RomeAn Italian college student, who lives in Rome, wrote to me. She is the sister of an addict:  I want to share with you a poem I love. I’ve read it many times and each time I hope my brother, too, will arrive at the “Fifth Chapter.”

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, by Portia Nelson

I:  I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost … I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.

II:  I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

III:  I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

IV:  I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

V:  I walk down another street.

My thoughts: We are responsible for making the choice to get ourselves out of the hole of addiction or despair. No one can make this decision for us. It is a singular and personal choice.

Today’s Promise to consider: Today I will fortify myself by joining hands with others. I will break the bonds of isolation and fear that feed addiction. I’ll reach out my hand, pray and continue to believe. I will walk down another street.




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Pat Nichols
10 years ago

“Insane by Cocaine”

Face down in the frozen rain,
met my constant pain.

Darkness of the night,
emotional loss of sight.

Seventeen years lost,
cocaine, a high cost.

Teeth rotting from decay,
mind games, tricks it plays!

Pain, hunger and disease,
one more snort, please.

God, open my eyes,
or let me die.
I wrote this poem three years ago when my son was living under a bridge in San Antonio doing cocaine.

He is alive today, there is still hope.

Sometimes we (parents) don’t know we are in the hole. The only way I could find that “other street” was working my own 12 step program with another parent (sponsor) who knew the way.

May we all, one day, walk hand in hand down the street of recovery where we will find peace and serenity once again.

10 years ago

Dear Pat,

You were inundated with pain and sorrow three years ago. I remember. You have come a long way because of your own 12 step program.

Dear Libby,

The poem you posted is precious. I love it. And, may I say the picture of Italy is beautiful, too!!

I want to thank all of you who come to Libby’s blog. It’s unbelievable to me that this year, in July, it will have been six years that my son overdosed and died. Thank you for helping me each day and each week with your thoughts and prayers. Without you, I can’t imagine where I’d be. Thank you so much, Libby, for without you, and the people who come here, I couldn’t have learned how to forgive myself.

10 years ago

Powerful passages from all. I wrote many poems when my son was at his worst and I was too. In fact I journaled a lot and keep thinking that one day I too will publish it. It was a way for me to get it all out. Sometimes it would be so painful to put it on paper and actually read it. Then it seemed like it really had happened and it wasn’t just my mind playing tricks.
It amazes me when I look back and see what I did without the Al Anon program and how much healthier I am today by working the steps. Awareness, action acceptance.
Love to you all for being here

Libby Cataldi
Libby Cataldi
10 years ago

Dearest friends,

As I read your messages, I am flooded with emotion. We have had such different journeys, yet so similar. We have felt deep trauma and pain. We’ve worked our steps, written and reached out a hand to help each other. Barbara, you have suffered the greatest loss any parent can suffer – the death of your child – yet you find the strength and grace to help us along in our grief. I thank YOU. You are a blessing to us, a role model and an inspiration.

We go forward forgiving ourselves, forgiving our children and trying to find peace. Nothing is easy with addiction.

My love to you all.


10 years ago

Thank you for this Libby.

Sometimes we “forget” that we can still walk let alone choose a different street.

We are still waiting to hear the results of our son’s sentencing. This limbo time has been hard but not harder than all the times he was missing. I truly believe prayers were answered and the arrest may have saved his life. I received this passage below -for another reason -this morning from a friend. But seems to appropriate for what we are asked to do as parents of ones with disease of addiction. As Libby says close -but out of the chaos. Right now ,a fine line for us. I hope it speaks to all of you with comfort as you have all comforted me. Sometimes helping, as we know in Al-anon –is that total surrender to doing “nothing.” But ever pray.

“When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to him [/her] who suffers, and try to help him[/her].”
– Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom