“MY MOM WRAPPED HER ARMS AROUND ME”

A young man in recovery wrote to me: My mom told me that reading the book STAY CLOSE was very difficult for her, but that she recognized her own life throughout the story. When she told me this, our conversation was remarkable – the tone of her voice and the way she spoke to me. She seemed calm and, when I said something funny, she laughed. I cannot tell you how long it has been since my mother actually listened to my voice and listened to what I was saying. Something magical happened. She saw me as her son again. She looked me directly in the eyes and finally, after about fifteen years, she was able to stop giving me one-armed, sideways hugs, and instead she wrapped both arms around me. For that, I will be forever grateful.

My reflection: When we open our hearts and listen deeply to our suffering loved ones, we make room for magic to happen. Stories about addiction often allow for that by reminding us that we’re part of a large and worldwide community of others who know our struggles and pain.

Today’s Promise: Those brave souls in recovery desperately want to ‘be seen’ by those they love. They need to feel a connection, especially with their families and, even more so, with their mothers. The young boy above eventually relapsed and passed away, but he left this earth knowing that his mom, “saw me as her son again.” God bless him.

 

 

“I WISH OTHER PEOPLE COULD UNDERSTAND WHAT OUR LIVES ARE LIKE”

A mother wrote to me: My son was handsome, respectful, smart, athletic, and funny. Unfortunately, at fifteen, he made a bad choice to experiment with drugs. His life and ours were never the same. He tried to get clean. In fact, he was clean for forty days before he died. I have been blessed with wonderful people in my life, but I know the average person looks down on people who do drugs. I wish other people could understand what our lives are like.

My reflection: Even with the recent public outcry about addiction and deaths, society often considers the addict an abyss of moral failure. People judge the family as non-caring, absent, abusive, or non-communicative. Those of us who have addicted children know that this illness doesn’t discriminate.

Today’s Promise: Judgment comes swiftly when people hear that our children are suffering from drug abuse. Society criticizes us and holds us at fault, but these are the chains of addiction. Maybe it’s impossible for others to understand the crisis we parents face when the nightmare of addiction enters our homes. Maybe it’s impossible for others to understand the toll it takes on the entire family and the countless efforts we make to stem the tide. I’ve come to realize that all I can do is educate myself, follow my heart, lean into my support group, and pray for my child’s healing.

 

TALK LESS, PRAY MORE

Ten years ago, I wrote a blog entry with the same title…and here I am again, reminding myself that I am powerless over anyone except myself.

My personal reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I talked, ranted, threatened, and cajoled, but words never penetrated the tough exterior of addiction. My words fell on deaf ears and a stone heart. I finally learned to find comfort in talking less and praying more.

Today’s Promise to consider: The mantra, “Talk less, pray more,” is a reminder that I can’t control or change anyone. I can, however, listen more closely, respond with greater compassion and skillfulness, and continue to find strength in my Higher Power. And I will.

NO MOTHER EXPECTS TO FACE THE CHAOS OF ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: With addiction, no mother dreams that she would ever have to do the things she learns to do. How do we keep channels open with our children, while also keeping our boundaries clear? How do we manage self-care so that we can be there the next time, and the next time, and the time after that? Let us never give up on our children, and let us keep hope alive. If the worst were to happen, we can say, “I did the very, very, very best I could do.” Just keep accepting and loving where they are. We are warrior women fighting for clarity in the midst of a disease that brings chaos.

My reflection: There were times during my son’s fourteen-year addiction that I wanted to give up. I just wanted it all to go away, and there were times that I didn’t care if I lived or died. My hope was crushed, and I was devastated by what addiction was doing to my family.

Today’s Promise to consider: When our children are young, we never anticipate that our children will suffer with the disease of addiction. In the face of the chaos, we live a nightmare of pain and trauma. But we are mothers, and we must rise up and be strong. Let us dig deep. Let us engage our support groups and trust our higher powers. We are not alone. We can and must survive.

RAYS OF RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF ADDICTION

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote: People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.

My reflection: Was I resilient through my son’s fourteen-year addiction? Did I withstand adversity and bounce back from the chaos? Did I have an ‘inner light’ that shone through the darkness? For most of those years, the answer is NO, but for the last six months of his journey, the answer is YES.

Today’s Promise to consider: When events in our lives are going smoothly, it’s easy to sparkle and shine, but when things become chaotic and dark, it’s a challenge to keep our emotions steady. Prayer, faith, and hope can help us withstand the barrage of suffering. With addiction and every trauma, let us try our best to dig deep into our spirits to find a light from within. For me, the concept “Stay Close, but out of the chaos” made all the difference and provided a framework to be resilient.

 

 

A TRAILER ANNOUNCING “THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA” featuring Dr. Gabor Maté

THE WISDOM OF TRAUMA is a seven-day series with Dr. Gabor Maté, a Hungarian-Canadian physician, who is a renowned addiction expert. His seminal book In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts draws on science and real-life stories to posit that all addictions originate in trauma and emotional loss. He says that “all is not well” in our society as supported by the rising numbers of addictions, overdoses, suicides, mass shootings, and child abuse. He calls for a more compassionate approach toward the issues facing humanity, especially addiction.

My reflection: Gabor’s movie airs between June 8 – 14, but this trailer touched me deeply. I asked my son to watch it, and he responded, “Maté seems so earnest and dedicated. You can tell he’s driven by a higher calling.” 

Today’s Promise to consider: Education is key to understanding. Today, we have many quality resources, including cutting-edge research in the field of addiction, harm-reduction advances, and help from psychologists, counselors, and those in recovery. Maté emphasizes compassion when dealing with our suffering loved ones. Today, let us  bring the healing light of compassion to trauma and the wounded human soul.

LOVE WILL NOT STOP AN ADDICTION

A mother wrote to me: My son got arrested and we hired a lawyer, bailed him out, but he kept using and stealing. He got arrested again and bailed himself out. We knew he was dying so we asked the lawyer to have the judge put him back in jail. We told our son we would not bail him out, that we loved him but would no longer let his addiction destroy the family. All the love in the world was not enough to make him stop.

My reflection: Dr. MacAfee once asked a young man, “What is your drug of choice?” The boy thought carefully and responded, “More.” MacAfee explained, “His answer was not an attempt at humor. Instead, the group answered with a consensus of silence, affirmative head nods. No addict ever intends to end up where he’s really going.”

Today’s Promise: My addicted loved one is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living. I will not feel betrayed. I will not feel self-blame. I will Stay Close and pray that my suffering child makes the decision to ask for help and change his life.

SOMETIMES IT’S THE PAIN THAT SETS US FREE

A dad wrote to me: For ten years, I fought the chaos of addiction. With each relapse, I blamed both myself and my son. I was enmeshed in saving him and was convinced that I could. Eventually, the disease of addiction created so much pain in me that I could no longer deny the truth that recovery was HIS decision, his choice, and that I was powerless. I joined a 12-step program, educated myself, and sought out professional help. It takes great pain to set us free, but in our own recovery we find renewed strength, peace, and even serenity.

My reflection: I, too, fought the chaos of addiction. It took me fourteen years until I finally ‘let go and let God.’

Today’s Promise to consider: We parents don’t want our children to suffer. We want to protect them from pain, but sometimes it is the pain that sets us free. Many recovering people have told me that they made a decision to change their life when the consequences of their addiction became too heavy to bear. The same often happens to us.

WHEN IT’S YOUR PARENT, BROTHER, SISTER, OR FRIEND

by libbycataldi under family

A young woman wrote to me: Libby, something important struck me when I read this line you wrote  – ‘My child’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living.’ If I replace child with father, this is one of the most impactful and life-altering realizations that helped me heal my relationship with my dad. I saw that he was trapped in a disease rather than deliberately choosing drugs over family.

My reflection: Addiction’s tentacles strangle all of us: children, brothers, sisters, parents, and loved ones. We, as a recovering community, have an obligation to reach out our hands to all those impacted from the effects of this disease.

Today’s Promise: Children of addicted parents, siblings of addicted children, and all those in pain need our support. Our loved ones are alive, under the drugs. My son once told me, “Society loathes addicts, and addicts loathe themselves.” Today, let us not take addiction personally. Let us face it with compassion and take it out of the shadows and into the light where it can be healed.

I’M IN CONTROL OF JUST ONE PERSON: MYSELF

by libbycataldi under family

A dad wrote to me: I got so tired of the lies and the constant drama that our family had to endure. 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 incredibly difficult to admit that we can’t control the behavior of our addicted loved ones. My dad’s words rang in my ears, “Just tell him to stop.” It took me years of pain to realize that my best efforts couldn’t end the chaos of addiction in our family.

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 and the space inside the hoop, “I can control only what’s inside this hoop.” It was a simple visual that resonated deeply with me. My son had his own hoop. I had mine. There’s only room for one in an addiction.