Photo Credit: Davood Madadpoor

Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction therapist, wrote: Allowing addicts to stand accountable for their behavior and consequences is difficult for families in the beginning; staying close and out of the way is often reported as feeling “unnatural.” However, complaining, threatening, and hand wringing rarely succeeds. Staying close to the addict and out of the way of the insanity is encouraged. For families dealing with active addicts, I recommend offering them roads to recovery, not more money or bailouts. Watching a loved one who’s failing is terrifying, but enabling them to avoid the consequences of their actions only prolongs the sickness.

My reflection: Our family did a whole lot of ‘complaining, threatening, and hand wringing.’ As Dr. MacAfee mentions, these never worked with our son. It wasn’t until Jeff had to face the natural consequences of his addiction that he made a decision to change his life.

Today’s Promise to consider: I can’t force my addicted loved one into health, but I can allow him to face the repercussions of his addiction. For fourteen years I feared Jeff would die – the single most horrifying outcome for any parent – but in the end I could only offer roads to recovery, continue to love him, and pray for a better future.



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Pat Nichols
4 years ago

It takes us awhile to accept the truth of Libby’s post. That’s only natural as we have to let the chaos of our child’s addiction wear us out. Once it does I found it very helpful to work with a professional alcohol/drug counselor. I even did what he told me to do! He suggested I join a 12 step parent support group ( and get a sponsor by my 3rd meeting. I did and I even did what my sponsor suggested! I met others that were struggling also and it was very helpful to be around other parents of addicted children. I also strengthened my relationship with God and was determined to draw closer to Him each day. This proved vital in my own recovery. I even did what God told me to! I began reading every book I could find on addiction and eventually accepted the fact that addiction is a primary disease, a mental disorder. This was very important as I could now see my son in a different prospective. It helped me be more compassionate and understanding while limiting my anxiety and anger. I was able to see addiction as a separate entity from that of my son. I felt addiction had kidnapped him and was holding him against his will. My son was helpless. And once the disease had ran it course, it finally wore itself out and my son was freed to find his own recovery. He did and after 21 years of addiction captivity he is now clean & sober celebrating his 5th yr. of recovery. Never give up!

Pat Nichols
4 years ago
Reply to  libbycataldi

Thank you Libby! We are all part of the team, the team of recovery. We focus on improving every day and asking God for His guidance and strength. We can defeat our opponent Addiction.

Mindy Bartholomae
Mindy Bartholomae
4 years ago

My Families Anonymous sponsor recommended your book, Libby, which i am now reading. Parallel stories, ours. I feel as though I have had a breakthrough over the past few months where even though I had been involved with FA for many years, my compulsion with fixing my son was still eating me alive. I just got so tired of the constant fear and worry. I participate in the FA online eMeeting which is available 24/7. There are many wise souls in this group and the power of expressing my thoughts in writing is cathartic. I, too, have learned to reach out to my God, to pray, which though i was raised going to church, I certainly never was bent to my knees such that prayer was the only “place” I had left to go. No more anger, tears, heartache, just silence and finding a place of peace.
I would, though, like to find a good addiction therapist in my area. Any reacommendations as to how to go about this?

4 years ago

Dearest Mindy,

I understand and I, too, found solace, peace, and support within my Al-Anon group. You’re right – there are many wise souls in support groups, and their wisdom has been learned through pain and trauma. I wish I could recommend a good addiction therapist, but I can’t. Dr. MacAfee, Jeff’s addiction therapist, was a life saver for us and taught me much. He has since passed, and I miss him every day.

We found Dr. MacAfee through the recommendation of the staff at Jeff’s last recovery house. Recovering addicts have a sixth-sense about people, so you might try there. You could also search online through SAMHSA or give Hazelden a call (they offer great support through their call center).

I join you in prayer and hope.


4 years ago

The truth is that our addicts can die as a consequence of their addiction, but consequences can also motivate them to change. I have been struggling with the fine line between enabling and helping for the past decade, and admit that I have tended to fall on the side of enabling and rescuing. But I have also done the tough love thing and allowed my son to spend time in homeless shelters, on the street and finally let him face a four year prison sentence. While he was in prison I tried to stay close without rescuing, but at times got caught up in the insanity of what he was dealing with in prison. Now that he is out of prison, I have been confronted with more decisions about how much to help and when to say no. It has been a rough few months for him and our family. He went from prison to a homeless shelter to our home, to the psychiatric hospital and back to a homeless shelter where he got sick and depressed and wanted to die. He fought going to an inpatient program because of his experiences with them in the past. We finally decided to help him to seek recovery in his own way- by living with his own family, taking suboxene, following the conditions of his parole and going to outpatient treatment. Now he is back in our home, and has been beginning to show signs of improvement. He is learning that he can’t manipulate doctors, that some medications are not helpful for him and he that seeing a caring counselor helps. He is following our house rules and showing gratitude for what we are doing. I know that there is a long road ahead, but I am feeling more hopeful that I have been in a long time. I think by his family “staying close” and by the grace of his higher power my son has been able to stay alive over that past decade, and that a prison term has probably been the thing that has motivated him to change more than anything else. So I realize now that consequences are important, but that helping someone who needs it by staying close and offering support for recovery is critical too. I also learned that I can’t dictate the terms of his recovery, but I can set boundaries, or the terms for my support. Just for today I feel good about my role in my son’s life, and I pray for my higher power to help me stick to my boundaries and make decisions that will enable my son’s road to recovery without rescuing him from his consequences.

4 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Dear Laura, I agree with you that the line between enabling and helping is difficult, and sometimes impossible to find. I searched for that line for years and, for 14 years, I enabled my son’s addiction, almost to his death. When I finally ‘Stayed Close,’ but out of the chaos of his addiction, he made the choice to change his life. You’re right that we need to have boundaries. Dr. MacAfee always told me, “Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you don’t, you confuse your son and he doesn’t know what to expect from you.”

As you write, we can’t dictate the terms of our child’s recovery, but we can set boundaries, pray, learn, and love. I love your last line, “Just for today I feel good about my role in my son’s life, and I pray for my higher power to help me stick to my boundaries and make decisions that will enable my son’s road to recovery without rescuing him from his consequences.” G

God bless you and your son.