Author Stephen King writes, “There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room,” which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth, “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”
My reaction: Stephen King took his first drink in 1966, age 18, and never stopped. He writes, “Alcoholics build defenses like Dutch build dikes.” And I did the same with my family. I built defenses, isolated myself and denied that addiction was the elephant in the room.
Today’s Promise to consider: I’ll face my fears today. I’ll force myself out of delusion, out of illusion and out of pretending that the problem doesn’t exist. I won’t allow my fear to lock me in place. I will trust God. I will act.
Hi Jeff….Hope your doing well ! I did want to take this moment to applaud both you and your family for being so very open about such a difficult subject. My quiet, straight laced, never got in trouble son, Steven, now age 25 has been struggling with his drug addiction/disease since the age of 18 or so. I read your mom’s book “Stay Close” when I found out (during my son’s first of 4 stays at reheb) I can’t begin to tell you how it helped me. Steve read the book as well and very much connected with it. I will be forever grateful for such an honest story of addiction. Your mom and I have much in common, as my son and I are so very close. That’s what is so ironic, It was going on right under my nose and I had no idea whatsoever. Steve is a bit of a loner and used in his room, in our small home. Seems almost impossible that I didn’t know or sense. I have a daughter as well and she has Tourette Syndrome. Maybe, I was so wrapped up in her struggles, as she had many, that I never really noticed his. I think all the dysfunction had become a way of life and quite normal for us. Feel like I’m going on and on here, so I’ll wrap this up now…I wish you much continued success in your daily struggles with this hideous disease ! Consider this a “viral hug” from me to you and your family. I never did mention your brother in this message and I know that siblings suffer tremendously as well. That being said, embrace the love of your famly, as it sounds like you have such strength around you. I would so appreciate if you could reach out to my son, via email DiPane1@aol.com but would totally understand if that may be asking too much.
Stay Close and Stay Well !
Dear Susan, Jeff’s story, Libby’s book, and this forum, has had a profound influence in my life. My son died from this horrible disease and I was swimming in guilt. After I read “Stay Close”, I reached out to Libby and she immediately e-mailed me and touched my heart and soul. She, along with parents in this forum who suffer from feelings of helplessness and despair, have shared their hearts with truth and honesty. Because of this, I have stopped blaming myself for my son’s demise. Addiction is a very personal habit. The addict hides it so well, we all never knew the elephant was in the living room.
I will pray that your son will get into recovery. And, as for yourself, you’ve reached out and that’s a start!
My best wishes to you, your son, and your family.
Dear Barbara…..Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. I am so very sorry to hear about your loss and can’t imagine your pain ! My prayers are with you and yours….
Hello all. Welcome to this great forum Susan. We find support and understanding here and we also can learn from each other as we share our thoughts and experiences with each other. I too had a very seemingly normal son Until late into senior year of high school things started to set off red flags for me that I didn’t really want to look to closely at until I had no choice a year later. It became the elephant in the room and a difficult one to deal with for the nex t decade. I believe it will always be there in some way shape or form but I deal with it very differently than I did 10 years ago. I am not entirely focused on him, rather I know my boundaries better and I protect myself more. Took a long time to learn but it essential when there is an addict in the family.
Books like Libby’s helped me, a nd lots of Al Anon and prayer..
Hello Barbara how are you doing? Always nice to see you on this blog!
I shared your comment with Jeff and he thanks you for reaching out to us. He and I work cooperatively on every entry and his words are tremendously powerful. I speak about addiction, but Jeff speaks from addiction. I learn from him. He’ll reach out with an email to your son Steven. We both send you our love.
Your words mean the world to me and touch me deeply, “I have stopped blaming myself for my son’s demise.” Your loss is the final one, the one we mothers fear most and the one I pray I never know. I feel humbled that our story and the words of all of us here have helped you in some way. I carried guilt with me for many, many years and, I have to admit, it still sneaks up on me and hits me square in the face. But as Jeff says, “These are my footsteps and I can’t change them.”
Together we can and are making a difference. Thanks for being here, for trusting us and for teaching us through your pain. My sincere love and respect. Without you, we would be less.
I’m with you: Learning to protect ourselves and to know our boundaries took me a long time to learn. Boundaries! I’m still learning every day. Al-Anon and prayer saved me. I’m grateful. Love to you.
I’m so grateful to you for your love and support. It’s so very special and means the world to me.
Dear Jane, you should be proud of yourself for keeping those boundaries. It’s so difficult to stay consistent.
It’s great to see you too, on this blog! I actually look forward to your posts.
With lots of love,
Dear Barbara, Among us, we help each other stay strong. We remind each other (and ourselves) to keep boundaries, let go of guilt and stay close. Growth comes in many ways, and I’m grateful to be able learn with and from you. Love you!
Dear Libby, Barbara and Jane…..Thank you all for such encouraging and comforting words! Keeping boundaries to protect myself has been a work in progress for me and without a doubt, very difficult. To take a step back, I’m learning, may very well help them take a step forward…Just want to be of support without enabling…a very fine line. Barbara, you weighed heavy in my prayers last night as you have had to endure a parent’s worst nightmare and yet, I sense strength in your words. I wish peace for you and continued strength. Never feel guilty for something that was not your choice…Libby, thank you so very much for passing my request onto your son. You have been an inspiration to me, as I’m sure so many others. I’m so very glad I happened upon this posting, you are all wonderful, humble people with very comforting words. I will continue to check in on this post and am here for anyone who needs an ear or a shoulder. We all need to remain strong…
Dearest Libby…your weekly meditation falls on the heels of a(long overdue), family discussion about how addiction has affected my other two sons. They have been so brave, so strong and supportive yet rarely have a forum to discuss ‘the elephant in the room.’ We are now ALL talking and it is good…, so very painful but indeed, so much healthier. It’s a good start.
Susan, Barbara, Jane and all the other families that are suffering in silence…please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. We are not alone.
I admire you and your family for starting an open conversation about addiction. It’s not easy, but it is the only way I’ve found to come to healing. Jeremy, my younger son, is still reluctant to talk about all that happened, but little-by-little he is finding his way to confronting his own emotions and past hurts. Your words are so true – we suffer in silence. Thanks for helping us break the silence! Love to you,
I too wholeheartly understand “Elephant in the Room”, I applaud amilies able to speak openly of addiction. My extended family is close but wordless when it comes to my child. Its only me now since he has been on a binge since Feb 28th. I do see him but only when something is needed. I have learned from this site not to be so enabling & although I’m not yet to the point of being the “un-abler” words I’ve read have helped tremendously. I caught Libby’s STAY CLOSE review on a morning show & hearing she had ties to Pittsburgh intrigued me into reading her book. Thank you Lord Almightly….it was a start into different thinking. The journey seems neverending & I thank those taking the time to post my greatest find is Libby & her family willing to share their story. Believe me, you have helped me. A distant relative recently published The Whirlwhind & The Storm…although different from Libby’s book it was similiar. She lives close & I NEVER realized the things she’d gone thru. I’m done rambling, but must finish with … THANK YOU (once again)
Rickie, I love what you write, “My extended family is close but wordless when it comes to my child.” Wordless – the thought of this hits me hard and I know how this feels because my family was the same. They had words for all kinds of problems, political and weather related, but somehow my son and the addiction was kept in the compartment called ‘wordless.’ No one even asked about him – as if to ignore him made the problem go away.
With the writing of the book, Jeff and I have found a place of honesty and we talk about what happened and what is happening. Jeremy is getting better at talking about things, but it’s still hard for him. Tim, their father, is still wordless.
My love to you,
Dear Rickie and Libby,
Both of your posts are very powerful.
I am so grateful for all of you.
My love to you,