JB-Cascine-Photo-by-Stephanie-Seeley-and-Lindsey-DeWitt-300x199A recovering addict 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 insight does my sponsor and support group have?

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

My reflection: Anger is a normal response and one that can be healthy if it causes us to take good action. However, anger can also overwhelm and 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 insecurity, fear or hurt.

Today’s Promise to consider: When I feel angry, I’ll stop and examine what is causing the reaction. What am I feeling under the rage? Am I afraid, depressed or shamed? Today, I won’t give in to the anger, but I will pause, think and pray for clarity about the path forward.




IMG_3792Jeff sent me a passage from a text he’s reading, Aversion is not the enemy; it is just the normal reaction of the mind and body to pain. Whatever the hurt we feel – whether of mind, body or emotion – our biological survival mechanism tries to get rid of it. The problem is that we don’t actually have the ability to escape from all of the painful experiences in life. It can’t be done. The good news is that by greeting those painful moments and feelings with compassion, we decrease our personal suffering and bring about an experience of well being.

My reaction: Facing a situation that is uncomfortable or painful is difficult. This can be as simple as having to clean the house or exercise, where I can think of ten things to do first like checking email or calling someone on the phone before I start. In this way, I avert facing what is unpleasant and substitute distractions that give me pleasure. Aversion can also be complicated and lead to huge trouble like drugs. Jeff tells me that drugs help in the same way, “Instead of facing painful situations, drugs allowed me to deaden my senses and go under.” Some people might use food or shopping, others might use pornography or drugs.

Today’s Promise to consider: When life becomes painful, I can find many ways to avoid or avert it – from the small tasks to the big problems. Today, I will face my problems without anger or disdain. I’ll see clearly the difficulty, call it out by name and face it with compassion for myself and others.






Jeff shared a story with me: “One day an Elder told a novice to go fetch a guinea hen. When he returned with it, the Elder told him to pluck it. The novice obeyed, and when he was finished, the Elder said, “Now, put all the feathers back.” Bewildered, the novice finally protested, “But it’s already plucked! I can’t put the feathers back.” “Correct,” the Elder replied, “and it’s the same when you say bad things about your brothers. You pluck away at their reputation, and if you keep on, it may be lost forever.”

My reflection: Gossip is a part of any community. I remember how awful it felt knowing that people were talking about Jeff and our family’s problems. In fact, in Stay Close, I wrote, “Convinced that Jeff was a major topic of conversation in the school, I spiraled into a kind of paranoia.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is perfect fodder for gossip, but it is destructive and does no good. Today, I won’t be a part of it and will refuse to pluck away at someone’s reputation or integrity. I’ll be mindful of what I say and will respond with compassion and respect.







Dancer with Cymbals by Antonio Canova

Woman Dancing (1809-1812) by Antonio Canova

Henri Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest and theologian, wrote, I once saw a stonecutter remove great pieces from a huge rock on which he was working. In my imagination I thought, That rock must be hurting terribly. Why does his man wound the rock so much? But as I looked longer, I saw the figure of a graceful dancer emerge gradually from the stone. (Turn My Mourning into Dancing)

My reflection: There were times in my life when I looked toward the heavens, screaming and beseeching God to stop my problems. I knew the saying, “God only gives us what we can handle,” and I had had enough. I felt pummeled and couldn’t understand why God thought I should be the grateful recipient of so much grief. Now, I better understand that everything in my life (both good and bad) provided a chance to learn and grow.

Today’s Promise to consider: Most of us want life to be easy, enjoyable and comfortable; however, today I acknowledge that the difficult times are what make us into the person we are. Like a sculptor chipping away at marble, the best version of me is underneath many layers.







jeff - 10A mom wrote to me: We had so many expectations for our children and us. Then, like a puff of smoke, they were gone. 

My reflection: I know this feeling of loss. When Jeff was young, he was a strong student, vice-president of student government, talented athlete, wonderful son and brother. We never dreamed that addiction would find its way into our home. We lost Jeff to drugs for fourteen years, but I thank the Lord that it was only fourteen years and not a lifetime. This journey steeled us together in a new way. A stronger way.

Today’s Promise to consider: Expectations, for me, are dangerous. Many of my biggest life’s disappointments stem from hopes I had for my children, myself or for others I love. When I release my expectations and accept life for what it is, I feel gifted with a renewed sense of peace. Today, I will pray for acceptance. I will relaxed my grasp on expectations.










IMG_0387Dr. MacAfee shared with me: During a recent family therapy session, we brought up the topic of regrets. During the sharing, the conversation became heavy, as if the room were sinking into a tunnel of despair.

In an uncharacteristic move, I blurted out, “Woah. Stop. This is going nowhere. I can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Regrets aren’t to make you beat up on yourselves. Regrets are normal, and they show a corner of our health and wellbeing. Regrets are the thresholds to grace. We can learn from these difficult matters without hating ourselves. Regrets, when properly addressed, are the gate to healing. They enhance understanding of ourselves and our place in the world as a loving individual. Sure you wonder, “How could I have done ..X…?” This is a great question, and once addressed and answered properly, can led us to health. These are simply things we would not do again. 

Something settled in the room.

My reaction: I always thought regret was unhealthy and felt if I were stronger I would not have them. Dr. MacAfee offers us a way of using regret as a powerful tool to move forward in consciousness.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today, I will use my regrets to make better choices, to develop a positive sense of wellbeing and to allow love and grace to lead me in every aspect of my life. I won’t live with regret for yesterday, but I will learn from yesterday’s regrets to live a better today.




A mom wrote to me: In your last entry, the recovering person wrote that the worn cowboy boots reminded her, “…of the fact that something weathered by experience can indeed be beautiful again.” This idea of weathering made me think of the ‘weathering’ we’ve had with our own parents, children and life’s challenges. Those experiences, no matter how painful at times, can be sources of huge growth when met with honesty and forgiveness on our part.

My response: We all have our own personal histories when the storms of life have tossed us around and ‘weathered’ us. I’ve traveled tough roads, not just with Jeff’s addiction, but also with cancer, divorce and other difficulties. Sometimes I’ve held resentments and have been slow to forgive others or myself. Holding onto the pain wasn’t good for anyone and only prolonged the healing.

Today’s Promise to consider: I will value the weathering in my life, those times of darkness, trauma and suffering. As heavy as they’ve been, I’ve grown through them. We’ve all made mistakes: parents, children, friends and life’s partners. Today, I’ll forgive someone else; today, I’ll forgive myself.



A mother wrote to me: I enjoy your weekly emails, but recently have begun to feel resentful and jealous of these inspirational stories. I guess that’s because after all these years, I feel powerless and hopeless. My hope has turned to fear and my love is turning to hate. I am financially and emotionally drained. My son has been to seven different rehabs and is currently in detox. He was sober for eighteen months while being monitored in a drug-court program, but started using again after he completed the program. I have no strength to go on. I am desperately seeking help, but no longer know where to turn. 

My reaction: I thank this mother for writing because I, too, know this feeling of pain and resentment. I have felt my hope turning to fear and my love on the verge of despair. I have wondered why another family seemed to be doing well and mine didn’t. Why do some kids achieve and succeed while others don’t? Why is my son an addict when many of his friends are not? I’ve learned there are no answers. And when I stopped searching for them, I found peace.

Today’s Promise to consider: Bad things happen to good people. This is a hard, but undeniable fact of life. I acknowledge that my loved one and my family are in pain; however, even when faced with hardship, I’ll work hard to maintain hope. I’ll reach out my hand for support to Al-Anon and in prayer. As long as there is life, there is hope.


We can put our loved ones on the carousel, but we can’t expect them to be happy.

A mom wrote to me, Three years ago, when my nightmare began with my daughter’s addiction to heroin, my days were filled with dread and desperation. Looking back, my addict was only half of that chaos. The other half was created by me. I didn’t expect to have a good day, nor did I even think I deserved it. I felt everything was my fault because I was responsible for everything and everyone.  

I am now learning to allow others the dignity to make their own decisions and reap the rewards of their actions or suffer the consequences. I am not responsible for everyone, all the time. My experience tells me that when I set expectations for others, I am frequently disappointed.  In All My Affairs, I limit the expectations I have of others.

My reaction: The Big Book states, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” Jeff’s addiction taught me that I couldn’t control his actions, even though I often wanted want to. I can plan, hope and pray that something occurs, but I have no power over anyone else. A hard lesson to learn and a harder one to accept. But my serenity is based on me letting go of expectations.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today I will let go of my expectations for others. I admit my shortcoming in wanting to control people around me, but I must acknowledge that I can’t. I will give others the dignity of making their own decisions, and I will find my serenity in making good choices for myself.


A mother wrote to me: I have to let go of my resentments. I’m thinking of an old suitcase: I’ll put those poisonous thoughts, which have been festering like an old splinter, in the suitcase and bury it! That’s my plan today… I’ll bury this suitcase with the things that were said so they NEVER pop into my brain and get in the way of my good memories.

My reflection on the message above: AA talks about resentments being “fatal,” so I asked Dr. MacAfee if letting go of resentments was an act of will. He said, “Yes, in part, but letting go of resentments takes more than will. The problem is that people often try to let them go, but they do it with toxic amounts of denial. Denying them is as problematic as holding them. I would use the visualization technique only after understanding my reaction to the pain. Resentments are powerfully damaging and sometimes pitifully trivialized.”

Today’s promise to consider: I will do the work necessary to understand my resentments. I will not deny my pain, but I will strive to let go of my resentments for my good and the good of others. It’s time to let go.