A young man in recovery told me, You can’t force sobriety on anybody. Cause Mum tried everything. She gave me money, didn’t give me money, made me go to rehab, didn’t make me go to rehab, drove four or five hours to pick me up, and then left me somewhere. No matter how many rehabs I’ve done or how many counselors or meetings I went to, I never got it until, one day, I was just sick of it and had enough. 

My reflection: Over fourteen years, I tried to force sobriety on my son in countless ways. I wept, yelled, bargained, and threatened. I would have sold my soul if that would have made the difference.

Today’s Promise: We can try to force our loved ones into sobriety, but with the majority of people coercion doesn’t work. People must be ready to change. It’s a deeply personal decision that can only be made by them. Today, I’ll encourage my loved one to attend an AA meeting or at least talk with someone in recovery. I’ve never seen coerced recovery work, but I have experienced the power of encouragement and ‘staying close.’


A young man in recovery wrote to me: Anger is a clear and abrupt signal that something is wrong. I’m learning to respond to my anger by:

1) Not reacting in the moment. When I feel “hot,” let it sit – like a baking tray coming out of the oven.

2) Examining the anger when I’ve cooled down. What about it caused me to respond so negatively? What role did I play in the situation? What insights do my sponsor and support group have?

3) Taking action. How can I respond in a wise and constructive way to the problem?

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, there were countless times when I erupted in anger. I felt powerless and didn’t know what to do with the rage that engulfed me. My explosions helped no one – not me, my family, or my son.

Today’s Promise to consider: Anger is a normal response and, with addiction, one that seems to come easily. It can be constructive if it causes us to take good action, but it can also blind us from making smart choices. For me, I’ve learned that anger is usually a kind of fire blanket that covers up my deeper emotions of fear, insecurity, or hurt. Today, I won’t be overwhelmed by anger, but I will pause, think, and pray for clarity. Those persons in recovery have much to teach us. Let me try this young man’s three steps.


Dr. MacAfee explained: There is a difference between willingness to change and readiness to change. Many times, an individual has a moment of clarity when he becomes willing to see his situation, reaches out for help, or even stops using for a while. However, willingness doesn’t mean he is ready to stop. Moving from willingness to readiness happens when the consequences of using become more painful than the use itself. This begins the crises.

Today’s Promise to consider: This paradigm shift is made clear in my son’s words: I was done using and I knew it. Even my bones knew it. My obsession to use with control had disappeared. I saw where things were going and knew that if I didn’t stop, I was inches away from another devastating run. I’d been in the same space countless times before, and it always ended badly. Before getting out of bed, I called a friend from treatment who was still sober and active in the program. I explained my situation, and he understood. Things changed that day. 

Recovery is a painstaking process, a time of transformation when our loved one fundamentally changes from the person he was and becomes the person he wants to be. The decision to stop using is in his or her hands. Let us help, encourage, and support that decision.


I wrote about my son: After three years of sobriety, my son’s growth is evident. He laughs more easily, he watches more calmly, he protects himself better. He knows where he hurts, and he pays attention to what is coming. He’s more reflective, thoughtful, less impulsive, and more honest. He has good friends. Suffice it to say that he is becoming a strong and caring man. He will get better and better.

My reflection: Watching my son come back to himself after a 14-year addiction, was a joy. I cherished each accomplishment and each step forward.

Today’s Promise to consider: In the early years of recovery, my son told me, “Some mornings, I reach for a word and it’s like reaching into the fog. Other mornings, when I reach for a word, I pluck it easily out of the air. I’m frustrated that some days aren’t clear, but I guess I need to be patient with myself.” His words reminded me that we all need to be patient with our loved ones in each step of their recovery. The joy is in the unfolding, one day at a time.


A mother wrote to me: My daughter struggled with addiction issues for over ten years. Today, she has risen from the ashes and is doing well. I still hold my breath a bit when I don’t hear from her regularly, but each time she reaches back out she is stronger than before. She has been fully sober for almost three years. I cannot say that the inner voice of fear doesn’t call to me, but most days, most hours, and most minutes, I rejoice with her and enjoy this beautiful time of sobriety.

My reaction: Fear is a powerful force. When my son was in active addiction, I lived in constant worry. When he changed his life and started to live in health, I thought the fear would go away, but it continued. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Trusting that our recovering loved one will stay well and not return to the chaos of addiction is difficult. Most of us have been deeply scarred by years of trauma. I once asked Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction therapist, when the fear would go away, and he said, “Your feelings are normal. You’ve been vigilant a long time. Be patient with yourself.”



A mom wrote to me, I worked harder for my son’s recovery than he did, and I always came up empty. When I finally let go and allowed him to feel the dignity of his triumphs and pain of his failures, things changed. Just for today he chooses recovery. So do I.

My reflection: This mom’s words resonated strongly with me because for many years I, too, worked harder for my son’s recovery than he did. When he was living on the streets and brushing his teeth at the Seven Eleven, I thought, “He has hit his bottom,” so I rushed to get him into rehab. When he got arrested for the umpteenth time, I bailed him out and forced him into yet another treatment center. Nothing changed.

Today’s Promise to consider: As much as I wanted to save my son, to rescue him from the consequences of his addiction, and to pick him up when he fell, none of my attempts helped. In the end, HE had to make the choice to change his life, and I had to make mine. There was only room for one person in his addiction and that didn’t include me.


A father of a son in recovery wrote to me, I wonder if we will ever outlive the scare of addiction. Our family had an incident during Christmas. My three children got into a discussion that became an argument. As tempers rose, my son’s former struggles with addiction were brought up, even though he has been healthy for eight years! I talked with my son and assured him that the past is the past and that we have all had problems in our lives. For the girls, I made it extremely clear that the addiction period will not cross their lips again or there will be severe consequences. I could imagine how he felt under attack for something that happened years ago.

My reflection: I, too, wonder if we will ever outlive the chains of addiction. If my son was recovering from a kidney disease, people would inquire compassionately about his health, but that’s not the case with addiction. Responses continue to range from those of suspicion (Is he still clean? How are you sure?), curiosity (How does he stay sober while working in the music industry?), or contempt (He’s nothing but a drug addict. I remember.).

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovering loved ones need safety and trust. They cannot continue to live their lives under the scrutiny of all that has gone before. They need an advocate, and I will be that person. I will stand firmly for my son and for all those who have the courage to live in sobriety.


A mom wrote to me: My son told me that his many years of rehab, talking with friends and family, AA, and all the other attempts to get clean seemed to have fallen on his deaf ears, but in reality they all contributed to his decision to change his life. In other words, not one thing made the difference, but the accumulation of things made a difference. I never thought of it that way, and this gives me hope. From now on, I will never underestimate the potential power of my words, his support systems, rehab, AA, counseling, or any other intervention. Any or all of these might end up being a big part of his decision to choose health.

My reflection: For fourteen years, I searched for the one thing that would change the course of my son’s illness. I finally realized that it wasn’t mine to find. 

Today’s Promise to consider: We all want to find the ‘magic bullet’ that will change the course of addiction, the one thing that will make the difference and bring our loved ones back to life. For fourteen years, I searched for that elusive and miraculous power. In time, I learned that there was no Holy Grail, but that all the interventions in his life would accumulate to make a difference: from good things like AA, spirituality, the Big Book, friends, family, to bad ones like jail, loss of jobs, and destroyed relationships. But the most important thing I learned was that the final decision was his, and only his.


A dad told me: When I visited my son at his halfway house, I asked him, “If you feel yourself slipping or getting into the danger zone, what should I say or do to you to help?” He answered, “Nothing. If I need help, I need to reach out to these people around me. They know my walk.” I felt relieved when he said this to me because I just want to be his dad.

My reflection: As parents, we put huge pressure on ourselves to solve our children’s problems and lift them out of the chaos drugs create. In reality, we’re not best suited for the job. Our children have entire communities in AA, NA, or other groups who know their walk and who are ready to reach out their hands.

Today’s Promise to consider: We, as parents, can offer our children our support, love, and words of wisdom. We can and should Stay Close. But we also must acknowledge that programs like AA and NA are more helpful in providing the help they need. There, they will find people who are also on the path of sobriety. Today, I’ll step aside and allow my child to be part of their recovering community. I’ll be ‘just his mom,’ or ‘just his dad,’ the person who will always love him.


A young man in recovery told me, You can’t force sobriety on anybody. My mum tried everything. She gave me money, didn’t give me money, made me go to rehab, didn’t make me go to rehab, drove down four or five hours to pick me up, and then left me somewhere. No matter how many rehabs I’ve done or how many counselors or meetings I went to, I never got it, until one day I was just sick of it and had enough. 

My reflection: Many times I tried to force sobriety on my son. I threatened him that if he didn’t go to rehab I would never give him another cent or allow him to come home again. I cried, yelled, and bargained. I would have sold my soul if that would have made the difference.

Today’s Promise: We can try to force our loved ones into recovery. We can demand they live a sober life. But with the majority of addicts, coercion, threats, or even kindness aren’t enough. People have to be ready to change for themselves. For those of us with  suffering children, we can encourage them to enter a recovery community, go to an AA meeting, or talk with someone who is living in the solution. I understand that it’s not my choice, but theirs.