WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE USING STOPS: PART 2

Uncle Jeff and niece Iysa

A mom asks Dr. MacAfee: I understand what you write, “Recovery is always an individual endeavor and also requires a supportive community.” I also know how hard it has been to love my son unconditionally through all the rehabs, failed attempts, restarts, continued use and damage to relationships. My husband and I are trying hard to support his current attempt at recovery. I know the road is very difficult for the addict and my heart breaks for my son, but I also have a broken heart for the rest of us. So much healing is needed. How does healing happen?

Dr. MacAfee responds: We all want healing to be an end game, but it doesn’t happen that way. Healing comes a layer at a time. For some, healing is totally dependent on the sobriety of the addict and this highlights the difference between helping and enabling.

To the mom above, you might say to your child, “I have discovered that there is only room for one of us in your addiction. I have decided to leave you in charge of the consequences of your addiction. Ironically, I find this decision both terrifying and liberating, but also healing. I want you to be whole again and I fear all our help has stood in your way. It’s hard for me to face my getting out of your way, but I realize that it is healing for you, too.”

Today’s Promise to consider: I will stay close, love my child and not abandon him, but I will get out of the way of the chaos of his addiction. My peace will come from knowing that I’ve done everything I could have done. I will endure and pray.

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Pat Nichols
10 years ago

I feel it is next to impossible for us to get out of our children’s way unless we have grieved the loss of the child of our dreams.

Parents of a child who is addicted to alcohol or other drugs must deal with their loss in much the same way as parents whose child physically has been lost.
Unfortunately, with parents of an addicted child, the grieving is repeated over and over with every relapse the child experiences on his/her path to long-term recovery.

There are three stages of grief for parents:
The first is shock and denial, then anger and depression. The last stage is understanding and acceptance, this stage is best accomplished through 12 step support groups like Families Anonymous and/or Al-Anon. In prayer for all of us and our children.

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

I absolutely agree with every word you wrote Pat. It was not till I reached a stage of acceptance that I had in fact lost the son I believed I had that I could start to accept the son I have now. There are some days I still have vacillated in acceptance so Dr Macafee is so right when he says it happens in layers . It has taken a decade of experiences, and all the stages of grief. I sometimes think it is about chronic sorrow too. Google that and you may agree. Love to you all on this journey
Jane

Libby Cataldi
10 years ago

Dear Pat and Jane,

Your thoughts are powerful. I received a note from a dad about this post and his words echo our feelings. He wrote:
“Can’t believe how much I disliked my son in his addiction. My healing was very dependent on his changing his behavior. It was a looooong time before I trusted his changes. A long time before I could let go of my anger at his decisions. A long time before WE became whole again. Yes a layer at a time.”

Healing – a layer at a time. I find that I need to be patient with myself.

Love to you,

L

Barbara
Barbara
10 years ago

How I can relate to all of your words. I had such a horrible time accepting my son’s addiction. I spent years in the first and second stages of grief (as Pat stated). I got out of my son’s way by completely washing my hands of him, for years at a time, while he was in active addiction (which was most of his life). He knew I loved him, but he also was intelligent enough to know that I needed get on with my life, with my husband and daughter.

The physical loss of my son was so final, it’s difficult to put into words. Sometimes, I wish I had the chaos back. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I wish I could hear his voice, just one more time, asking me for money.

Healing does come in layers, and this forum is one of the layers for me.

Thank you all for the support and words of wisdom.

God bless you and all of our children who suffer from addiction.

Barbara

Debbi
Debbi
10 years ago

I read all the comments, and was brought to tears.
Then I came home from work and read it to my husband,
and cried again.
I will look up chronic sorrow, that sounds just about where
I’m at.
Just when I start to feel a bit stronger, my 19 year old son
who is in detox , told me he doesn’t want to go to rehab again.
He has never been to detox before, and doesn’t like much.
I don’t know what he expected!?
I am still grieving the loss of the life he could have had.
Right now, I’ll accept just a person who wants to live. No expectations,
only that.

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

Hello Barbara
I send you my hugs tonight. You have suffered the ultimate grief . My good friend in al anon has as well. It is so very final. My heart is sad for you . Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience with us.. I look toward to your comments
I had coffee with my son tonight he and my husband are triggers for each other neither one has good boundary setting. My son said to me I don’t think I’ll ever get ahead I’m so depressed about that”. He doesn’t see that he spent a decade ruining himself and that doesn’t change quickly.
Libby I tried to just stay close tonight- shared some love and gave a little motherly advice ever so softly. It’s all I can do I cannot fix it

Debbie- when my son was in detox and he expressed being so depressed I called the guy who did the intervention and shared that with him. I remember him saying back out and let him feel the feelings and you go to your meetings. Do as much Al Anon as you can fit in to keep the focus on you. Sometimes it takes all our energy just to breath.
Love to you all
Jane

Barbara
Barbara
10 years ago

Dear Jane, thank you so much for the hugs and your kind words of support. I appreciate the friendship you have given to me all these years. It sounds like you’re doing as much as you can to stay close to your son without getting in the way. His depression is real and understandable. I pray he keeps moving forward to climb out of it.

Dear Debbie, Jane has good advice. Smother yourself with Al Anon and any other support group for that matter. It can be so healing. You can’t change the way your son feels about going to rehab and you certainly can’t force him to go. But, you can help yourself. So, dry your eyes, until he decides to get into recovery. He may think he can do it by himself, but someday, he’ll realize he can’t.

With lots of love,
Barbara

Nanci
Nanci
10 years ago

Thank you, Libby, for sharing Dr. MacAfee’s thoughts and wisdom on such an incredibly difficult topic. How does a parent ever heal, recover from so many years of emotional, physical and spiritual pain? I like what Dr. MacAfee says, “Healing comes a layer at a time.” We must give ourselves some grace.
However, it is so painful when the family, spouses, are not on the same page. Not good for anyone.
Alanon has taught me that I can find peace, serenity and recovery, one day, one hour at a time. I trust the program and I value the wisdom in these rooms.
Blessings to you, Libby…always to you, Barbara, Jane, Pat and all the other parents who continue to suffer in silence.
Love, Nanci

Susan
Susan
10 years ago

On the eve of my son’s 26th birthday, instead of planning a celebration for him, I find myself searching the local jail rosters in hopes of finding his name on one… Sadley, I do not find his name. Even sadder, I want very badly to find it, there, on a jail roster. My son’s name is Michael and he is a heroin addict. I realize that I must learn to accept that my son may live and die as drug addict… I know in my heart that I have done everything that I possibly can – I’m not giving up, I am giving in… Giving in to the fact that I have no control over my son’s addiction and all that goes along with it. I can no longer let myself be a part of the “Chaos of Mike.” The heartbreak is unbearable. It is unbearable not knowing where he is. It is unbearable when he is present. I am hopeful that I can find a way to stay close. I find comfort in this site…
Thank you.
Susan

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

Dear Susan
I will pray tonight for you and your son as I close my eyes. I feel your pain and we have all lived it. You nailed it when you say it is unbearable when they are present and unbearable when they are active and on the street. May God help relieve that pain.
Love
Jane

Libby
Libby
10 years ago

Dear All,

Thank you all for sharing and reaching out a hand to all of us. Dr. MacAfee and I were talking about his Part 3 to this series and he said, “Research about addiction is one thing, but it’s in the stories of families that we find wisdom.” Chaos, hope, healing, loss, betrayal, heartbreak – we feel all of these.

My love and prayers,

L

Barbara
Barbara
10 years ago

Dear Susan, my thoughts a prayers go out to you and your son. We’ve all been there, in your shoes. All you can do is stay out of the way, of the chaos, and allow your son to find his way. Once you realize that you have no control over your son, you can get on with your own life. You can stay close but out of the way.

I know how unbearable the feelings are. You feel helpless. But, until your son decides to become helpless over his addiction and admit he needs help and recovery, he will always be an active drug addict. I pray that he will soon realize that he can be a “recovering drug addict” and live a happy, healthy life with support.

God bless you and your son.
Barbara

Susan
Susan
10 years ago

Thank you – All – Very much… For your kind thoughts and inspirational heartfelt words. The fear is the hardest part to live with… Learning to NOT be fearful will be challenging – And – Crossing the line from anger and depression, moving towards acceptance and understanding, THAT will be a big step. I know I need to get there – I know that I can not get there without help.
Again, thank you.
Sincerely,
Susan

Debbi
Debbi
10 years ago

Susan,
I couldn’t have said it better. You said what I feel.
Maybe tomorrow will bring us peace.
Thank you all for your words of wisdom and support.

Barbara
Barbara
10 years ago

Dear Susan and Debbi,

Fear, indeed is in all of us. We can help each other with that fear by staying close with one another and by listening to each other. Again, support is crucial.

With love and resspect,
Barbara

Debbi
Debbi
10 years ago

Thank you so much Barbara, and all of you who care so much.
We all need the support from people who truly
“get it”, and wouldn’t judge.
My heart is mending with your help

Libby Cataldi
10 years ago

Dear Debbi, Your words make it worthwhile, “My heart is mending with your help.” There is healing is knowing we are not alone. With love,
Libby

Hope
Hope
10 years ago

Hope is not my real name– but I chose it so I will not lose hope -for our life– that our spirits not be swallowed by sorrow completely for the 31 year old son we lost to addiction these past 10 years and of course eternal hope for healing and recovery for him — we know that is is not in our hands. After two weeks in jail, for the second time, he asked for help and to come home. We have told him he can be home while he is working at recovering–he is seeing a doctor , a counsellor, going to meetings but is depressed and moody and yes, we fear maybe using. If that is the case we will ask him to leave. We go gentle day by day but the pain of him out there using ,the pain of him here, it is still pain. We are trying to find joy and hang on to hope – and do the wise thing— Libby’s book and this site helps the hope. Thank you all.

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

Hello Hope
Your words are so true

Hope for the son we lost to addiction, the pain of him out there using, the pain of him here with us”
“go gently day by day”
That is what I do and how I feel
I love this blog, I feel close to all of you strangers who are my close friends!
God bless and keep us all in your embrace of peace and serenity.
Love,
Jane

Libby
Libby
10 years ago

Hi Hope,

Thanks for reaching out here to all of us. You’ve found a place where you are not alone.

I remember when Jeremy asked me, “How will you end the story about Jeff?” I said that I wasn’t sure how to end it because it wasn’t my story to end. I knew that with addiction there is no end, just daily choices that the addict needs to make.

Jer said, “No one knows what will happen with Jeff, but you have to end the story in hope.” And we did.

Jeremy said it best, “No one can ever take away our hope.”

Jane, I and all of us will hope with you.

Love to you,

L

Susan
Susan
10 years ago

Right now, staying as close to my son as possible is my choice; he is home again and seeking help.
Today, I will also choose the following:
To be hopeful and optimistic, to be less resentful, to be less angry, to be less sad… I will choose to be more understanding and more accepting, less worried and less fearful… to stay calm and to be kind… I will treat my son as if he were “normal” but I will have realistic expectations and I will choose to believe that he is doing his best… For now. Because of my sons addiction and actions, these simple things have been very hard… Some days nearly impossible and I have failed… Just trying to stay sane takes so much effort – It would be so easy to give up, but, staying close is the answer, for me and for my son, for now. Today, I will hug my son differently, and in many ways.

Warmly wishing a peaceful day to all…
Love,
Susan

Libby Cataldi
10 years ago

Dear Susan,

All that you write hits home with me. I understand, “Just trying to stay sane takes so much effort.” I remember willing myself to breathe because even breathing became an effort.

Jeff said something significant about ‘staying close.” He said, “At the end, Mom got suspiciously calm. It was then that I knew she was done fixing things for me. It was then that I knew she loved me, but I knew I had to choose sobriety or die.”

I surrendered to the addiction. I knew that Jeff could die, but I also knew that I could do nothing more to save him. I hugged him, answered his calls, but HE had to make the decision to change.

Addiction suffocates life. Prayers for you and your family.

Love to you,

L

Susan
Susan
10 years ago

Dear Libby,

Thank you… I’m grateful to feel ‘connected’ to you and the others that your story and this site have brought together.

I am entering into the “suspiciously calm” phase of this journey… As with everything, this will take a lot of effort – However, I will choose surrendering over suffocating… I know that I will be happier and it will be easier to ‘just breathe’…

Again, Thank YOU!

Love,

Susan

Nanci
Nanci
10 years ago

Hi Susan…I am right with you. Have had no contact for awhile, received a call and had a pleasant conversation.
Scary, cautious but trying to surrender while keeping the focus on me (and my family). I know longer feel like I’m suffocating…I have chosen, life.
What a blessing and gift that we are not in this alone.
Sending positive thoughts your way,
Nanci

Susan
Susan
10 years ago

Thanks Nanci…

Thank you for the gift of positive thoughts this morning… Right back at ya!

I am cautiously optimistic… Some day I hope that I can trust my son again. In the meantime, not letting his actions control my entire world will ultimately help him too. The balancing act of enabling versus helping is a struggle, one that I have not mastered. Staying close feels better to me right now than the extreme “tough love” thing, but I will do whatever it takes… Since there is no magic wand… no easy answer.

Going through this has will leave permanent scars – But hopefully not permanent wounds. Learning from this experience, in time, will somehow lead to positive growth… Having said that, I would not wish this hell on anyone. ‘One day at a time’ has never meant more to me… I am grateful for today and the gift of sharing here.
Love,
Susan

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

Dear Susan and all
I have found through my own journey that I have tried many approaches.
Sometimes tough love is the answer, sometimes staying close and loving more is the answer. There is no absolute one way to be. The ANSWER comes from them. We are just the cheerleaders. I am in the stands watching . You must be able to be comfortable with your decisions,feel ready to make them, and ultimately you are the one who has to live with your decisions.. That is why in Al Anon you take what you like and leave the rest. I have thrown him out and I have accepted him back in many times. When he is choosing to be active I choose not to live with that chaos. When he got serious about cleaning up I was more willing to let him live here again. I am not sure about anything and make the best decision I can at that moment with truth in my heart and with prayers for guidance from God. This is a very complex disease that suffocates for sure. I need air so I make sure I have an oxygen mask on myself first and foremost.
Be well
Jane

Libby Cataldi
10 years ago

Dear Jane, Susan and Nanci,

Jane, I LOVE what you wrote, “I need air so I make sure I have an oxygen mask on myself first and foremost.” I’ve never heard this and I love it! Yes, addiction wants to suffocate us, isolate us and do it’s damage. As McAfee says, “We need to bring addiction out of the darkness where it does it’s best work and into the light where it can be healed.”

There are no ‘right’ answers with addiction, and we need to do what we can live with. In the end, it is THEIR decision; they must choose. There are no magic wands and no easy answers. But there is hope.

Love to you all.

L

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

Libby I love that statement too, but it is not a Jane original! I’ve heard it in Al Anon many times and on the airplane! You cannot help anyone else until the oxygen mask in on your own face first. If you pass out you’re of no use to anyone else right?
Have a good day all
Jane

Susan
Susan
10 years ago

Dear Jane, “All”…
Your statements are so true and well said; “I need air so I make sure I have an oxygen mask on myself first and foremost” is the perfect concept to embrace.
Thank you.
Susan

Jane
Jane
10 years ago

Hoping you all are having a serene Friday night.I’m simply home doing laundry and straightening up, but there is no active disease or chaos so it’s a good Friday night even with laundry
Jane

Susan
Susan
10 years ago

Hi Jane… LOVIN’ my peace and quiet on a Friday night too… It has been awhile! Very thankful… These small things and quiet times may be small for lots of folks(lucky them) but they are HUGE for us, RIGHT? :0)

Libby Cataldi
10 years ago

Happy to hear about a good Friday night. Hope the weekend is good, too. Let’s remember to breathe. Love you,
L