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.

BE A BEACON OF LIGHT FOR OUR CHILDREN

A mom wrote to me: Just as our children need to learn how to live in recovery, so do we. We can’t look back, and we must look forward. Using the tools we now have, let us be a beacon of light so our children know where we are when they’re ready.

My reflection: Placing a burning candle in the window is a tradition that dates back to colonial times as a sign that says you’re welcome here, we’re waiting for you.When my son was in active addiction, I wanted him to know that home was waiting for him when he was ready to live in the solution.

Today’s Promise to consider: We can be a beacon of light for our children. When they are drowning in the waves of addiction, they are lost to themselves and to us. Their life is focused on the chase of the high, and there is nothing but darkness. We can stand as a light that says, “When you are ready, your family and life are waiting for you.” We want our children to glow in the world, but maybe we need to teach them how by our example.

NEVER GIVE UP

A mom wrote to me: I only know that to keep on loving is something one never regrets. I only know that hope and prayer work, even if prayers are not answered as we hope. I only know that finding a community can help us do more than survive. There we can find courage when we are most afraid, and there we can find a kind of grace and peace when we most need it.

My reflection: Addiction brings us to our knees, but we can (and must) find the strength to go forward. We have a choice: We can either crumble, and sometimes we do, or we can gather ourselves up and push forward. My dad used to tell me, “Daughter, with your children there is no quit.”

Today’s Promise to consider: There is no perfect family. Our closest relationships are inevitably painful, messy, and hard. The quality of family doesn’t hinge on living a problem-free existence, but rather on how we handle the tough issues. We can use these challenges to strengthen our faith, set boundaries, and learn to communicate with compassion and loving-kindness. Pain can be the bearer of many lessons.

ADDICTION AND SORROW

Therapist Francis Weller writes: Grief and loss touch us all, arriving at our door in many ways. It comes swirling on the winds of divorce, the death of someone dear, as an illness that alters the course of a life. Left unattended, these sorrows can seep underground, darkening our days. This requires finding meaningful ways to speak of sorrow. It requires that we take up an apprenticeship with sorrow. Learning to welcome, hold, and metabolize sorrow is the work of a lifetime.

Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief, 2015

My reflection: Addiction is laden with grief. Even though my son is healthy today, I still feel grief – grief for our many years of suffering, grief for the burden he yet carries, grief for families still caught in addiction’s grasp.

Today’s Promise to consider: Many of us know grief intimately as we have suffered intense trauma and even the loss of loved ones. Instead of anesthetizing our grief, let us open our hearts to it. Let us acknowledge it, feel it, share it within our recovering communities, and attend to it. Let us hold it with tenderness and respect. Today, let us invite the healing balm of attention to comfort us and guide us to hope.

ADDICTION IS ISOLATION; RECOVERY IS CONNECTION

Tara Brach told this story: In the first week of life of a set of twins, each one was isolated in her respective incubator. One was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought against the rules and placed both babies in one incubator. When they were together, the healthier of the two threw an arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. The smaller baby’s heart rate stabilized and her temperature rose to normal. Through connection and love, the weaker twin went on to live and thrive.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, the standard advice for parents was tough love. Although there were some aspects of merit to this thought, in Italy I learned a more effective approach for our family: “Stay Close. Don’t abandon him, but stay out of the chaos of his addiction.” By staying close, my son knew my boundaries, yet he also felt connected. He knew he was not alone in his battle.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, let us remember Rumi’s words:

Through love all that is bitter will be sweet. 

Through love all that is copper will be gold.

Through love all dregs will become wine.

Through love all pain will turn to medicine. 

Let us join together in prayer that love will be the healing energy in our suffering ones’ lives.

THREE OUT OF THREE: ADDICTION DOESN’T DISCRIMINATE  

A mother wrote to me: I have three children all touched by addiction: A daughter who is doing well in an extended-care program, a son who has been in and out of several rehabs and is currently in jail, and another child who was recently arrested while in a drunken rage for fighting. We are a “normal” family, kids raised in the Church with both parents who were very involved and loving. 

My reflection: How much pain must a parent carry? This mother reminds us that addiction is a disease. It happens in all types of families – spiritual or not, loving or not, and supportive or not. It is an illness and, maybe, no other explanation is necessary.

Today’s Promise to consider: Society often stereotypes those suffering from addiction as coming from neglectful, broken, uneducated, or economically disadvantaged families. Society is wrong. Addiction touches people regardless of wealth, religious affiliation, or family solidarity. Today, let us reach out a hand to another. Let us bring addiction out of the shadows. Society might be mistaken, but we know better.