A father of a recovering addict 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. My son has been healthy for eight years and he is 25 years old, so he was really young at the time. I talked with my son and ensured him that the past is the past and that we have all made mistakes in our lives. For the girls, I made it extremely clear that the addiction incident 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 recovering son had had a kidney disease, people would inquire compassionately about his health. But with the disease of addiction, some responses continue to range from those of suspicion (Is he still clean? How are you sure?), curiosity (How does he stay clean while working in the music field?), or contempt (He’s nothing but a drug addict. I remember.).

Today’s Promise to consider: Recovering addicts need safety and trust. They cannot continue to live their lives under the heaviness and scrutiny of all the mistakes they’ve made. They need an advocate, and I will stand firmly for my son and for all those who have the courage to live in sobriety.



This is part of a series of monthly posts that reference many conversations with Dr. MacAfee. Thanks, Doc. 

tm_3930-1A friend, who also loved Dr. MacAfee, shares what she learned from him: Losing my voice, silencing my most potent inner instincts left me living in fear, afraid to speak out, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I felt invisible, powerless, angry and unheard. Dr. MacAfee encouraged me to find my voice, speak out and be heard again.

My reflection: I, too, silenced my voice when Jeff was in active addiction. I walked on eggshells and worried about every word that came out of my mouth. Would my words anger him? Would we argue and have an ugly scene? Would he walk out and be lost, once again, to the streets. I shoved my words into my belly until I also got sick.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will speak up. I will stop of the cycle of being worried sick and swallowing my voice. I will change the dynamic of this unhealthy touch-and-go dance between my addicted loved one and me. I will fight to keep myself balanced, respected and heard.


TM.3 (1)A mother wrote to me: Webster’s dictionary says, “Enabling: to make possible, practical, or easy.” How simple this sounds. Why would a parent want to make it easy for a child to destroy himself? My aunt said to me yesterday, ‘You need to have guidelines and discipline in your house.’ I just thought to myself: I would love to have that. I am a mom trying to raise three kids and one is an addict. I am not so sure what rules I am to follow.

My reflection: Dr. Terri Gorski says that society gives us no rules to follow with addiction. For me, I always ached to know the line between enabling and helping. The difference between the two seemed confusing and ambivalent. The hardest thing I’ve ever done as a mom was to get out of the way and allow my son to face the consequences of his addiction.

Today’s Promise to consider: We parents often want step-by-step instructions to help our child. The problem is that there are no silver bullet solutions to ensure our children will live a sober life. Today, I’ll step back and allow my son to contend with the results of his behavior, both good and bad. I will stay close, but out of the chaos of his addiction.


jeff_italy_09The daughter of addicted parents wrote to me: I am the grown daughter of two addicts and know first-hand how truly cunning and powerful this disease is. It is a family illness and one with far-reaching and long-lasting implications. Even when the wounds have healed, the scars remain. 

My reflection: Addiction affects all of us who love addicts. How does a child of addicted parents make sense of the volatility, the selfishness, the continual crises and trauma? It takes courage. Courage to face the truth about the parents we love. Courage to fight our way out of the chaos. Courage to learn to live with the knowledge of what happened.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction leaves scars. Like every battle, deep wounds remain. Today, I will find the courage to learn from the addiction and all the trauma that my family and I suffered. I will protect myself, grow stronger and reach out my hand to help others.


06-Jeff photo shoot 327

Photo credit: Mikele Roselli Cecconi

A mother wrote me to: My son is back in detox for the second time in less than four months. Hopefully this time he will also go through rehab and stay sober, but I don’t know. I pray that his journey will not be long and hard, but somehow I fear it may. I pray that I have the strength and knowledge to know the difference between helping my son and enabling him. 

My reflection: I was never very good at knowing where the line was between enabling and helping. Addiction forced me to make decisions that were difficult and, oftentimes, life threatening. In the end, I learned to stay close, but out of the way of the chaos. It’s an inexact science, but I found a way to love my son without being tossed around by the waves of his addiction.

Today’s Promise: I admit that I don’t always know how best to help my child, but I will continue to learn. I will not blame, accuse or berate. I will be an active participant in my support groups, stay close and trust God.



Son Jeremy, Granddaughter Iysa, Libby, son Jeff

Son Jeremy, Granddaughter Iysa, Libby, son Jeff

An Italian friend wrote to me: For six months now, two or three days a week, my mother goes to my brother’s recovery community and helps the girls design and make bags. In this way, my mother has the possibility to ‘stay close’ to my brother without ‘staying attached’ to him. When she works on the bags, it feels like all the suffering was not so important: we live “Hic et Nunc”, Here and Now. We are able to joke, smile, laugh, cry, be happy and above all be HIC et NUNC! How many times I’ve prayed to be able to live ‘here and now’ and not think about all the ifs, buts and whys. My family has found the possibility to grow in spite of sorrow. We are understanding how to stay close without being dependent.

My reflection: When Jeff was in active addiction, living in the present seemed impossible – my mind was a constant wash of regrets, past hurts and disasters yet to come. This didn’t serve me well and it didn’t serve our family. Jeff’s 14-year addiction is teaching me how to live “Hic ed Nunc” – to be mindful of the moments, the little victories. When I’m able to live in the present and without the ifs, buts and whys, life is more steady.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will live ‘Hic et Nunc,’ the Latin term for ‘here and now.’ I will let go of yesterday’s sufferings, and I won’t obsess over the future. I will work toward staying close without staying attached. I will be grateful for the moments.


TM.3 (1)Dr MacAfee told me: Parents need to know that their suffering is legitimate and the result of loving their child. I have heard dismissive and searingly hateful comments thrown at parents that they are victims of their own suffering. The stories of addiction are heart wrenching: murders, fatal overdoses and debilitating consequences. There are no volunteers to these heartbreaks. No one would sign up for these experiences.

My reflection: Nobody welcomes addiction into her home, but it happens. I didn’t volunteer for a 14-year journey of addiction, but the heartbreak deepened as I loved my son while he descended into the world of drugs.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are no volunteers in addiction. There are no volunteers to the heartbreak and suffering that addiction heaps on us. We simply love our addicted child or spouse or parent. When we love another person, we open ourselves to pain, as well as to joy.


TM.light (1)Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet and theologian, wrote, The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

My reflection: This one line touched me deeply. The wound caused by addiction is a place where the Light can enter. I can choose to learn from addiction and the destruction that it causes, or I can stay stuck in anger, resentment and bitterness.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will let hope and healing grow in the deep wounds that addiction left. I admit that we all suffered tremendously, but I will not be chained by bitterness and ugliness. I will learn from my pain. I will have faith in the future.


1410789462166A dad wrote: I have worked so hard on forgiveness. I know in my heart that God wants me to forgive, as He has forgiven. I have prayed for His Spirit to grant me the gift of forgiveness. I must somehow still be resistant. I sometimes, in prayer, feel I have forgiven, then the past comes back to haunt me and the anger and remembrance of betrayal returns and I am back where I do not want to be. Share with me, how do you forgive and stay in forgiveness?

My reflection: In the book Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach writes, When we forgive, we stop rigidly identifying others by their undesirable behavior. Without denying anything, we open our heart and mind wide enough to see the deeper truth of who they are. When we do, our hearts naturally open in love. 

Today’s Promise to consider: I don’t have a personal process for forgiving, but I do know that in preparation for Christmas, I want to open my heart and mind wide enough to forgive those who have hurt me. As one mom wrote, “It’s anger that keeps us hostage.”  Today I’ll pray.


16928A young man, hunched over and staring at the floor, said, When I was a child, I was sexually abused repeatedly by my uncle. Just saying these words makes my stomach ache and my ears burn. I hated him – he ruined my life and I’ve struggled with this all my life. When my father died, my uncle came to the viewing. When I looked at him, all I could see what a mangy, scared, grey and ugly dog. He didn’t speak to me and I didn’t speak to him, but he knew that I knew what he had done all those years. I’m talking about it now because I have to. I have to let it go, let the anger and hatred go, for myself. It has to be an act of my will. I won’t forget what he did, but I have to forgive him so I can move forward with my life. I need to set myself free. 

My reaction: My heart ached as I listened to this young man. The abuse is repulsive, and I have had a hard time forgetting the sadness and despair of his words. He will never forget the offense, but forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. I was grateful to be a witness to his decision to forgive and set himself free.

Today’s Promise to consider: There are hurts we suffer that debilitate us for a long time. Although it isn’t easy, forgiving those who hurt us allows us to open our hearts and to feel a sense of serenity and liberty. Today, I will work on forgiving those who have hurt me by turning my will toward love. I will pray for peace that will help me go forward with my life.