Dr. MacAfee told me that the pain of addiction is the agony of being trapped. Using becomes critically important because it answers every problem in a person’s life … until it doesn’t. The use is the solution until it becomes handcuffs. The juxtaposition is baffling, and the addict literally has to fight for his life.

My reflection: I never fully understood the grasp that addiction had on my son. His drug use started as a party, and ended as a prison.

Today’s Promise: During the early years of my son’s fourteen-year addiction, I thought that he could simply turn off his drug use. I told him to stop and expected it to happen. In time and with education, I learned that it would take my son great pain and courage to change his life. Our loved ones are unable to see the impact their sickness has on those who care about them. Today, I’ll offer my loved one compassion.


I recently read a story about a mother who saw a homeless boy on the streets and, in the young boy, she saw her own son, who also suffered from the disease of addiction. She talked with the boy and asked him his name. He told her that he wanted to get clean, but that he felt lost and couldn’t figure out how the system worked to be able to access free recovery. He’d given up. She helped him find a treatment center, and he entered of his own accord. The world is full of angels.

My reflection: In my own life, there have been people who have, by coincidence ‘shown up,’ seemingly, out of thin air to help me. When I called a woman whom I didn’t know and asked about Al-Anon, she immediately and without a question, took me to three different meetings until I found my home base. That began my healing.

Today’s Promise to consider: During my son’s fourteen-year struggle with addiction, many angels entered his life, particularly his sponsors in AA. In those rooms, he found people, who knew his walk and were willing to guide him, and to love him back to health, however momentarily my son’s health lasted before he continually relapsed. Over and over again, he reached out his hand, and someone was there. Dr. MacAfee was the angel who helped my son to ultimately find himself, and to this day we honor the good doctor’s memory. God bless all our children’s angels.


A mom wrote to me, My son was living at home, staying off drugs, working a job, and exercising, but he’s using again. He left our home today. With a heavy heart, I told him I loved him. This will be our last time of letting him live with us. Now, if he wants recovery, he needs to be the change. Love and detach…stay close… hard. We offered him treatment, but he’s not ready. My prayer is that he stays safe. God, give me the strength to accept this.

My reflection: Loving and detaching. I struggled with this dichotomy for years. How could I love my son and detach at the same time? But in the end, it was the blending of these two that made the difference in both my life and my son’s.

Today’s Promise to consider: Dealing with addiction is counterintuitive. It took me fourteen years of my son’s heroin addiction to learn to stay close, but out of the chaos. I answered his calls and texts, but I gave him no money or resources that would enable his behavior. I realized that living in sobriety could not be imposed on him.  He had to make the decision to change his life, while I needed to accept, surrender, and pray for strength, for both of us.


by libbycataldi under family

From my son, I learned that the knowledge that our family was waiting for him when he got healthy was an important part of his recovery. He knew that when he made the decision to live a sober life, we would be at his side. 

The words of Johann Hari in Chasing the Scream echo in my mind: For a century now, we have been singing war songs about addicts. It occurred to me as I wiped his brow, we should have been singing love songs to them all along.

My reflection: Years ago, the Director of a branch of San Patrignano in Italy taught me the meaning of stagli vicino (stay close to him). He counseled me to stay close, but out of the chaos of my son’s addiction. 

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is a family disease, and we are all involved, hurt and traumatized. We must learn to define and protect our boundaries, but we also should recognize that family members can be powerful parts of the medicine of recovery. Today, I’ll stay close in love and prayer.


A mother wrote to me: My husband and I were always with our kids, but it seems to me that the kids who were on their own did better. Many of our neighborhood children grew up with our kids, and they are all very successful. How did mine turn out to be addicted to drugs?

My reflection: Many times, I asked myself this same question, “Why my child?” Why our family? For years, I felt shame and guilt, until I learned that self-blame was unconstructive.

Today’s Promise to consider: The Big Book of AA states that drugs are ‘similar to an allergy.’ Some people have it; some people don’t. After years of trying to answer the question, Why my child?, I realized that the why didn’t matter. My son had it, and I had to educate myself. I became a student in the halls of Al-Anon, with Dr. MacAfee, our beloved addiction therapist, and with my son himself.  In time, I learned how to be compassionate, but with boundaries. For me, education was the key.


A mother wrote to me: Our daughter, both strikingly beautiful and musically gifted, signed a recording contract with an International music company at the age of fifteen. I traveled with her extensively and never had an idea what was going on right in my presence. At seventeen, she graduated a year early as valedictorian of a private school catering to performers. Unbeknownst to us, she was already addicted to cocaine when she left for university on a full music scholarship. I blamed her stuffy nose on allergies, and she gladly accepted the air cleaner I bought for her dorm room. We only learned of her addiction after a suicide attempt.

My reflection: I have been asked a multitude of times, “When were aware that your son was abusing drugs?” When I answer that it took me many years to understand what was happening, people wonder how did I ‘miss’ all the clues? All I can say is that I wanted to believe he was OK.

Today’s Promise to consider: How is it possible that we miss an addiction that’s right before our very eyes? We see the dilated pupils, hear the stuffy nose, and wonder where our child’s spirit and humor have gone. For me and for a long time, I simply wanted to believe all was well with my son, and I lived in denial. When I finally acknowledged the addiction, I felt guilty and ashamed, which were unconstructive. It was only when I sought support in Al-Anon that I started to understand the insidiousness of this disease.


A friend and mother, who has lived with the consequences of addiction, sent me this song: When I listened to it, I was deeply moved. It’s as if the song was written for our suffering loved ones:

You’ve owned your fear and all your self-loathing.  

You’ve owned the voices inside of your head.

You’ve owned the shame and reproach of your failure.

It’s time to own your belovedness.


You’ve owned your past and how it’s defined you.

You’ve owned everything everybody else says…


You’ve owned the mess you see in the mirror.

You’ve owned the lies that you’re just not enough.

You’ve been so blinded by all you’re comparing.

It’s time to own your belovedness.


Today’s Promise to consider: Our loved ones, who are suffering and have suffered from addiction’s grasp, have lived with feelings of self-loathing, shame, and reproach. What do they see when they look in the mirror? Do they see their value? Whether this song represents a heavenly father, a higher power, or a mother singing to her child, let us pray that all our children feel beloved.



by libbycataldi under Hope

A mom wrote to me: It’s 3:00 am, and my daughter went out to drink and use. We’ve been at this a long time. I’m writing to you because I’m awake in the middle of the night, sad, and completely powerless. I’m in this limbo of not knowing if she’s safe or not. I’m losing hope, while trying to keep hope and faith alive.

My reflection: I, too, tried countless ways to stop my son’s addiction. I dragged him to therapists, forced him into treatment centers, paid his bills, and tracked him down whenever he couldn’t be found. Fear took over my life.

Today’s Promise to consider: It took me fourteen years of watching my son chase his next high before I finally acknowledged that the power to stop him was outside my control. As humbling as it was, it was crucial for me to realize that no matter how much of myself I poured into his illness, the choice to stop was his alone. Today, I admit that I cannot control anyone other than myself. Let us keep hope alive and continue to believe and pray that our loved ones will come home, to themselves and our families.


I wrote about my son: After three years of sobriety, my son’s growth is evident. He laughs more easily, he watches more calmly, he protects himself better. He knows where he hurts, and he pays attention to what is coming. He’s more reflective, thoughtful, less impulsive, and more honest. He has good friends. Suffice it to say that he is becoming a strong and caring man. He will get better and better.

My reflection: Watching my son come back to himself after a 14-year addiction, was a joy. I cherished each accomplishment and each step forward.

Today’s Promise to consider: In the early years of recovery, my son told me, “Some mornings, I reach for a word and it’s like reaching into the fog. Other mornings, when I reach for a word, I pluck it easily out of the air. I’m frustrated that some days aren’t clear, but I guess I need to be patient with myself.” His words reminded me that we all need to be patient with our loved ones in each step of their recovery. The joy is in the unfolding, one day at a time.


A mom wrote to me: We’ve corresponded a few times over the course of a lot of years as my son wandered through the maze of his addiction and I followed along, hanging onto his shirt tail trying to keep him safe. Of course, that didn’t work. I know more about addiction now than I ever wanted to know. He’s five years clean this week. He’s living on his own, paying his bills, and working in the same job the whole time. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m filled with gratitude for today.  He has thanked me for not giving up on him, even when it was almost impossible to stay close.  

My reflection: I, too, hung onto my son’s shirt tail as I tried to keep him safe, and I, too, found that it didn’t work.

Today’s Promise to consider: When we are feeling battered by the consequences of addiction’s grasp on our children, it’s hard to stay close but out of the chaos. During my son’s fourteen-year addiction, I struggled tremendously with this concept. It wasn’t until I visited the Florence, Italy, office of San Patrignano that it started to make sense. A recovering man’s words hit me hard: “Love your son, don’t abandon him, but don’t give him money for anything – not his cell phone, not his car, nothing.” It was never easy to follow this advice, but I did. And, just as this mother, I stayed close, but with boundaries.