ADDICTION: THERE IS NO BLAME

A mother wrote to her son:

As ashamed as you are
I, too, feel the same
But you or myself
Are not the ones to blame

My reflection: For most of my son’s addictive years, I wanted to blame someone, even myself. One of the major tenets of Al-Anon is: You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it; you didn’t make him a drug addict.

Today’s Promise to consider: I wanted to blame someone, anyone for my son’s addiction, even me. I’ve worn the yoke of guilt for years; better my fault than my son’s. It took me fourteen years and continual heartbreaks to realize – and accept – that blame is counterproductive. Today, let us put negative emotions behind us and move forward with hope and faith.

ADDICTION AND SORROW

Therapist Francis Weller writes: Grief and loss touch us all, arriving at our door in many ways. It comes swirling on the winds of divorce, the death of someone dear, as an illness that alters the course of a life. Left unattended, these sorrows can seep underground, darkening our days. This requires finding meaningful ways to speak of sorrow. It requires that we take up an apprenticeship with sorrow. Learning to welcome, hold, and metabolize sorrow is the work of a lifetime.

Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief, 2015

My reflection: Addiction is laden with grief. Even though my son is healthy today, I still feel grief – grief for our many years of suffering, grief for the burden he yet carries, grief for families still caught in addiction’s grasp.

Today’s Promise to consider: Many of us know grief intimately as we have suffered intense trauma and even the loss of loved ones. Instead of anesthetizing our grief, let us open our hearts to it. Let us acknowledge it, feel it, share it within our recovering communities, and attend to it. Let us hold it with tenderness and respect. Today, let us invite the healing balm of attention to comfort us and guide us to hope.

ONE RECOVERING ADDICT’S THOUGHTS ABOUT RELAPSE

 A mom wrote to me: I remember my son saying two things to me about relapse:
1) Relapse is part of recovery, but not an excuse for me to use again. If I do relapse, it is on me. 2) I am not “cured.’ I am an addict getting better, but the pilot light is always on.

 

After the death of my son, my advice to parents is to just keep loving your child, exactly where he is on this journey. Say I love you often. Accept that you are powerless except in prayer and mother love. You will never regret your kindness and firmness.

My reflection: It took me years to understand that relapse wasn’t my son’s attempt to betray me and our family, and it wasn’t his desire to hurt us, but it was just what it was – a lapse and then a relapse. Relapse wasn’t the time for me to say to him, “Ah, I caught you. You did it again,” but it was the time to say, “Fight. I believe in you. You CAN do it. You are loved.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying that while the addict is in recovery, their addiction is in the parking lot doing pushups, biding its time and getting ready to pounce. Today, let us recognize that recovery is a journey, sometimes with many hills and deep valleys. Let us have love and pride for those who are living in the solution, and compassion and hope for those who are struggling.

 

ADDICTION: NO PLACE TO JUDGE 

A son of alcoholic parents wrote to me: My parents struggled with alcoholism for most of their adult lives. Alcohol was a curse on my family, but we learned to “stay close” and support one another. My parents were in pain. It is not our place to judge. 

My reflection: Addiction affects all of us: parents, sibling, child, cousin, teacher and coach. We all suffer, but many children, who live with addicted parents, carry scars from their earliest years, ones that can negatively affect relationships and last forever. I don’t know their walk, but I feel the heaviness of their pain.

Today’s Promise to consider: The young man who wrote to me grew up in a home where both his mom and dad battled alcoholism. Instead of ugliness and anger, he chooses to summon compassion. Not an easy approach to take, but today, let us all follow his example. No one has the right to judge how we should feel about our suffering loved ones.

WITH ADDICTION, “I FOLLOWED MY HEART”

A dad wrote to me, I followed my heart, my natural parental instincts fueled by love. My twenty-one years of experience and education dealing with my son’s addiction have allowed me to forgive myself. What others consider as parent mistakes are simply necessary experiences that must be encountered in order to understand the disease and, therefore, to begin a successful journey to personal recovery, which will include the necessary tools to appropriately support the child’s recovery.

My reflection: For years, I beat myself up ruminating on all the mistakes I had made during my son’s fourteen-year addiction: I enabled, gave him money that he used for drugs, made countless excuses for his problematic behavior, and became so distracted that I failed to see the needs of my family.

Today’s Promise to consider: This dad writes that parent mistakes are necessary learning experiences. His words gave me another way of looking at my actions in the face of my son’s addiction. Compassion and forgiveness go both ways – to the addicts, but also to those of us who love them.

WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES WITH ADDICTION

A mother wrote to me: My son died of a heroin overdose. I need to forgive myself for all the mistakes I made. I try to understand why he couldn’t just stop what he was doing to himself. It isn’t as simple as people want to make it. I live with the pain of not being able to help my son when he needed it, but I get up everyday and try to live my life the best I know how. I still feel that I hide from so many people who can’t understand what it was like to live with a son I loved and couldn’t help before it was too late.

My reflection: We live with the pain of not being able to help our loved one. My son once said, “I wanted to get clean and I loved my family, but I couldn’t go the next day without drugs.” Drugs are stronger than we are strong.

Today’s Promise to consider: We try desperately to do the right thing for our addicted loved ones, whatever that means in our particular circumstance. Sometimes mistakes are made. Today, I will forgive myself. I will go forward, one step at a time and accept that there are no clear answers with addiction.

 

 

LOVE IS THE WAY TO BEAT DOWN ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: Love is the way to wear down the demon of addiction. Not fear. You will never regret your loving response in the face of the chaos of addiction. Miracles happen. Souls do come back from the darkness.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I lived in constant fear: fear of the phone call in the middle of night, fear of another arrest, and fear of death. Fear was a constant companion. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Love might not change the course of addiction, but it opens the space for us to confront addiction with greater equilibrium, faith, and hope. Today, I’ll put fear aside and bring compassion forward because, if the worst happens, I will never regret responding with love.

BE SENSITIVE TO WHAT WE SAY

A friend of mine wrote: With addiction, we need to be cautious not to malign the reputation of our loved one by confessing their troubles, even when they cause us trouble. Although their behavior may sometimes be unacceptable, I recognize that they’re deep in the clutches of their disease.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I operated from a space of hurt, confusion, and anger. In that anger, I often said things that maligned his character and cut deep wounds. My friend’s words flooded me with memories, many I wish I could erase.

Today’s Promise to consider: These wise words hit me hard. How many times I didn’t protect my son with my speech. When my anger took hold, nothing good came from it. I’m so sorry, Jeff. Today, I stand tall for my son.

ON MOTHER’S DAY

I once asked Jeff a ‘mother’ question, not a great question, but I asked: “Didn’t you see how you were hurting yourself and the people who love you? Didn’t you want to stop all the chaos like arrests and near death? Jeff, why didn’t you stop?”

He looked at me, weary, and sighed, “You still don’t get it, do you? After writing this entire book, you still don’t understand that I never wanted to hurt you – I wanted to protect you from all of it, to keep you out of it and to the side. You’ve written about me at my worst, my most vulnerable, my most desperate. I’m an addict. I was addicted. An addict doesn’t want to hurt those he loves, but he can’t stop using drugs – oftentimes until death.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Addicts don’t want to hurt us – their mothers, fathers, brothers, or sisters. Drugs are powerful, and they take our addicted loved ones under, under into chaos and desperation. I will remember that addiction smashes love. Today, I’ll keep loving my child who is under the drugs.

THE STRESS OF ADDICTION TAKES A TOLL

A dear friend, the mother of a recovering addict, recently wrote to me: I suffered greatly for ten long years with my son’s addiction. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was the importance of never loosing my voice to express my feelings, thoughts, and fears. I’ve also learned that that my body won’t be silenced either. If I waiver or loose focus on my personal self care, my body reacts (illness, rashes, digestive issues, fatigue, headaches, depression) and reminds me it has a voice too. I must continue to listen to my inner voice and stay balanced. It is essential for my health.

My reflection: The fact that our bodies react to stress is medically substantiated. Addiction brings incredible tension, especially to the family of the sick loved one. When my son was in active addiction, I plastered a smile on my face and went to work. I could fool some people, but I couldn’t fool my body. My health suffered.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction takes a hard toll on our spirit, mind, and body. The longer stress lasts, the more damaging it becomes. Those of us who love addicts often live with chronic tension. Today, I will pay attention when my body gives me signs and work on developing a specific program that helps me relieve stress: running, writing, taking to my support group, meditating, and praying. I must take care of myself.