images-1I was talking with a friend, and he told me: There was a time in my life when I described my inner self by a visual representation of a fortress in the middle of a desert. My external self was a fortress, an impenetrable stronghold, guarded by a part of me who walked around the top and watched people approach. Inside the fortress was my internal self where there were hundreds of rooms, each one open, inviting, and filled with beautiful decorations. But there was one room that was locked, bare and lit only by a dull blue flame. This is where the most personal part of me resided: Anxious, pushing up against the door to make sure no one entered. Do you understand that I was afraid to let anyone in that room where the ‘real’ me was? When people came to the fortress, the public part of me – the guard – let them in and accompanied them to certain rooms. They were never free to look around or permitted entrance into the locked room. In time, I learned to open my fortress walls and invite people to look around as they wish. The locked room isn’t bolted shut anymore.

My reaction: As I listened to this visual interpretation of my friend’s concept of self, I was intrigued and touched deeply. The fortress described by this young man was one I knew well because I myself had constructed one in much the same manner. Especially through Jeff’s addiction, I closed up my soul, my joy and my availability and allowed no one to enter the room with the dull blue flame. As I continued to do my work with honesty and toward serenity, my locked room isn’t locked anymore.

Today’s Promise to consider: Maybe we all build metaphorical fortresses in the desert that contain open rooms for our public persona and a locked and guarded room to keep our private selves safe. Though I recognize the need to protect myself, today I will break down the doors of my stronghold and allow others, especially those who love me and are in my support group, to see the real me. 



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10 years ago

When I read this week’s meditation, it was as though I was looking through a mirror. I used to be the same way. It took many years to discuss (with my siblings) the years of abuse I, and they, went through from our father.

It was the same way with my son. It took years to open up to someone – anyone who I thought could help me. I knew in my heart that my son needed psychological help, but who to turn to? I turned to taking a parent-child relation course offered at a college close to where I was living. After that, it was joining a support group. After that, it was one-on-one therapy. Until the therapist recommended a farm for problem children. My son was there for 2-3 months. Did it help him? No, it didn’t. It didn’t help him because he was still very young (12-13 years old).

After he came home from the farm, he just got into more and more trouble and ended in the juvenile system. Did that help? No, it didn’t.

He then got out, came home, and got into bigger trouble. This time he ended up in prison. When he got out, prison had only made him a better criminal. And, it goes on and on.

It MUST be in their heart to want to change. They have to want to change, feel the change, relish in it and be proud of it. Until that happens, our addicted children will forever stay in that room of the fortress where no one is allowed to go……until they allow it.

Thank you, Libby for reminding us to open those doors to people who support us and love us. God Bless you.

Libby Cataldi
10 years ago

Dear Barbara,

Your courage continues to inspire me. I, too, was the person hiding in the room with the blue flame. As Head of School, my public persona – the smiling, effervescent Libby – was always on stage, but I kept the personal part of me closeted away. I’ve struggled with boundaries: How much to share, how much to tell and how much to keep to myself. I know boundaries are important, but I always had trouble finding the appropriate line. The AA slogan, “We’re only as sick as our secrets” has helped me, but I also am aware that I don’t need to tell everyone.

In the end, we must choose to open the door. In the end, our sons – our addicted loved ones – must choose to open the door. No one can do this for us. As you write, “until they allow it.”

I stand with you in hope that we all continue to learn to whom to open the door and when. These decisions could mean the difference between life and death for our children, as you know better than I.

With love and respect,


10 years ago

This so resonates with me ! I struggle with these boundaries all the time. I think we are lucky when we can perform normal life duties in the face of the disease and hold it has on our lives. I think we have to get over guilt that we can actually be happy if our children are suffering. Because I donl’t want the disease to consume my every waking moment, I’ve learned ( still learning ) to seek those things that can bring joy to my spirit. Sometimes, it is basic. A good long walk. A funny movie. And I do tell people about my son –not everyone– it can be very awkward and my timing is not always great — but at times, disclosing is an ice breaker in a group and many people share at a level you would never expect that kind of real conversation to occur. People think if you cn be joyful life must be easy peasy. When in fact, the opposite can be true. So many people have loved ones who struggle or have struggled themselves. I always tell them that for me — LIbby’s book and this blog and Barbara and others who come here have been my soul savers … one of my best supports EVER. Thank you for This Libby. Light to all.