts, but when I consider the pain and suffering of the other person, it’s sometimes easier to let go of my discomfort. As one mom wrote, “It’s anger that keeps us hostage.” If you have a successful process to forgive, please let us know. We can help each other.

WE MUST BREAK THE STIGMA AND SHAME OF ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: We must break the stigma and shame in order to bring addiction out of the shadows. We need to shine light into our deepest wounds in order to heal. Silence is violence against the truth. Love is the answer.

My reflection: Addiction thrives on pain and chaos. I spent fourteen years trapped in a pattern of fear, defending my heart, trying to protect my family, keeping the secret, and terrified that my son would die. Only when I quit ruminating and began to open up in my support group did the healing begin.  

Today’s Promise: The stigma and shame of addiction keep us locked in silence and secrets. Our minds work overtime as we create scenarios about what might happen because we hope that by anticipating the outcome we will be better prepared for the future. We must not allow ourselves to drown in this quicksand of worry. Our suffering loved ones are already trapped in darkness. Let us release ourselves from the grip of fear. Today, let us raise our voices in hope and love.