WHEN DEALING WITH ADDICTION, EXHAUSTION INTERFERES WITH CLARITY

A mom wrote to me: With addiction, love never dies, but exhaustion can interfere with clarity and decisions. Big picture thinking makes for resilient, compassionate hearts.

My reflection: The words above resonate deeply with me. When my son was in active addiction, exhaustion took a mighty toll on all of us, even him.

Today’s Promise to consider: No matter how much we love someone, exhaustion can take over in the face of hardship. It’s our body’s natural reaction to all the chaos, trauma, problems, money issues, car crashes, fights, physical depletion, and emotional desperation. During my son’s fourteen-year addiction, I finally learned to wait 24 hours to make any important decision. Why? Because most of my immediate decisions were hasty and reactive. Today, let us care for our own needs first. Let us strengthen our inner resources before we respond.

“I DON’T WANT TO BREATHE MY FEAR INTO YOU”

I talked with a friend, whose son is suffering from substance abuse, and I was moved by her words to her son. “I believe in you,” she told him, “Sure I’m afraid of what the future holds for you and our family, but I don’t want to breathe my fear into you. I want to give you hope.”

My reflection: There is a song lyric that I memorized years ago, “Fear can be catching worse than a cold.” Research indicates that emotions are ‘contagious,’ and that negative emotions transfer most easily. When my son was in active addiction, I’m sure he saw tension in my eyes and heard anxiety in my voice, more often than he saw or heard peace or compassion.

Today’s Promise: It’s difficult for our suffering loved ones to carry our anxieties, as well as their own. When they are in the throes of their addiction, they are struggling with obsession, shame, and the chase of the drug. When they are in early recovery, they face countless fears daily – how to get a job, how to pay rent, and how to go the next day without drugs. Today, I’ll try to bolster my serenity and breathe hope into my loved one.

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.

NO MATTER HOW LONELY, YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Mary Oliver wrote: 

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.            
 

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I suffocated in my aloneness. I trusted very few people, felt humiliated by all that was happening in our family’s chaotic life, and looked at other supposedly happy families with envy. Living in addiction’s grasp was the most isolated time of my life.

Today’s Promise to consider: When our families are battling addiction, we feel alone, desperate, and isolated. Poet Mary Oliver offers us an expansive idea of where we can find peace. If comfort doesn’t exist in another person or group, we can access nature’s bounty – both our physical environment and our spiritual selves. Today, let us open our spirits, walk in the woods, breathe sea air, feel the rhythm of the seasons, and find abundance in life, and in our own souls. We can feel lonely in a crowd, but we can feel whole in the natural world that surrounds us.

 

 

WITH ADDICTION, HOW DO WE TRANSFORM DISAPPOINTMENT, FRUSTRATION, AND ANXIETY?

A dad wrote: Through my son’s addiction, I learned to be forgiving and not disappointed, I learned to be loving and not frustrated, I learned to be patient and not anxious. Our children find recovery in their own way and in their own time.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I never quit loving him, but I certainly was disappointed and anxious. I was also cloaked in deep fear and worry. I’m sure my son felt my emotions and, probably, registered them as rejection.

Today’s Promise to consider: We want our children to be safe, healthy, and happy, but addiction overwhelms with fear, disappointment, and frustration. The father who wrote learned how to transform his negative feelings into gestures of love, forgiveness, and patience. Isn’t that what all our children deserve, especially those who are suffering from the disease of addiction? As hard as it can be, today and tomorrow, and tomorrow again, let us choose love.

 

 

ADDICTION IS ISOLATION; RECOVERY IS CONNECTION

Tara Brach told this story: In the first week of life of a set of twins, each one was isolated in her respective incubator. One was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought against the rules and placed both babies in one incubator. When they were together, the healthier of the two threw an arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. The smaller baby’s heart rate stabilized and her temperature rose to normal. Through connection and love, the weaker twin went on to live and thrive.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, the standard advice for parents was tough love. Although there were some aspects of merit to this thought, in Italy I learned a more effective approach for our family: “Stay Close. Don’t abandon him, but stay out of the chaos of his addiction.” By staying close, my son knew my boundaries, yet he also felt connected. He knew he was not alone in his battle.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, let us remember Rumi’s words:

Through love all that is bitter will be sweet. 

Through love all that is copper will be gold.

Through love all dregs will become wine.

Through love all pain will turn to medicine. 

Let us join together in prayer that love will be the healing energy in our suffering ones’ lives.

ADDICTION: LIVING IN THE TRANCE OF FEAR 

Tara Brach writes: The emotion of fear often works overtime. Even when there is no immediate threat, our body may remain tight and on guard, our mind narrowed to focus on what might go wrong. When this happens, fear is no longer functioning to secure our survival. We are caught in the trance of fear and our moment-to-moment experience becomes bound in reactivity. We spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I felt fearful – both when he was on the streets and when he was in recovery. Would he make it this time? Would another relapse happen? Would he be arrested again? Would I get another dreaded phone call in the middle of the night? Would he live?

Today’s Promise to consider: Fear enters the very cells of our being, and we become anxious and reactive. Our minds race as we think about the possibilities of our child’s death or a life where they are permanently chained to drugs. Not only are we afraid, but so are our addicted loved ones. I know from my many conversations with those suffering from addiction’s grasp that they fear both living with and living without drugs. Craving, obsession, rejection, failure and shame conspire to keep them locked in place. Today, let us pray, find solidarity in our support groups, exercise, talk with a therapist – let us do whatever it takes to regain our lives. Would you share any helpful ways that you have found to deal with fear?

 

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.

IN THE MIDST OF ADDICTION: DON’T JUMP INTO THE QUICKSAND

Felix Scardino, LCSW, a friend of mine wrote: Take care of yourself while you try to understand that you cannot support another person unless you keep your own footing. The following analogy helps me: It will not serve either of us if I jump into quicksand with a person to save him. I’ll best help the person if I stand strong and throw him or her a rope. To care for myself I might need to take a break from listening or even choose not to be with another if their problems overwhelm me.

My reflection: It took me fourteen-years to learn how to live this advice. At my first Al-Anon meeting, I heard these words, but they made no sense to me. How could I take care of myself when my son was dying? In time, I learned how to Stay Close, but out of the chaos.

Today’s Promise to consider: Many of us have thrown ourselves into the fire as we try to help our addicted loved ones. When we lose ourselves, we are of no help to our families, our children, or ourselves. Today, I’ll take care of myself so that I am able to take care of others.

 

HELP THROUGH ADDICTION: WE ARE NOT ALONE

A mother wrote to me: When we learned that our 19-year-old son was addicted to heroin, I remember praying and searching for other parents who would truly understand. All I really wanted was to talk with another parent – especially a mother – who could really understand the brokenness in that special bond between a son and mother. Al-Anon meetings helped, and our good God led me to a meeting made up mostly of parents of addicted children. 

My reflection: Addiction floods us with emotion and confusion, and we want to command the addiction to go away, order it into the pit of the earth where it belongs. When I was lost in addiction’s grasp, other parents, who walked in my shoes, helped me find my way to sanity, serenity, and faith.  

Today’s Promise to consider: After an Al-Anon meeting, I wrote, “I found a peace that has eluded me. My soul quieted there, in the basement of a church. I heard such pain from others, and I listened intently to how they are struggling to survive. Maybe I can find strength and comfort in Al-Anon, and ultimately in myself.” Today, I will open myself and my story to other parents of addicted children. I know that I am not alone.