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.

 

ADDICTION TAKES PRISONERS

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. I lay on my bed and didn’t move for two days. He’s presently in an outpatient methadone program. His addiction has claimed him for five years. Methadone is not the permanent answer for my son, but he is doing better. His drug addiction has had such a big impact on our lives. I want to see him whole and clean and well again. His bruises on his arms are fading.

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 in the face of 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 extended family, coaches, teachers, friends, priests and ministers. Especially now, during these troubling times, let us not be defeated. As families, we are powerless to stop addiction, but we can remain faithful and compassionate, while maintaining boundaries to keep our family safe. Let us stay close to our support groups. Let us keep faith and hope alive.

 

I’M IN CONTROL OF JUST ONE PERSON – MYSELF

A dad wrote to me: I am so tired of the lies and the constant drama that our family has had to deal with. We parents care so much for our children that it’s really difficult to watch them self-destruct. I’m getting much better at realizing that I am in control of just one person: myself. I think prayer is the only answer.

My reflection: It’s counterintuitive to admit that we can’t control the behavior of our addicted loved ones, especially when they’re young. It was unfathomable to me that Jeff wouldn’t listen, even when I threatened to make him leave the house, take away his car, or send him to a treatment center in some distant state. My dad’s words rang in my ears, “Tell him to stop, dammit. Tell him to stop.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Once, at an Al-Anon meeting, the speaker held a hula-hoop over her head and then dropped it around her and onto the floor. She pointed to her feet to bring our attention to the space inside the hoop, “I can control only what’s inside this circle.” It was a simple visual that resonated deeply with me. My son had his own hoop. I had mine.

GRATITUDE IN THE FACE OF ADDICTION and CRISIS

A mother wrote to me: When I awake every morning and go to sleep every night I feel God’s presence in my life and the life of my child. My son is good today, but I know it’s one day at a time. Dealing with addiction takes courage, humility, and gratitude: Courage to stay close and to love our child; humility to remember that the addiction is strong and can come back at any time, especially when we least expect it; and gratitude for our daily blessings.

My reflection: Gratitude is powerful, but it can also be elusive. When my son was in active addiction, I was thankful for the very fact that he was still alive. My prayer each morning was, “Dear Lord, thank you for keeping him alive today.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Gratitude, for me, is part of a daily routine that requires deliberate effort. When despair takes over my soul, gratitude is my strongest antidote. This practice keeps me aware that, even though things are difficult, I still have much for which to be thankful. Today, let us dedicate time to our emotional wellness and remember the role gratitude plays in fortifying us.

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.

ADDICTION: OUR LOVED ONE’S HUMANITY IS ALIVE UNDER THE DRUGS

A recovering addict wrote to me: I was a good friend and fellow drug user with your son. I’ve been clean for three years. Your son was one of the few truly decent addicts I ever met, meaning that he had a kind side that most addicts had already destroyed within themselves. He actually CARED about what his drug use was doing to you, his brother, and his dad. I remember when your father died and you had cancer. He drove over to my apartment and we talked late into the night. But after that, we went out and copped more drugs, came back, used, and he called into work and faked sick.

My reflection: This message above didn’t surprise me, but what did surprise me is that I didn’t see my son’s kind side – not in the moment. I knew his true, good nature was under the heroin use, but my anger, disappointment, and deep sadness blunted my vision. It was hard for me to set my own feelings aside long enough to see his anguish and humanity.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a confounding illness. The family lives a tortured existence; the addict lives a tortured existence. My son told me that he was filled with guilt, regret, and self-blame. He says that addicts hate themselves for what they are doing to the people around them, despise the destruction they are causing, but they simply can’t imagine a life without drugs. “I never wanted to hurt you, Mom. I love you. But I’m an addict.” Today, I will keep my heart open and know my son is alive, under the drugs.

ADDICTION: THE JUXTAPOSITION OF ANGER AND LOVE

A mom wrote to me, I made this from your blog entry, The Two Sides of Addiction. The quote is a reminder to always love my addicted child and that I should never be ashamed because of it.

My reflection: I recently read a Facebook post from a mom stating how guilty she felt because she was furious with her heroin-addicted son. I understood well her internal conflict – the juxtaposing feelings of outrage and love. When my son was sick, I felt rage from the excruciating pain caused by the addiction, yet I still loved him dearly. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Bad, ugly, and hurtful behaviors are addiction’s trademarks, and they cut deeply into our hearts. Today, I’ll acknowledge the wide and conflicting range of feelings addiction generates. It’s OK to feel both anger and love.

WHAT DOES ‘LETTING GO AND LETTING GOD’ MEAN?

A mother wrote to me, ‘Letting go and letting God’ must have no strings attached, that is, any expectations of outcomes. Death is a very real outcome in our stories. I remember when a friend confronted me with this. Yes, it is terrifying, and I lived in fear and worry for many years, often reacting in unhealthy ways, trying to fix and control. When I realized nothing I did made my son’s situation any different and, in fact, often made things worse, I hit my bottom. I had to save myself. This did not mean I turned my back on my son. I talked with him often, but I stopped trying to determine if he was sober or if he was using. I realized that I was powerless over another human being, no matter what the situation.

My reflection: Although ‘Let go and let God’ was my mantra for years, I just couldn’t relinquish the thought that I could change my son. I was convinced that love was stronger than the pull of addiction.

Today’s Promise to consider: It’s natural that want to save our children. When they are suffering, we are quick to jump into the fire and rescue them. It took me fourteen years to admit that I was powerless over my son’s addiction. I fought the good fight, but in the end HE had to save himself. Today, I will stay close and love my child, but I will stay out of the chaos of his addiction.

ADDICTION AND RECOVERY: “MIRACLES HAPPENED WHEN I LET GO OF TRYING TO CHANGE AND CONTROL HIM.”

A mom wrote to me: When I hit MY bottom, began to put the focus on ME, and trust my Higher Power, I was finally able to release myself from fear and find true understanding and compassion for my son and myself. When I let go of trying to change and control him, when I granted him the dignity to face his disease on his own terms, it was then – slowly – the miracles began to unfold. Today he has a good job and the fog seems to be lifting, but I have absolutely no sense of what his lifestyle choices are or what tomorrow might bring. His recovery is his own. I cannot live my life based on him, how he looks, how he “seems.” We try to love him as is, right where he is.

My reflection: When I finally surrendered to my son’s addiction, when I finally let go of trying to fix the consequences of his chaos, and when I finally took my hands off the steering wheel of his life, Jeff made the decision to change.

Today’s Promise to consider: There is room for only one person in each addiction – and I am not that person. Today, I’ll concentrate on my own recovery. I’ll start this New Year by trusting my Higher Power, attending Al-Anon or family group meetings, renewing my commitment to working with a sponsor, and prioritizing my physical health. I’ll trust that a miracle will happen if I stay close, but get out of the way.