FORGIVING, PART 1

VAR_5575My mother’s death was hard for me and inspired a personal journey of trying to understand death and grief. As a result, I talked with Dominique, a Hospice counselor. We discussed dying, but our conversations about forgiving taught me the most.

Dominique said: In all relationships, no matter how wonderful they are, there is need to forgive. We hurt each other, sometimes when we don’t even know it: It’s part of being human. Forgiving is not about forgetting. The wounds don’t magically heal. Forgiving is to wish well to the person who harmed us, meaning we wish them fullness of heart and a clarity of mind that aspires to wisdom. Forgiving is not an emotional state. It is an act of willful love that ultimately sets us free, for only in loving are we truly free. 

My reaction: During Jeff’s addiction, the pain was extraordinary and I felt lots of emotions, including anger. That anger led to deep-held resentments against many people, including Jeff. I thought I could never forgive, but when Jeff entered recovery, honesty broke the back of the resentments between us and we made amends to each other. For the others whom I did not confront, I’m learning to let go and forgive. Sure, I remember what happened, but the fire in my belly is fading.

Today’s Promise to consider: Forgiveness doesn’t mean I forget the hurts and it doesn’t mean that I give the person a ‘pass’ to hurt me again. It’s up to me to enforce my personal boundaries. Forgiveness is an act of willful love. Today I’ll work to let go of the pain and I will pray for the people who played a part in causing them.

 

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Barbara
Barbara
9 years ago

Dear Libby,

Until reading this week’s meditation, I never really thought about the people who played a part in my son’s addiction. Thank you for reminding me to forgive them and to pray for them.

I have found that you can never find peace within yourself unless you can forgive. It took lots of years for me to forgive my Father for abusing me. It took lots of years for me to forgive myself for not protecting my younger siblings from the abuse. I also had to forgive my mother for not protecting me.

Life is the biggest journey we will take. I think that forgiving is the secret to our inner peace. I thank God, everyday, for without my prayer and his guidance, I would not have be able to “feel” the overwhelming peace in my soul. That peace is forgiveness.

With much love and respect,
Barbara

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Dearest Barbara,

Your wisdom and strength touch me deeply. You have suffered mightily and, through the pain, you have grown stronger. Sometimes I look at my life and feel its heaviness. Then I go to an Al-Anon meeting or read a post on our blog, and I know that I’m lucky. Yes, life is difficult for many of us and it is, at times, unbearable. But by reaching out a hand to another, we can hold on (if even for a moment) and celebrate life again. Jeff says what you say – that his Higher Power gives him peace. I’ll start my daily routine again today, pray and write, and I’ll think of you. Thanks, dear friend.

With love and respect,

L

Jane
Jane
9 years ago

Forgiving……a very difficult yet freeing event. It takes time to heal enough in order to forgive. It takes work to be ready to forgive, and it takes maturity. Barbara you are so right when you say it is the secret to our inner peace.
When my father was sick, on dialysis, and I had to get him to treatments, doctors etc, our time together taught me that he was a vulnerable human being like the rest of us. He did the best he could as a Dad, and always had difficulty showing his emotion and love. It was so evident to me in his last years and so freeing to finally see it all there in plain view. I had to forgive him for his humanness.
Illness can be a silver lining in some relationships. My Dads illness was just that and it was very healing.
My sons illness of addiction has been another journey, and of course a different kind of relationship for me. But similar in many respects to the feelings involved. Anger, disappointment, sadness, grief.

Life is our biggest journey.
It is a waste of time to remain angry. But one has to be willing to do the footwork in order to forgive
Jane

Pat Nichols
9 years ago

Thanks Barbara, Jane and all who post here. You are true blessings to me in my continuing journey of recovery, as the parent of an addicted child.

In the early stages of my child’s substance abuse I was slowly transformed and eventually controlled by the evil of addiction; as my son became addicted to drugs I became addicted (codependant) to my son.

I, of course, went through the negative stages such as anger, fear, depression and all the rest. However, when the pain became too great I cried out to God. This began my journey back to my true self and who I was meant to be which eventually lead me to the gift of forgiveness.

Thus began my grieving process, grieving for the loss of the child of my dreams.

I was lead, I believe, by my God to the Families Anonymous support group where I found a sponsor and I did the hard work of recovery.

I continue to work the Twelve Steps of Families Anonymous today.

I pray daily for my continued recovery, faith and hope. I pray for all hurting parents.

Never give up hope!

Barbara
Barbara
9 years ago

Dear Libby,

Of course you may use my words, anytime. I am honored by it.

Dear Pat and Jane,

I look forward to reading each of your entries every week. I still learn very much from your journeys.

What always consumed me when my son was in active addiction was the anger. Now I’ve learned that anger will only steal the spirit from your soul. It will destroy you, if you allow it. As I overcame the anger, the grief set in. And the grief is a huge process to go through. Sometimes, I wonder if I will ever get through it.

Thank you so much for your support over the years. It means so much to me.

Love,
Barbara

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

Dear Libby,
I love your words, “forgiveness is an act of love, wishing well to the person who harmed us (fullness of heart and clarity of mind)…”
I have found ‘the act of forgiveness’ to be particularly difficult as one of the addicts in my life continues to make bad choices (that affect our family, other children and marriage). Your meditation is a constant reminder of the interpersonal work I must continue. I just don’t know how to (repeatedly) forgive someone who has created so much chaos in my family. There doesn’t seem to be a ‘rest period’, always a challenge and a personal struggle, especially since he is my beloved son.
Thanks to all of you who continue to share your experience, strength and hope. I am so grateful to you, Alanon and Libby,
Love,
Nanci

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

P.S Not sure why my responses are ‘Anonymous’ now?

Fay
Fay
9 years ago

Hi Libby, I need your help desperately, my 24 year old son is been using percoct for almost 4 years. he was a college football player and very successful at the time. he got arrested for theft 2 years ago and he is on the last months of his probation. He was doing much better since last year that he graduated from college and started job hunting. He couldn’t find any job with his background. I was giving him pocket money and he has his car. This Christmas eve he came to me and started crying and he said I need help, I go to rehab, I do what ever. I didn’t know he is back to using and this time he advanced to injecting himself. My whole family was devastated, I have 2 other sons one older than him and one younger. I am a nurse manager and my husband is university professor. My husband thinks that he needs to put this behind and if he does not he will kick him out of the house. I am thinking he needs help and support to be able to do that. We took him to suboxone clinic so he can stop this addiction, he was taking suboxone and at the same time using drugs so we stop taking him to this clinic. Last week we talked to him about going to rehab and at the beginning he said ok but he refused to go when it was time. he said if his PO find out he will arrest him and put him in jail. My husband got so mad and got physical with him and throw him on the floor, my son started crying and left the house. He was just wearing t shirt and pants and ti was 5 pm and 15 degree outside. he has no money, no one to go to. I jumped in my car and drove around and found him walking and crying on the street. I brought him back to the house. My husband is not talking to me and he is upset with both of us because he want him out. My house is so stress full and I don’t know what to do. Please help me

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

Dear Fay,
You are not alone. Unfortunately, many of us on Libby’s forum and been (and are currently) in your same situation. Very important…have you been to an Alanon meeting? If not, I would strongly recommend this. It has saved my life/soul and has given me strength/hope regardless of what choices the addict(s) in my life make. It has also helped me learn how to detach, with love…very, very difficult concept, especially as a mother.
Keep in touch, we are all in this together,
Love,
Nanci

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Dear Nanci,

Thanks for your comments. It’s always nice to see you here. Not sure why your comments are ‘anonymous,’ but mine did the same thing. I needed to sign back in and then it worked. Regardless, please keep writing. Your name brings us comfort.

Love to you,

Libby

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Dear Fay,

Thanks for reaching out to all of us, and I wish I could give you an answer. The diabolical nature of addiction is confounding, and I have learned that there is no right-and-true answer. Your son needs to go into a treatment center, but you know that already. The tension and chaos in your home is suffocating, and, as Nanci writes, we’ve all experienced this. It’s horrendous and breaks our very soul.

Your son is underneath the drugs, and you are fighting for your son. I understand. What I found with Jeff is that HE needed to want to recover, and I couldn’t do it for him. He told me often, “Never deny an addict his pain.” I DID deny him his pain. I fixed things over and over. Only in the end, when I stayed close, but quit fixing things did he choose a different way of life. Might he have died? Yes. This was my constant fear, but I had done everything I could do for fourteen years. I couldn’t fix him, and I finally realized that he had to ‘fix’ himself.

Nanci is correct about Al-Anon, and it saved my life, too. There I found people who knew my pain and didn’t judge me and my family. You are a nurse manager, and if your son had an illness, you and your husband would get him to the hospital. Your son is sick with the disease of addiction, and he needs help. Dr. MacAfee, Jeff’s addiction therapist, recommends (always) searching out help through ASAM The Association of Addiction Medicine http://www.asam.org

We will join you in prayer. We are with you, and you are not alone.

With love,

Libby

Fay
Fay
9 years ago

Dear Libby and Nancy, thanks for your responds it is helpful to know how other mothers will think in the same situation. I really don’t know if my son is not willing to stop do I just do nothing or keep ask him to go to rehab and get clean. I am a nurse and caring for others is in my blood, I help other people kids but I can’t help my own. I usually think if something is broken you don’t throw it out you have to fix it but I can fix my own son. Do I just leave him alone and let him make his own decision? My husband does not believe in therapy, how do I make him understand that being angry with our son will not solve any problems?

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

Dear Fay,
If it is any comfort to you, I am also a nurse. I have (chosen) a life of caring, nurturing, fixing…until it came to my son. It took me years to realize that I couldn’t ‘fix him’ (I failed miserably time and time again; so has my husband)…I also don’t have the power to make ANYONE feel/think/problem solve, behave the way I THINK they should. So very painful but so true, when it comes to the family disease of addiction.
Along with Alanon, may I suggest that if you haven’t already read Libby’s book, ‘Stay Close,’ I would put that on the top of your list as a must. Her book remains a mainstay on my nightstand. When you read the back cover, you will quickly understand…we can never give up hope.
Keep in touch,
Love,
Nanci

Barbara
Barbara
9 years ago

Dear Fay,

I lost my son to addiction. He was in and out of prison for years as a result. As he grew older and older, I tried to let go… To let go of the pain and torture he put us through. So, I did. He made bad choices and continued his drug addiction until he overdosed at age 40.

Nanci is right. If you haven’t read Libby’s book “Stay Close” it will be of great help to you. You may be able to get it at your local library.

I will pray for you and your family. Please stay close. We all help each other, here.

Love,
Barbara

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Dearest Faye,

You are in great pain, and I’m deeply sorry. During the night last night, I found myself praying for you and your family. Those of us who are here in this forum know your pain, your suffering and your quest to find the answer that will fix things. The hardest part for me, always, was that the answer was not in me, but was in Jeff. HE needed to change his life. This was heart-wrenching to watch as he fell deeper and deeper into a black hole. There is a saying in AA, “Just when I thought I hit my bottom, the bottom fell out.” Never, ever, did I think Jeff could reach such lows. But he did. It was only when I stayed close, but got out of the way of his chaos that he decided to change his life. In other words, by fixing his problems, I made things worse. I hope this makes sense.

What to do? Dr MacAfee says our first step has to be education. We need to educate ourselves about the disease of addiction. He says we, as parents, need to learn about what we’re up against, to locate resources and to arm ourselves for battle. When I had breast cancer, I did that. I talked with people, I read books and I learned everything I could about my disease. With Jeff, I denied his disease for a long, long time. Only when I took a hard look at what was happening, listened to others who had been through it and talked with recovering addicts did I begin to understand.

We are here for you. As they say in Al-Anon, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, you can’t control it, but you can contribute to it. With love,

Libby

Pat Nichols
9 years ago

Fay,

I too have been praying for you and your family.

We are your fellow travelers and you are safe here. We all understand and are willing to share our strength, hope and experiences with you.

You have received some wonderful responses to your requests for help. We learn best from those who have went before us.

I have found the guidance from a professional alcohol/drug counselors to be priceless. The professional can help you deal with your husband and his anger as well as your son and his addiction. The counselor will develop a plan of action and will point you to vital resources within your community to support your return to peace and serenity.

What worked best for me was taking small steps consistently each and every day.

Pat

Fay
Fay
9 years ago

Dear all, thanks for kind words. My son is still in denial and he thinks he is ok. I know he is injecting himself with Heroin and it breaks my heart. I have this anxiety all the time which does not let me concentrate. My youngest son just moved out of the house because he did not want to see him going through this. He has no money, no where to go and living at home. I can not imagine to throw him out of our house. He is kind and very polite and I love him so much. Do you think I should call his PO and let him know that he is using drug although his probation will end in April. I am afraid to get him to more trouble and make it worst for him. I did join Alanon meeting online and trying to learn how to deal with this. I already finished Libby’s book and that is why I am here. Love Jeff for his courage and I hope and pray that my son get that courage too.

Libby Cataldi
9 years ago

Dearest Faye,

Your heart is breaking and you don’t know what to do. I understand, and you are not alone. Addiction is a confounding disease. What helps one child might not help another. As parents, we need to do what we can do. Many people gave me advice during Jeff’s addiction (tough love, throw him out, tell people he died, etc.), but I could do only what I could do. As parents here, we can share only our own experiences, our hope and our strength. As Pat offered, an addiction specialist will be able to give you strategies that might work. As Dr. MacAfee says, “Society gives us no rules for dealing with addiction.”

I wish we could offer you answers, but if we did and your son died because of our advice, we could never live with that consequence. What we can offer you is prayer for continued strength. For me, Stay Close gave me a roadmap, “Don’t abandon your child, but don’t give him money – for nothing, not for cell phone, not for anything.” In the end, Jeff had to admit he had a problem and he had to make a decision to change his life. He did this at the end when I got out of his way and quit fixing things for him.

We join you in prayer. With love and in hope,

L

Fay
Fay
9 years ago

Hi Libby, I am reading your book for the second time and each time I learn more. I know I can’t abandon him, I love him so much but it is so hard to see him hurting himself and not admitting to his need for help. He keep saying I can do it myself. We decided to keep him at home to be able to watch him but not giving him money. My family don’t know about his situation and i don’t want to share it with them. I have no one here in my town and my mom is overseas, I know it will kill her if she knows about this. I am just hoping that he comes to his senses and get help. Love u