NURTURE YOUR SOUL: ADDICTION AND THIS PANDEMIC

There are similarities between addiction and this pandemic. I find myself struggling with the familiar feelings of uncertainty and fear, so I talked with a friend about it. After the phone call, she wrote and gave me sensible advice, “Maybe it would be good if you took some time for yourself. Try and read a book to soothe your soul, cook, bake, meditate, or listen to music. Do whatever you can do to take care of yourself.  Remember Loving-Kindness goes both ways – to others and to ourselves.”

My reflection: All of us, who are living with or have lived with addiction, know well the feelings of distress, of waiting for the other shoe to drop, or of holding our breath when the phone rings at night. We also know how easy it is to overlook self-care when tensions run high.

Today’s Promise to consider: After living through an addiction, I’m no stranger to uncertainty or fear. Maybe this pandemic touches those same emotions that were once so fragile. Today, I will take steps to counteract suffering by practicing Loving-Kindness to myself. When we are happy, we are better for ourselves and others. Let us water those seeds that most support us.

 

 

 

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.

ADDICTION: DOES HOPE REALLY SPRING ETERNAL?   

Poet Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Man (1732) that hope springs eternal. Is it true? 

A mother wrote to me: I am the mother of two sons. The older one is fine, but my younger son is an addict currently working on recovery, again. I’ve been down this road so many times before that it’s hard to be hopeful, but it’s impossible for me not to hope.  During all the years we’ve battled this disease, I haven’t given up on him. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It just is. 

My reflection: We don’t know when our suffering loved one will start to live life in the solution. We pray that today is the day that our child takes control over his life, but relapse happens. How many relapses does it take? The answer is different for every family.

Today’s Promise to consider: I don’t know how long addiction will rein terror in the life of my loved one or my family, but I will continue to pray, to hope, and to seek the counsel of my support group. Even though parents will be sorely tested, it’s simply not in our nature to give up on our children. Where there is life, there is hope.

WHEN OUR CHILDREN ARE IN THE THROES OF ADDICTION, IT’S HARD TO TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES…BUT WE MUST

A mom wrote to me: Logically I can convince myself I have to let go and not enable my son. I know I can’t do it for him. Then at a stoplight, in the grocery store, or just sitting having coffee, it overcomes me. My tears, my fears, my anger, but most of all my loneliness for my son and all the plans and dreams he/we had. How can I keep pretending day in and out that I am fine? I feel like I’m in the middle of everyone’s anger, blame, confusion, heartache, and loss. How can I be “normal,“ strong, full of faith and hope, and calm for everyone, including me, when I can’t stop crying? How do I keep my marriage and family strong and healthy, and the rest of my life under control, when I am so afraid for my son?

My reflection: This mom’s words hit me hard. How well I remember the tears, fears, anger, and loneliness. How well I remember grieving for the lost dreams and broken promises of a united family. How well I remember trying to be normal, strong, and full of faith and hope, while inside I was dying and overwhelmed with fear for my son.

Today’s Promise to consider: Parents suffer profoundly when our children are in addiction’s grasp. The need to protect them and save them is baked into the marrow of our bones. We try to be strong for our family, and we try to keep hope and faith alive, but it’s hard. I know I can’t fix my child or force him to change his life, but I also know that I can’t force myself not to feel. Today, I will be compassionate with myself. I will be patient with myself. I will pray, go to Al-Anon and family meetings, talk with others, reach out my hand – I will take care of myself.

 

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.

 

AL-ANON AND FAMILY SUPPORT GROUPS: WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER

Family and friends

A mother wrote to me: I’ve been to many Al-Anon meetings and they were all terrible experiences. I came away feeling worse and even more hopeless. I know it takes a good fit, but I’ve never found one. Maybe I’m too old for the BS. I have no faith in therapy. I went to a counselor myself and it was a waste of time. A person’s mind is his own and no one else can do anything about it. 

My reflection: I went to three Al-Anon meetings before I found one where I felt comfortable. During the first two, I wept, buried my head in my lap, and never said a word. I left those meetings confused and defeated.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction wants to keep us consumed with feelings of shame and stigma, while it flourishes in the silence. When I finally found my home group, I knew I was surrounded by support and compassion, and I was safe to be vulnerable. Al-Anon became my lifeline. Continuing to reach out a hand for help takes courage, but today, I’ll remember that we’re stronger together.

 

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: ‘YOU DIDN’T CAUSE IT, YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT, AND YOU CANNOT CURE IT.’

A mother wrote to me: Addiction is a humbling experience – it brings us to our knees – literally! All we can do is get down on those knees and ask God to take care of our addict, “Let Go and Let God.” We learned this the hard way because before we came to the ‘rooms’ we thought we could control it. I remember my first meeting when a wonderful lady put her arm around me and said, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you cannot cure it.” This was immediately a relief to me. Up until then I believed I had failed my son and carried so much guilt for his addiction.

My reflection: During many of the years of my son’s fourteen-year heroin addiction, I thought it was my fault because I must have failed him. Thoughts plagued me, “I should have spent more time at home,” “I worked too much,” “I punished him instead of listening,” and “If I had interceded earlier, the addiction wouldn’t have taken root.”

Today’s Promise to consider: We often blame ourselves for our loved one’s addiction, convinced we’ve done something wrong. In the rooms of Al-Anon, we learn that we didn’t cause it, we can’t control it, and we cannot cure it, but that we can contribute to it. Today, I will give up my feelings of guilt. I will learn how to support my child as HE works to find sobriety and to live in the solution.

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 AND THE HOLIDAYS

I wrote this in Stay CloseDuring the Christmas of 2006, when neither son came home for our large Italian family gatherings, the grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends didn’t know what to do. My brothers didn’t know what to say. They didn’t even know whether to invite me to the festivities or not. The cousins were confused: Could they ask about Jeff or would it be kinder to leave him out of the conversation?

My reflection: I remember well that Christmas Eve Mass when my older brother turned gently toward me and said, “Not sure I should ask but – how’s Jeff?” As I looked at him, my eyes welled with tears. I opened my mouth to respond, but I was unable to say a word. He just nodded and we both turned forward. The question floated in the air.

Today’s Promise to consider: During the holidays, let us remember that addiction can severely isolate us. We might feel ashamed and lonely because our lives are not as joyful as we wish they would be. I will avoid this treacherous place by being compassionate with myself and my family. I will find serenity in honesty and prayer.