WHEN IT’S YOUR PARENT, BROTHER, SISTER, OR FRIEND

by libbycataldi under family

A young woman wrote to me: Libby, something important struck me when I read this line you wrote  – ‘My child’s addiction is not against me. He is trapped in the disease and, although it doesn’t always look like it, he loathes the life he is living.’ If I replace child with father, this is one of the most impactful and life-altering realizations that helped me heal my relationship with my dad. I saw that he was trapped in a disease rather than deliberately choosing drugs over family.

My reflection: Addiction’s tentacles strangle all of us: children, brothers, sisters, parents, and loved ones. We, as a recovering community, have an obligation to reach out our hands to all those impacted from the effects of this disease.

Today’s Promise: Children of addicted parents, siblings of addicted children, and all those in pain need our support. Our loved ones are alive, under the drugs. My son once told me, “Society loathes addicts, and addicts loathe themselves.” Today, let us not take addiction personally. Let us face it with compassion and take it out of the shadows and into the light where it can be healed.

AM I ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM?

A mom wrote to me: My son is two years sober, has his own place, has been at his same job for almost two years, and is managing his own money. His best friend, with whom he spends lots of time, just had surgery and has been given pain pills. Unfortunately this brings me to an old, scared place. I wonder if the pain pills tempt him? Do I ask him or just calm my inner self and thoughts? I never really know if talking or even asking would make him upset or be helpful? Am I allowed to ask about the elephant in the room or will that not be healthy for him? The fear is always there, isn’t it Libby?

My reflection: I know this place of fear, this ‘elephant in the room.’ 

Today’s Promise to consider: Maybe the fear of relapse is always in the back of our parent mind. I wonder if it’s in the back of our recovering loved ones’ minds, too? No matter how justified, our worry can’t be laid at the feet of our sons and daughters, who are working hard to stay the course, to live a good life, and to manage their own anxieties. It’s normal to be concerned about ‘what will be,’ but all we have is today. Let us stay close and trust our children. Sure, this is tough, and continued recovery isn’t guaranteed. We’ve been vigilant a long time, but maybe it’s time to put our fears aside and enjoy the present.

RELAPSE AND RECOVERY

A young man wrote to me: As a recovering addict, I know well that relapse happens. It took me many attempts to find sobriety. Each addict is unique in his or her own way, but for me I spent more than a decade avoiding the true problem – myself. Drugs filled the void inside me, an empty space of insecurity and anxiety (and sure a rebellious side when I was young). The road to recovery is a long one and the answer lies within the addict.

My reflection: When my son was in active addiction, I threatened, cajoled, pleaded, and would have sold my soul for his recovery. But all my machinations were futile. My son had to find the answer inside himself, and for himself.

Today’s Promise to consider: It took me fourteen years of addiction’s trauma to accept that relapse happens. By the grace of God, my son survived his many relapses. Lots of families aren’t as fortunate. Throughout it all I was forced to admit that I didn’t have the ability to cure the addiction, fix it, or make it go away. I was powerless, and my son needed to find the answer inside himself.

THE HARD PART: STAYING OUT OF THE CHAOS OF ADDICTION

A mom wrote to me: Your story meant I was not alone. I loved  my son even as I was terrified and, for so so long, I thought I could do something to fix him. When he was little and struggled so much, I always seemed to be able to make it better. But addiction is not like that. The hard part for me was not staying close, but staying out of the chaos. And because the chaos of this disease is crazy making for those who love a suffering child, it is so hard at times to not get sick oneself from worry and fear. Depressed. Worn down. Giving in and giving money– which could have killed him. Such a fine line at times to walk.

My reflection: I, too, thought I could heal my son, change his life, and make things better. I couldn’t.

Today’s Promise to consider:  As parents, we often turn ourselves inside-out in an effort to ‘fix’ our suffering loved ones, until we realize that our help isn’t always helping. It took me fourteen years to accept that I couldn’t change my son’s destructive behavior. In time, I learned to stay close and continue to love him while I disengaged from the chaos of his addiction.

RECOVERY: THE STATE OF TOTAL SURRENDER

Alessandro Rodino Dal Pozzo, the president of San Patrignano, said, The path to recovery happens when you truly and deeply accept that things have to change.

My reaction: When my son was in active addiction, I thought that I could gauge when he was ready to accept recovery, when the pain had reached critical junctures, and when he would be open to professional help. I never could.

Today’s Promise to consider: Moments of extreme suffering can lead to important epiphanies for those suffering from substance abuse. The Big Book calls the opening that follows these periods, “The Gift of Desperation.” My son’s fourteen-year heroin addiction took him to a place where he was lost and a shell of himself. He was at the crossroads of continuing drugs or dying. He later told me, This was one of the most profound moments in my recovery process.

RECOVERY CAN BE TERRIFYING

My son wrote this in Stay Close about getting and staying sober: I was terrified – faced with getting clean, again. With nothing but failed attempts to reference, sobriety seemed impossible. It’s easier to want to change your life than to actually do it. Following through takes total courage, and I was scared to my bones.

My reflection on the above passage: During the critical months when my son made the decision to change his life, he worked with Dr. MacAfee, an addiction therapist who was highly intuitive and knowledgeable. He explained to Jeff that, when the using stops, a period of grief would inevitably come, for all the lost time, the years gone by, the people hurt, and the trail of destruction. He said, “The grief will overtake you, and it will be hard. But it’s also a sweet time. Savor it.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Our suffering loved ones know the chaos of court systems and legal problems. They know how to lie, deceive, and manipulate in service of their disease. What they need to learn how to do is to live a transparent life – how to be honest and faithful, and how to find serenity. Today, I pray for all those suffering that they source the courage they need to confront the demon of addiction.

I’M IN CONTROL OF JUST ONE PERSON: MYSELF

by libbycataldi under family

A dad wrote to me: I got so tired of the lies and the constant drama that our family had to endure. We parents care so much for our children that it’s really difficult to watch them self-destruct. I’m getting much better at realizing that I am in control of just one person: myself. I think prayer is the only answer.

My reflection: It’s incredibly difficult to admit that we can’t control the behavior of our addicted loved ones. My dad’s words rang in my ears, “Just tell him to stop.” It took me years of pain to realize that my best efforts couldn’t end the chaos of addiction in our family.

Today’s Promise to consider: Once at an Al-Anon meeting, the speaker held a hula-hoop over her head and then dropped it around her and onto the floor. She pointed to her feet and the space inside the hoop, “I can control only what’s inside this hoop.” It was a simple visual that resonated deeply with me. My son had his own hoop. I had mine. There’s only room for one in an addiction.

THEY NEED SOMEONE TO BELIEVE IN THEM

A mom wrote to me, As I type this, our son just started methadone treatment, and our daughter is in a 28-day treatment program after being released from detox. I have to admit that I think it’s unfair that both our children are drug addicts, but I never lose faith. I keep praying for them to get well. It has been a nightmare of epic proportions and my husband and I are so very tired of living all that comes with dealing with addicted children. We just want them to get better and be able to lead healthy and productive lives.

My reflection: This mom is correct that addiction is a nightmare of epic proportions. I remember well the depression, the ache, and the suffering that our family endured during Jeff’s illness. I remember praying to find the silver bullet that would cure my son and stop the addiction. Unfortunately, there isn’t one.

Today’s Promise to consider: We all need someone to believe in us. Living in the solution takes monumental faith, courage, and determination from us and our suffering loved ones. While they try to find their way home to themselves, they need to lean on someone else’s strength. Positivity is a super power – one we can transmit. My son once asked me, “Never quit believing, OK, Mom?” I answered, “I won’t quit believing. Never.”

 

CREATING JOY IN THE MIDST OF ADDICTION

Lynn Lyons, LICSW, offered her thoughts about how important it is for us to create moments of joy for our children, especially when we are making our way through difficulties.

Her mother sent her a 15-second video of her 79-year-old father vacuuming while blasting his favorite 50’s music. While she watched her father dance and sing, she said, “It made me have this sense that things will be OK.” She went on to say that our children need to see us laugh, smile, sing, or do anything that shows some happiness. These moments can help our family members feel more secure during the crises of addiction.

My reflection: When my son was using and on the streets, the chaos, worry, and fear affected every part of my life. For example, when my sons were little, we used to dance around the kitchen as I cooked and they helped. When addiction entered our lives, the dancing stopped.

Today’s Promise to consider: This day is all we have, and we’re not entitled to tomorrow or the day after. Yet, we often allow ourselves to become so embroiled with the fear of what might happen in the future, that we forget to create joy today. We forget about self-compassion and self-care. We owe it to our other children, to our husbands or wives, to throw off the shackles of addiction – if even for a moment. Today, let us take a minute or two to smile, dance, sing, or skip. Let us show our family that addiction doesn’t rule our lives.

ADDICTION AND RECOVERY: HOW TO TRUST AGAIN

by libbycataldi under family

A mom wrote to me: I wrote to you a few years ago about my son’s addiction. As every parent, we barely functioned for almost three years. After his marriage of two years ended, he went to rehab and a halfway house for some time. Today, he has a good job, met a great girl and seems to be doing well. He just announced his engagement and even though things seem better, I worry. I know I should have a positive outlook, but the past haunts me. How do you ever begin to trust and live without fear?

My reflection: I once asked Dr MacAfee this same question, “How do I learn to trust again? The past trauma is hard to forget, and I worry what might happen in the future.” The good doctor answered, “Your feelings are normal. You’ve been vigilant a long time. Be patient with yourself.”

Today’s Promise to consider: Trusting that a recovering loved one will stay well and not return to the chaos of addiction is difficult. Most of us have been deeply scarred by years of turbulence. Today, I’ll be gentle with myself. I’ll breathe, acknowledge my fear, and move toward releasing my worry. In doing so, I learn to live in the present. My loved one deserves this effort. So do I.