WE ARE NOT ALONE: IN ADDICTION OR ANY CRISIS

La Vogalonga, Venice, Italy

My son wrote this about his first rehab center (he was nineteen years old): I was shocked that there were no feelings that were uniquely mine. I still owned the details, but there was a community of other people across all ages that used drugs as I did and faced issues similar to mine. On some level, everyone was dealing with the same types of broken relationships, legal issues, and personal shame. I remember being comforted by the commonalities.

My reflection: Addictions have many things in common and this is one reason why Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon work. Within the group, we see ourselves and hear our pain expressed by others. We learn that we’re not alone. My son found comfort in this, and so did I.

Today’s Promise to consider: In our trauma, we find solace with others. In our stories, we learn. Today, I will acknowledge the addiction and allow myself to get help from others. I must give myself the gift of learning from other’s pain. Even though I resisted attending Al-Anon and family group meetings for several years, they became my lifeline. They didn’t fix the addiction, but they helped me to fix myself. I learned that I was not alone.

 

HOPE WHEN THERE IS NO HOPE – WITH ADDICTION AND DURING THESE TROUBLING DAYS 


2018 International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission, Dragon Boat Festival

A mother wrote to me, When my son was in active addiction, my mother always said to me, “Hope when there is no hope.” I have repeated this over and over again through the years, and it has always brought me comfort. She also said, there is no sense worrying – it doesn’t help anything, it doesn’t change anything, it just makes us miserable. Give it all to God. Hope when there is no hope. Amen.

My prayer for today: Today, let us join together in solidarity as we face the crises that confront us individually and as a global community. Today, let us help one another and reach out our hand in love and unity. Today, let us give our burdens to our Higher Power, the God of our understanding, because worrying doesn’t change anything. Today, let us hope when there is no hope. Amen.

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.

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: 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.

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.

ONLY LOVE CAN GIVE A PARENT THE STRENGTH TO GO ON

A friend wrote to me: No mother is born equipped to fight a battle like addiction. Only love can give a parent the strength to go on. Feelings of guilt, weakness, and total confusion: I know these emotions very well. I also know that in the long run we can wear out. But in the end, each of us must fight our own battles. There is no path that works for all; there are no rules.

My reflection: I felt all these emotions: guilt for somehow ‘allowing’ addiction to take hold in my family, regret for not seeing the problem sooner, confusion as to what to do to help my addicted son and my younger son, who was affected by it, and deep grief at the chaotic lives we were living, all the while knowing I was powerless to rescue my family.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are no hard-and-fast rules to guide a parent when faced with her child’s addiction. I’ve learned that education, support groups, and insights from recovering addicts themselves are critical, but the final decisions must be ours – and ours alone. During my son’s fourteen-year illness, I made many mistakes, but I never let go of love and hope. They were the oxygen that gave me the strength to stay close and go on.

RECOVERY: STARTING LIFE OVER, WITH A MEMORY OF A LIFE BEFORE

Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction therapist, wrote, Learning to live drug free touches every facet of a recovering person’s life. He has to learn to laugh without using. He has to learn to “do today” without using. He has to learn to be intimate without using. There is no part of his existence untouched by his drug history. It is literally like starting his life over, yet with a memory of a life before.

My reflection: I remember well the day Jeff and I talked with a group of young recovering people, who were attending a sober living high school in Texas. One boy said, “I can’t listen to the same music as before. I have to find new music that I like.” Jeff responded, “I understand. When I got sober, I didn’t even know what color I liked best.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Compassion for recovering addicts is imperative. They have to relearn everything: ways to be social on a Saturday night, what to do on a date, and how to relate to themselves without the cloak of drugs and alcohol. As Dr. MacAfee writes, “It’s literally like starting life over, yet with a memory of a life before.” Today, I’ll remember the courage it takes for my loved one to begin anew.

HOPE IS FRAGILE; FEAR IS POWERFUL

A mother wrote to me: I’m giving up on prayer, I’m afraid. Recovery was going well, I thought. My son was making meetings, new job he likes, nice girlfriend. I was beginning to trust and hope. In the last week, money taken from my purse, relapse, violation of probation. Now it’s back to court and maybe prison this time. I can’t do this again.

My reflection: Fear is powerful. There were many times when my son was in active addiction that I, too, was in danger of giving up hope. Sometimes it felt easier to abandon hope and faith than to risk them being crushed, again.

Today’s Promise to consider: If we lose faith and hope, all is lost. We need to stay close to our children, while allowing them to fight their own battles. I will never give up hope that my child finds her way back home.

A PRAYER

This is my daily prayer: Dear Lord, Remove the veils so I might see what is really happening and not be intoxicated by my stories and my fears. 

– Written by Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of Omega Institute, adult education center, focusing on health, wellness, spirituality, and creativity.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I was rooted in stories and fears. If I didn’t hear from him, I fell prey to contriving horrendous situations that I could imagine happening. When I did hear from him, I constructed other sequences of foreboding times ahead. Bottom line is that I was never present, and never at peace.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction plunges us into despair as we construct stories in our heads. We fear the worst: jails, hospitals, and death. Today, I’ll work to get out of my head and out of my stories. I’ll pray for my loved one. I’ll pray for her safety and ultimate recovery.