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.

 

IT’S EASY TO JUDGE…UNTIL ADDICTION ENTERS YOUR HOME

Dr. MacAfee once told me: I was often called into court to be an expert witness about addiction. My goal was not to defend anyone, but to share my knowledge and years of experience about the disease and treatment. Usually the judges and attorneys regarded me distantly, even hostilely. But when their child or loved one was in trouble with drugs or alcohol, I was the first person they called.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I felt judged by others, probably because I judged myself harshly for somehow ‘allowing’ addiction to enter our home. Since then, I’ve learned that our brains make involuntary, non-conscious criticisms of people before we even process who they are or what they look like. Judgment is an automatic reflex.

Today’s Promise to consider: Our brains are hard wired to make fast and effortless judgments. It’s one of the ways we keep ourselves safe, but it also can give us faulty information. Those who suffer from addiction are often automatically judged in the most negative of ways, even when the ‘judger’ knows nothing about the situation. We, who love those who suffer, are often the recipients of unsolicited critiques. Today, let us give the gift to others of not judging. Let us try to harness our brain’s automatic reaction. Let us lead with compassion.

DOES OUR RECOVERY AFFECT THEIR RECOVERY?

A dad wrote to me: I sincerely believe that finding my own personal recovery allowed my son to find his own.

This dad’s comment is complimented by Beverly Conyers, who wrote in MomPowerIn the process of taking better care of my own life, my relationship with my daughter gradually improved. And when conflict with me was no longer a convenient excuse for her problems, she was left face-to-face with the consequences of her own choices. That was the beginning of her recovery. 

My reflection: For years, my son’s recovery seemed to be more important to me than it was to him, especially at the beginning, when he lived as he wanted while I immersed myself in fixing his problems. I needed to let go. He needed to confront the consequences of his lifestyle.

Today’s Promise to consider: Is it possible that by taking care of ourselves and working on our own wellness that our suffering loved ones will, eventually, do the same? Is it possible that by establishing firm boundaries that our loved ones will respect our stance? Is it possible that by staying close but out of the chaos of their addiction that our loved ones might decide to take control of their lives? For many of us, the answers are yes.

“SOMEONE I LOVED ONCE GAVE ME A BOX FULL OF DARKNESS” …  ADDICTION

The poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

My reflection: The words ‘love’ and ‘darkness’ are usually contradictory. Most often love is associated with words of light, but shadows take over our world when addiction enters our family.

Today’s Promise to consider: My son, a recovering heroin addict, once gave me a box full of darkness. The poet Mary Oliver was correct that it took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift. The suffering taught me compassion; the sleepless nights taught me to appreciate the sunlight; the near deaths taught me to cherish every breath; and the loneliness taught me to reach out my hand to another. No one wants an addiction, no one wants darkness, but with love we can learn to open our hearts to receive the gifts it offers.

 

ADDICTION THRIVES IN THE DARKNESS

A recovering alcoholic 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.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I kept the silence for many years, allowing shame, guilt, and fear of judgment isolate me. I finally learned that the only way to fight addiction is to bring it into the open. When I was young, we didn’t talk about abortion or homosexuality or even breast cancer. Today, conversations about these topics bring us closer to understanding.

Today’s Promise to consider: Only by lifting addiction out of the shadows and into the light can we truly confront it. Today, let us learn about the disease, participate in support groups, and talk with professionals, other parents, and those courageous souls in recovery. In our pain, we will bond. In our stories, we will find hope. In our love, we will continue to believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADDICTION WANTS TO CONTROL OUR BEHAVIOR. DON’T LET IT.

My son said to me:  I heard an Al-Anon quote that I really liked: I’m not responsible for my first thought, but I am responsible for my first action. To me, this means that the mind will react as it does. I don’t have control over its racing thoughts, but I do have control over my behavior in response to them.

My reflection: This saying reminded me of my son’s many years in active addiction when I felt compelled to respond immediately. When he’d call and make demands for money or to be bailed out of jail, I felt a grip in my heart to answer on the spot. It took me years to realize that even though my mind went into overdrive, I could give myself the dignity of time before making a decision.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction wants attention and our immediate response. It thrives on fear, chaos and disruption, but we don’t have to comply. When our minds begin to race with confusion, I will take the time to breathe and pray before I act. Today, I won’t allow addiction to dictate my behavior.

 

NARCAN: ONE MOTHER SAVED HER SON’S LIFE

A mom wrote to me: Two weeks ago, one of my worst nightmares occurred. My son, who had been ‘clean for 3 years,’ overdosed in my house. Luckily, his friend went to check on him, and found him down. I had Narcan in the house and, thankfully, it saved his life. I never heard him come into the house and never heard him drop to the floor. If his friend hadn’t checked on him, my son would be dead! I still cannot get the image of his face, blue and not breathing, out of my head. I thank God that I had Narcan in my home. Now, all of my family members carry it, even my son.

My reflection: This is a wake-up call to all of us. I asked my son, who is fourteen-years sober from a heroin addiction, if he thought it would be good for our family and all families to have Narcan on hand. His response was clear, “Yes, Narcan is a lifesaving tool and I think it’s important to have at the ready for families with a history of opiate addiction, no matter how long it’s been dormant.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Relapse can happen, especially now with our loved ones facing an avalanche of modern stressors. With so many drugs laced with deadly Fentanyl, the chances of death loom even larger. Today, let us each think about having Narcan available in our homes. We never know what might happen, and we need to be prepared even when we think we won’t need it. Our quick response can save lives.

OVERDOSES: AN ALARMING NATIONAL INCREASE

The Washington Post reports that drug overdoses nationally jumped 18% in March, 29% in April, a staggering 42% in May.

Nationwide, federal and local officials are reporting alarming spikes in drug overdoses – a hidden epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic. Emerging evidence suggests that the continued isolation, economic devastation, and disruptions to the drug trade in recent months are fueling the surge. The American Medical Association recently issued a warning, citing reports from officials in 34 states about the increased spread of such synthetic drugs and rising overdoses….Research has established strong links between stagnating economies and increases in suicides, drug use, and overdoses. In recent years, economists Anne Case and Nobel Prize-winner Angus Deaton have dubbed such increasing fatalities as “deaths of despair.”

 ‘Cries for help’: Drug overdoses are soaring during the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post, William Wan and Heather Long

My reflection: These numbers are terrifying. While our country is embroiled in many difficult issues, addiction help and resources have become even more limited. Addiction, overdoses, and deaths are on the rise, and we must pay attention.

Today’s Promise to consider: This is a call to awareness. The statistics say it all: in the month of May, there was a 42% national increase in overdoses. Today, let us be extra attentive to the condition of our loved ones, to their despair, and to their wellness. Addiction is called the ‘disease of isolation.’ Let us reach out to our loved ones, check in on them, and remind them that they are loved and supported. Let us join voices and form a chorus of strength.

 

 

 

 

 

ADDICTION: WHERE DO WE FIND PEACE?

A mother wrote to me: My daughter has been in sober houses, psychiatry hospitals, jails, and detoxes. She’s attempted suicide. Like a merry-go-round, she’s been sober, until she wasn’t. I can’t make her do what she refuses to do. If I could climb into her body, I would. But I can’t. It’s her journey.

I always thought that if she was okay, I would have peace. Now, I realize that it’s not her job to bring me peace. That’s a tall order to put on my addicted child…and it’s not what she needs to do. Her peace must come from living in the solution. My peace must come from inside me, from my Higher Power.

My reflection: For the fourteen years of my son’s addiction, I ached for peace, the peace I thought I would surely find if he were sober. His addiction demanded center stage in my life, and the consequences of his actions overtook me at every turn. Whether it was detoxes, car crashes, or arrests, he was always on my mind and, when he wasn’t and I experienced moments of joy, I soon returned to my mental machinations about what would happen next.

Today’s Promise to consider: Our peace must come from within. It can’t be contingent on the rise and fall of our child’s addiction because, if it does, our serenity rests on the surface of a rolling sea. Additionally, it’s not our suffering loved ones’ responsibility to bring us peace. It’s their job to fight for their sobriety. Let us pray them home.