DSC02457.JPGA mother wrote to me: I am working on the “loving with detachment” issue. I spend hours each day trying to look at where I went wrong as a parent or what I should have done differently. I’ve been to Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and private counseling, but the pain is always there. The best advice I ever received was from my pastor/counselor who told me to, “Keep on telling her you love her and mean it, because you’ll never regret those words.” 

My reflection: There is a Tibetan expression, “Even if the rope breaks nine times, we must splice it back together a tenth time. Even if ultimately we do fail, at least there will be no feelings of regret.”

Today’s Promise to consider: When my addicted love one is unlovable and certainly when he is at his worst, I will continue to tell him that I love him. I can’t fight his battles and I can’t change his life, but I can and will love the man who is under the drugs.




jer and jeffThe sister of a brother, who died of addiction, wrote to me: We lost our brother to a drug overdose at the age of 50. We went though a lot and we always thought he was better and clean. Our parents died years ago and they did everything possible to help him. They lived a frugal existence because they could never deny him help. Do you call that enabling? I don’t know anymore. It was a long, long struggle and now my brother is at peace.

My reflection: What is enabling and what does it look like in a family? We parents see things one way and the siblings see things differently. I don’t believe there are definitive answers, but I think communication and learning are critical. We need to work to keep communication open among all family members and try to understand genuinely their pain. In the end, we must make the decisions that we think are best for our child. As Terry Gorski says, “Society gives us no rules when dealing with addiction.”

Today’s Promise to consider: I will respect the feelings of all the members of my family and try to recognize their points of view. Today, I will listen to their concerns calmly and not become defensive. I will admit that I don’t have all the answers and will explain that I am trying to do what I think is right.





Granddaughter Iysa

Granddaughter Iysa

Jimmy Demers, friend and superb vocalist, inspires the world through music. I listened to this song as I drove through the deserts of California and Arizona last month. The landscape was majestically powerful and so is this track.

My reflection: As I played this song repeatedly, I found myself wondering, what will be my message to the world? What message will my sons, Jeff and Jeremy, leave? We all have a story. The human experience teaches us so much. Is it not our responsibility to share that learning and to leave a message?

Today’s Promise to consider: This song beckoned me to reflect on how I’m living day-to-day and what message I hope to leave when I pass. My answer is clear: Stay Close. Life is difficult and suffering is unavoidable, but the human spirit is strong. I’ll never quit believing in truth, in beauty and in my sons. Addiction tried to rob our family of us, but it didn’t succeed. We learned and grew from the trauma.


Message to the World, written by Terry Coffey and Donnie Demers, sung by Jimmy Demers https://soundcloud.com/musical_wheels/message-to-the-world





Libby, Jeff and Jeremy

Libby, Jeff and Jeremy

A mom wrote to me, As I type this, our son just started methadone treatment, and our daughter is in a 28-day treatment program after being released from detox. I have to admit that I think it’s unfair that both our children are drug addicts, but I never lose faith. I keep praying for them to get well. It has been a nightmare of epic proportions and my husband and I are so very tired of living all that comes with dealing with addicted children. We just want them to get better and be able to lead healthy and productive lives.

My reflection: This mom is correct that addiction is a nightmare of epic proportions. I remember well the depression, the ache and the suffering that our family endured during Jeff’s addiction. I remember praying to find the silver bullet that would cure my son and stop the addiction. Unfortunately, there isn’t one.

Today’s Promise to consider: We all need someone to believe in us and to have faith in our abilities to overcome. The words that I wrote eight years ago remain true today:

“Never quit believing, OK, Momma?”

“I won’t quit believing, Jeff.”







Son Jeremy and Granddaughter Iysa

Henri Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest and theologian, wrote, One of the greatest gifts we can give others is ourselves. We offer consolation and comfort, especially in moments of crisis, when we say, Do not be afraid. I know what you are living and I am living it with you. You are not alone.  (Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life)

My reflection: In my darkest times with addiction and breast cancer, many people offered me advice, solutions or cures. Although I appreciated their concern, the greatest help came from those who merely rested with me, stayed close without any judgment or words of wisdom.

Today’s Promise to consider: When we feel powerless or overwrought with problems, we most need to know that we are not alone, that we are supported without judgment, advice or lecture. Today, let us simply stay together in comfort and understanding.




photo 1-2

Son Jeremy and daughter Iysa

My brother JF wrote: The Christmas of 1991 found me recently separated, and with joint custody of my eleven-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.

After a few hours (of being together with their mother at our family home), I brought them over to my place for a nice lunch…hey, I’m Italian; we gotta eat…and more presents. Finally it was time to return them. I walked them to her door, and then grabbed myself two armfuls of children. “Merry Christmas, kids. I love you very much.” “Merry Christmas, Daddy. We love you, too.”

And as I stood there, the door slowly closed in my face, and the deadbolt clicked into place. I can still hear that click. And I became overwhelmed by the crushing realization that, for the first time since I had my little angels, they would be somewhere on Christmas where I couldn’t go. Where I wasn’t even welcome.

Now intellectually I knew, of course, that not everyone is thrilled on Christmas; that many people get together simply out of habit or obligation. I knew that. But with my emotions wrecked, at every house I passed I was certain that all of them were filled with love and beauty and children and happiness. And the homes with lots of cars out front made me feel even worse.

(The entire article: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/portfolio/2013/12/04/A-dad-s-separation-ended-in-a-pair-of-welcoming-arms.print)

 My reflection: The holidays can be tough times, especially when your child is an addict. I remember well the Christmas of 2006 when neither Jeff nor Jeremy came home. Our lives were chaos. I wept through most days, feeling desperate for the broken state of our family.

Today’s Promise to consider: The holidays are stressful enough without me adding all the expectations of what I think a happy family looks like and acts like. This season, I will be gentle with myself and my loved ones. Yes, I will be gentle.






DSC02891 3*Part I of a series where, each week, one mother or father will share a personal story about addiction.

Sharing my thoughts: The Big Book of AA talks about sharing our “experience, strength and hope.” And that is what Jeff, Jeremy and I strive to do. Our family made many mistakes, but we believe that through the sharing of our experience, we all benefit. I have talked with enough parents and spouses of alcoholics and addicts to know that we can learn from each other. In our pain, we begin to understand; in our collective stories, we listen to find hope; in our love, we continue to believe.

My reflection: I remain humble in the face of addiction and always try to avoid giving advice. Addiction is confounding and I have only one story to tell – my own. But I also live every day in a space of gratitude that Jeff is good today. He is sober and living a productive life. It is through sharing our personal narratives that we learn.

Today’s Promise to Consider: I’m one mother with one story. I don’t have the answers to solving addiction, but I will tell my story of experience, strength and hope. I will share my truths.



Parent Life coaches Leslie Ferris and Cathy Taughinbaugh are hosting a complimentary teleconference on Wednesday, September 18, when we will discuss Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction. I thank Leslie and Cathy for this opportunity to reach out and help others. I hope you can join us or, if not, please pass this on to someone who might find it helpful. Addiction doesn’t discriminate and we are not alone. 

TITLE: Three Big Lessons Learned from Author of Stay Close, Libby Cataldi – Plus Wisdom from Italy Rarely Heard in the U.S. 

DATE: Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TIME: 1:00 PM Pacific, 2:00 PM Mountain, 3:00 PM Central, 4:00 PM EasternThere will be an opportunity for callers to ask questions during our interview.

WHERE: This event is free and via teleconference. Upon registration, you will receive dial-in information via email. 

Can’t make the call live? No worries, a recording will be sent to every registered participant within 24 hours after the event.

Register today at https://3biglessonslearned.eventbrite.com/ or  http://ow.ly/oG35P

“Searingly honest and moving…(Cataldi) has broken the taboos about being the parent of an addict.” New York Daily News




Jer and Jeff - Crop.jpgDr. MacAfee quoted Carl Rogers during a recent conversation: When a person realizes he has been deeply heard, his eyes moisten. I think in some real sense he is weeping for joy. It is as though he were saying, “Thank God, somebody heard me. Someone knows what it’s like to be me.”   (From: Experiences in Communication, Carl Rogers) 

My reaction to this quote: When Jeff was in active addiction, I wanted to talk, to share my wisdom because (obviously) I knew what he need to do to find his health. I prayed for the words that would change his life. How I wish I had that kind of wisdom or power. With both Jeff and Jeremy, the best gift I can give them is to be fully present and to listen, really listen, to their pain, their joy and their journey.

Today’s Promise to consider: I don’t have the answers to my sons’ problems, but I can offer them something better. I can listen, really listen, with my entire being. Today, I will stay quiet and be a witness to whatever they want to tell me.







IMG_0218A personal story for today, March 28, Mom’s birthday: My mother died on December 8, 2012, peacefully and with great faith. One month later, Jeremy, my younger son, opened his sock drawer to dress for a game of tennis when he heard a scrunching sound that he hadn’t heard before. Moving the drawer in and out, he realized the sound was coming from somewhere below, as if captured in the tracks of the drawer. Removing the drawer from its hinges, he found a page on which Mom had handwritten a prayer: 

Ezekial 36, He will pour His spirit upon us and take the stony heart out of our flesh and give us hearts of love.

Jeremy thought no more about this, lay the page on the top of the dresser and went to play tennis. After the game, his friend, who knew nothing about Mom’s prayer, said, “Look at your shirt. You sweated a heart.”

Jeremy looked down and there, on his chest, was the heart pictured here.

 Maybe it was a message from Mom and maybe it wasn’t; however, it is something our family will honor.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will be the best I can be. I will live today with a heart of love. Happy birthday, Mom.