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.

ADDICTION AND THE HOLIDAYS: “IT’S HARD TO CARRY ON”

A mom wrote to me: When people at work talk about their kids and grandkids, I feel myself die inside and hope they don’t ask me about mine because I feel such sadness, shame, and embarrassment. I know my husband and I can’t let our son’s choices dictate our happiness, but it’s so hard to carry on with everyday life when I’m screaming inside with sadness and worry. The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time, but I feel despair. 

My reflection: Addiction is full of shame, secrets, stigma and silence. I remember praying that no one would ask me about Jeff because I didn’t know what to say. I remember lying, “He’s fine. He’s working in Florida,” when in truth he was struggling and in yet another halfway house. I remember trying to feel happiness, but finding it impossible.

Today’s Promise to consider:  Addiction wants to strangle our joy, especially during the holiday season, but we have a choice: We can allow it to rob us and our families, or we can go forward for the rest of our loved ones who gather together. For today, I accept that life can be difficult and I pray that tomorrow will be better. For today, I am grateful for what I have. For today, I will do my best for my family.

ADDICTION: A PRAYER THAT THE GODS STAY CLOSE 

Richard Selzer, surgeon, wrote: I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut the little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles.

“I like it,” he says. “It is kind of cute.”

All at once, I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.

– Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the art of surgery, Simon and Schuster, 1976

Today’s Promise to consider: Our suffering loved ones need healing and, oftentimes, that comes from forces other than parents. Through the grace of the gods, certain people enter their lives, and make a difference. For my son that person was Dr. Patrick MacAfee, an addiction therapist, who with angel wings touched Jeff’s soul. I thank God every day for our beloved MacAfee, and I pray that all suffering people are graced with someone just like him.

 

 

HELP THROUGH ADDICTION: WE ARE NOT ALONE

A mother wrote to me: When we learned that our 19-year-old son was addicted to heroin, I remember praying and searching for other parents who would truly understand. All I really wanted was to talk with another parent – especially a mother – who could really understand the brokenness in that special bond between a son and mother. Al-Anon meetings helped, and our good God led me to a meeting made up mostly of parents of addicted children. 

My reflection: Addiction floods us with emotion and confusion, and we want to command the addiction to go away, order it into the pit of the earth where it belongs. When I was lost in addiction’s grasp, other parents, who walked in my shoes, helped me find my way to sanity, serenity, and faith.  

Today’s Promise to consider: After an Al-Anon meeting, I wrote, “I found a peace that has eluded me. My soul quieted there, in the basement of a church. I heard such pain from others, and I listened intently to how they are struggling to survive. Maybe I can find strength and comfort in Al-Anon, and ultimately in myself.” Today, I will open myself and my story to other parents of addicted children. I know that I am not alone.

ADDICTION HARMS: HURT PEOPLE, HURT PEOPLE

A mom wrote to me: Sometimes, during this nineteen-year journey with my son, it is difficult to see the bridges he continues to burn and how “Hurt People Hurt People.” I will always show him love . . .the one consistency.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, he was forever in pursuit of the next high and in need of the comfort that drugs provided. He was in addiction’s grasp, and he had no ability to think about the hurt that he caused his family, or himself.

Today’s Promise to consider: Suffering people in the clutches of addiction hurt others as a result of their own inner turmoil, distress, and drug use. Today, I will do my best to respond to my child’s pain with compassion and love. If I must keep my distance, I will, but I won’t reply with anger or disgust. As the Dalia Lama said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”