Another holiday, and another time that he would not be home for the holidays. In fact, he has no home, he’s under an awning on the side of a building on the streets, with only the clothes on his back and a light jacket. The temperature decreases while the rain increases. He’s hundreds of miles away.
It had been days since the last contact with anyone. I prayed to talk with him, to know he’s alive, and now it’s so hard to hear what he’s saying. It’s hard to imagine his condition. At these times, it’s all too easy to get distracted by my thoughts and imagination, it can take my mind hundreds of miles away.
Just the night before, I held myself and other moms in questioning the thought “my child is wasting their life”. What timing! I’m so thankful for the greater truths shown to me, so divinely inspired, that I will not waste time or his life by putting him in a future I can’t know, by disregarding a purpose given to him by God – despite and maybe because of addiction. I will not waste his life or mine by allowing fear to overshadow or consume this precious phone call with him.
On this phone call, we are connected on this holiday, a day that can be any day, holi-day, a holy day. It doesn’t mean it’s some ideal concocted in my imagination or the dreams I created years ago. It means I join the reality of things and join him on this call. On this day, I am very aware we are both in the moment, heart to heart, I am listening, I get to hear his voice, not trying to change or fix him, not preaching at him, only meeting him with love where he’s at.
Someone gave him a jacket, he confirms he knows some places to get a little food, and has some phone numbers to use to access resources, that maybe some day he might use those phone numbers, that he is aware he made some choices that led him to this current situation. I respond that I hear great wisdom and healthy intentions. Over time, we’ve learned to connect in silent, mutual understanding, even an understanding of what I’ll give, and what I won’t. It’s not always so peaceful, but on this phone call it is. On this day, and any day, I am so keenly aware that most precious thing I can give is a love that has no conditions.
He wishes me a Happy Thanksgiving. Though I can’t say those words back to him, my communication is loving, supportive, and loving him where he is, how he is. I’ve had to work really hard to get there, and continue to work at that so I can meet us both in this more loving place, more often than not. Is it happy? By what definition of happy? In the moment of connection, there is a sense of happiness that we’ve at least connected lovingly, but only when any expectations for some kind of unrealistic ideal is released.
Grief is present, however, I am still so grateful to have heard his voice, grateful for these moments, always grateful for these moments. Love holds me, and holds him, and will guide us, in this moment and any moment. His home is in my heart, always. There, he is home on this holy day!
From my heart to yours, may there be peace!
It was about year ten of my son’s addiction, and nearly his fiftieth relapse. He had attended at least twenty treatment programs and not finished many of them; it was about the fifteenth time I had no idea where he was or if he was alive, with no means of contact. It was about the hundredth time I considered the possibility that I might not see him or speak with him again. It felt like the millionth time that fear made itself well known. My choice was clear. Either I would put all the tools at my disposal to work, or I was going to go into a deep, dark pit of suffering. I chose to deepen and increase gratitude. In my experience, gratitude holds me immediately in the stillness of God’s presence, in love, in grace.
“I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” ~ Anne Lamott
So how do we find gratitude within these circumstances? Why would we make the effort? I wholeheartedly believe it’s because this is how we supercharge our love (unconditional love) and bring power to recovery—our own and quite possibly our children’s. It brings us into our hearts and out of our fear. Gratitude is one of the most powerful energies for us to embody if we are going to thrive. It is a way of being that helps us to show up in helpful ways in our own lives, for our children, and in the world.
“Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-oriented.” ~ Sonja Lyubomirsky
Research from Harvard, Berkeley, Cornell, and other institutions reports the power of gratitude. Gratitude is beneficial in many ways: it increases resilience, reduces symptoms of depression, increases a sense of happiness, improves self-esteem, improves sleep, inspires physical exercise, reduces pain, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, lowers stress, helps you live longer, and makes you more understanding, compassionate, helpful, and kind. It improves relationships, improves decision-making, makes you more creative, increases productivity, makes you less self-centered, inspires generosity, increases spiritualism, and increases optimism. Wow!
Who wants some of that? I do! If you’re reading this and saying, “I want some of that, too,” I invite you to grab a piece of paper and pen. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to invite, inspire, and exercise our power in gratitude!
1. Name at least three things for which you are grateful. Be very specific as to why you are grateful for them (for example, sunshine: it warms my home, it feels so good on my shoulders, it nurtures the garden, it lifts my mood).
2. Name at least three things that you brought to this day that were uplifting for you, for another, for a relationship, for your job, for your home, etc. Be specific about the choices, qualities, values, and strengths you brought to these things (for example, I reached out to a friend, I listened to the divine whisper to reach out, I practiced love, I shared laughter, I listened, I offered support, I felt fulfilled).
3. Name at least three things about your child (children) for which you can forever be grateful. Do not let fear and struggles overshadow this exercise. Notice if your thoughts bring you there, and bring your focus back to fully appreciate the love (for example, his bright smile, how he played with his trucks in the garden, how he played card games with his friends, his humor, his big heart).
4. Name at least three things that addiction has inspired in you. Be specific (for example, I have learned greater patience, I have a closer relationship with God, I have learned to ask for help and receive it, I have said yes to deep healing and greater purpose).
Now that you have a list of the many things for which you are grateful, what do you notice? How do you feel? How can you practice gratitude in your days? What time of day works best for you, and what do you need to make some time and space to bring some deliberate attention to gratitude? How do you think this will benefit you and your child?
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie
Gratitude is always just a thought away, always available for us. Let us bring focus and care to what we can do today. That is how we meet our tomorrows as they arrive. Today, there are things that have been blessings. Yesterdays have given us memories that are blessings for today. Let us align with the divine blessings that even addiction cannot claim. When we do this, we become the blessing. May you be blessed!
I was just starting to relax. I had dropped my son off at a treatment center, a center I knew would be just what he needed. We had the intervention, we had the plan, we gave the choice - take it or leave it. He went.
Ten hours later, he left. He left to the streets with no ID, no money, in a state he'd never stepped foot in, knowing nobody, no phone. Lost!
My mind immediately went into fear! I lost my son. He's a John Doe. I made it worse. I never should have insisted he go there. Just feeling powerless. Now what? What was clear is I was losing me to fear, to my imagination, to worst case scenarios, and I was losing my son there too. I was essentially putting him into all those stories. As if I knew? None of it I knew for sure, but that didn't stop the stories ... yet. Thankfully, I also knew some tools to find clarity, to find calm, to find what would turn out to be the greater truths, even when my son was seemingly lost.
I held all that fear, I chose the thoughts that were the most painful first, and I questioned them. I have found The Work of Byron Katie to really help me through fear, actually it found me, but that's another story. The Work gives me a process to see all the perspectives available to me, and turn fear upside down and all around. On the other side of fear is the love that will transcend and overcome the fears only too pervasive and frequent when addiction shows up too. And love holds me and guides me to reconnect and find me, and find my son.
He's lost? I could believe that as the only story, but there's more to that story that is just as true, even truer. My son is clearly in my my heart, he's in the gratitude I can find and name, he's in my faith and trust that he is God's, he is in the unknowns and his own path and journey between him and God. When I get out of God's business, I can join Him and be led into my own business of taking care of me and my fear and doing the next thing that makes sense. My son is in the stillness, I can hold him safe in my heart and send him love through the airwaves, he is a part of my very being - separate but not separate. As if he could ever be lost there, it just impossible! He is in how I choose to think of him and the choices I make to navigate this fear and situation. He is in photos, he is in other people's children, he is in members of my family, in my friends, he is in my God given calling and purpose for healing and sharing recovery starting with my own, he is in my prayers for strength and trust, he is in the love I grow and give (not in the love I receive back).
It was a few days before my son made contact. Wherever he was he was not lost. It turned out he was only lost in my stories. He was where he was, doing what was happening, and God had him no matter what happened or could happen. I just don't get a vote on it all. I may not like it, but it is the reality of things. The reality of things is that I don't have that power to claim him as my own and to know all these things. And, I do know a God who will use it all powerfully for purpose.
I found my son physically, yes and with so much gratitude. The greater truth revealed that has stayed with me is that he is always in my heart, and always with God. That is the safest place for him to be, and the safest place for me to get to, so I can love him well, no matter where he is or how he is. Love will hold us both and remain. When I consider unconditional love, this is what it means for me. Truly no condition that I get what I want, when I want it, if ever. I get what I get and love will show up there too.
Would I choose this path to peace? Probably not. But it is the path that has chosen me. And it has certain realities to it, and great purpose too. If called to love, it is this unconditional love that calls to me to find it, and do whatever possible to put myself in it. Not an easy task to drop all my conditions, but so worthwhile.
If it was not worthwhile, if I was not worthy of it, and surely my son is worthy of it, these ways would not be present and available. There's be some other lesson. This lesson is how I find my son whatever the condition. The other way of being stuck in fear is just too painful. It feels far more peaceful, kinder and loving to make the choice to question all this fear than to give my son to the fear where surely he would be lost to me.
Perhaps it's by feeling lost sometimes that we are actually found, and especially when we allow ourselves to be found and seek to find our way back. The way takes courage and some effort, and it will reveal a love that transcends addiction and fears.
If I am to feel lost again, if I am to ever believe my son is lost to me, thank God literally for the guidance and inspiration find my way back again to love. And that is where my son will always be found too. That is where we all can be found.
Another relapse! She declined help again! He's on the phone screaming at me that it's all my fault, again! The worry never ends! I feel helpless, alone, scared! Is this your breaking news story over and over?
That story is exhausting, and unfortunately real. Yes the relapses happen, declining help happens, screaming, blaming, yes it all happens. We're talking addiction. It happens because the disease of addiction changes the way the circuitry of the brain operates and those behaviors follow. It's all part of denial (another symptom of addiction), and denial is the very thing that addiction needs to thrive!
Here's the thing though, denial comes with story after story after story. So what story do you tell yourself? This will never end? I can't help? I'm helpless? I'm losing them?
Right there, it's right there where you'll lose the greater truths and move right into the lie, the quiet, subtle and powerful lie that brings you into unconscious denial: denying that you have the ability to re-write parts of this story, anytime!
It's all too easy to repeatedly tell the stories of all the horror we experience. We're invited to do that, it's what we do, it's how we're connecting, it's how we're venting, it's how we feel understood. But, when we do this almost exclusively, we lose the awareness that we can actually tell a story of recovery, that we are a story of recovery, that we can re-connect to inner peace, we can contribute to healing and recovery (our own and our loved one's), we can learn skills of recovery and communication, and we can write new stories for our life, and live our love in ways that meet the truest and deepest needs of addiction.
This just in! This is the breaking news story in each day! You can write a new story!
How might a new story look for you? How can you create a new story, just for a few moments? Because a few moments leads to a half day, leads to many many moments in a whole day, leads to many days thereafter. Join me here.
Let's take this concept of feeling helpless. Are you completely sure that when you're believing you're helpless, that that's it, that's all there is? How can that be? Here's how I move from denial to help-full. How is this part my story, part of your story too?
I help me when I develop and execute a plan for my self-care and my own recovery, when I choose and do my peace practices, when I get really clear and practice some new skills to connect and communicate - first with my God, then myself, and it is then that it can flow out and into how I connect and communicate with anyone. I am help-full when I notice how fear has me time traveling to the past and future and bring it right back into the present day, when I don't lose myself, when I don't stay on the phone giving yet another opportunity for my loved one to experience himself in denial and shame by ranting at me and blaming me, when I take care of what is mine to take care of and find the support to help me do that, when I seek understanding, compassion, and forgiveness for myself and others. I am help-full when I question any thought that takes me away from the peace and love I have been created to be and to share, when I align with God and not try to be God, assuming I know how the world should spin (when clearly it's not spinning that way!), and when I realize there are just going to be a lot of things that surpass my understanding, and move on. I am help-full when I do all these things. Then, I get inspired to connect with others in ways that are helpful, in ways that come from clarity, discernment and choices, choices that might sometimes be hard to deliver, sometimes quite imperfect, but still helping towards healing and recovery. Yes, that feels sooooo much better, better because it is the truth. Helpless or able to be help-full?
We each have great purpose, a great purpose in Recovery. It surely lights the way and lights up the path for any other to walk it.
That's a new story, a great story! And that's a new story worthy of every day. It's a new story I want to share with my loved ones by choosing it so I can be it. It's the story of love, of empowered love for healing and for change. And I can't do it alone! We are not going to do this work of recovery alone.
What I do know is that God inspired this for me, I only need to choose it, be imperfect, try my best, and keep reaching out for support, learning, healing and growth. Thankfully, none of us are alone there either. Drugs are not the whole story! Drugs don't win here. Love does!
This is Recovery Month. This new story is inspired and initiated by anyone who wants it and chooses it. I do believe we all need it! And this is the new story for over 20 million people in Recovery. Breathe that in. Each of us are part of that story too!
Why not have every month, every day be one of Recovery? Make it a new moment, a new day, a new choice, a new effort, a new you, a new story.
From my heart to yours, with love and gratitude.
The struggles of addiction are real and many. There are desperate attempts to convince someone to get help, begging, blame, shame, such intense worry and profound sadness one can barely function. We say "this was never supposed to happen to someone we love, the insanity of this is just not supposed to be this way." Yet, the disease of addiction is absolutely like that, isn't it. We can, though, break through some of that suffering. These breakthroughs are supposed to be like that too.
They don't call it a family disease for nothing. It affects everyone. And, like it or not, it comes with certain realities. We can not judge it away, can't demand it away, can't cry it away, can't argue it away, can't perform magic or wish or pray hard enough to cure it away. Of course we don't agree with the ongoing ravages of addiction or dismiss it at all, however, the result of not accepting the realities of addiction and its many effects, actually support feeling stuck, feeling helpless. and feeling hopeless. And that can feed the cycle of addiction because we're too stressed out to be more effective, to seek new ways, learn the needed skills to communicate differently, to love skillfully, to join with others in healing and advocacy, to get energized, motivated and inspired.
I notice that my stress level increases even more when I argue with the very reality of the things, and especially the things I can't control (a very long list to be sure!). Is this your experience also? Instead, please join me here and now to consider how to turn this stress around into something clearer and hopefully more pro-active.
For a moment, notice what happens when you drop the need for anything to be different, when you put some space between you and the thought "it was never supposed to be this way". Breathe and notice. This is what I find ... Acceptance comes, breathing, calm, a consideration of what can be done, clarity not control, inspiration, maybe a really good cry to release long held emotions, effective grieving which opens me up to a real desire to send love, to be love, to live out the serenity prayer. I gain more clarity and divine inspiration when I stop arguing with the very presence of the struggle and realities of it. Rather than saying "it's not supposed to be this way", I say "this is actually the way it is for now, AND now what?"
That "now what" is going to look like diving into my peace practices, like taking care of my fears and emotions, breaking silence, getting out of isolation, getting support, being informed, getting into what I can do rather than running myself into a brick wall. It's going to look like anything I have to do to show up as love, and loving, and getting some skills and tools to do that. It's going to look like getting and giving support, to joining with others in solutions, advocacy, and voting. I love to know why I would do anything to get out of the struggle. And knowing my "why" usually leads me back to this answer ....
Love in action and with tools and skills to connect and communicate more effectively. This "why" is so very important because those we love who are struggling in addiction need us to approach them as is, without shame, facing the realities of addiction head on and from hearts and minds that are clear, connected, and convicted. This is how we contribute to the possibility of lives being saved. We start within, and share it with another, and another. We start within, and that shift in energy and conviction can flow through a family, into a community, into another one, and another, and another. It is happening already!
Are there guarantees? No, but this I know for sure ... to accept reality as is and to get into a heart and mind of what can I do, to consider what small things or big things I can do, this is the very thing that guarantees I tap into being helpful and contributing to possibilities. This is where love is empowered. And that is what can inspire recovery. That is what builds connection. And that is something we can always do.
It is Overdose Awareness Month. Thank you for this moment to raise awareness of the struggle, to move through it, to energize love and peace. It waits for us, finds us and moves us to find it within and shine its light into the darkness of addiction. Let your light shine! Together, we Empower Love and Inspire Recovery ~ in honor of all those lost to overdose, and who remain in our hearts, always.
From my heart to yours, I wish you peace.
There was a time before my son's recovery when he was telling me a story of a lost job, another one. It was the third similar story in less than a year. I wondered, "What does he want from me?"
I assumed he wants money. He didn't come right out and ask me for money though. But that didn’t stop my immediate assumption that he’s manipulating me!
Where do we go when we believe we’re being manipulated? An almost automatic reaction might be to blame. There’s been an offense, and it’s against me, right? We might think, “I want them to get their act together.” “They should be more honest.” “I need them to just love me, and then I can have my son or my daughter back.”
But, what happens when we don’t get what we want, they’re not doing what they should, and we don’t feel loved? Pain! We may react with resentment, blame, we feel lonely, disconnected, scared. So, maybe we’ll try to control the situation, control our emotions, pretend it’s ok, avoid them, preach to them, educate them, make suggestions they haven’t asked for. We assume a lot, we fear a lot. It just really isn't contributing to a better result, and could contribute to continued conflict and suffering.
It’s a very familiar and common occurrence if or when the disease of addiction has a hold on your loved one. Doesn't mean it has to stay that way.
There’s no peace believing someone is manipulating us, no peace in blame, and no peace in fear, and there’s no heart connection. That is a lonely and sad place to be, for sure! The only thing we’re connecting to is fear. And it often leads to deeper fears that we’re losing our loved one, and they’re not coming back to us?
Let me describe a way out of fear. Please, join me.
At the very moment I believe my son is manipulating me, that he should be something other than what he is, do something other than what he’s doing, I have lost touch with reality. I don’t even really see him because I am so stuck in my thoughts and assumptions. He is not in my control. I have also lost the most valuable connection I so dearly want with my son. And that is the moment I lose myself. And when I lose myself, I can not find him, I can not be available to show up as love, take a different approach, and address the situation in a much more effective way. The more effective way is to stop assuming, to listen, to communicate more effectively, to become aware of what is going on within me, and what choices are available to me.
Those choices are very clear, if and when I get clear. What I really want is connection, to be a safe place for love to shine. Despite drugs and this insidious disease, my son is my son, a human being with strengths and abilities, with potential, and I want to love him as he is, where he is, and show up capable, skilled, and loving. This is what I know will help him! Help our relationship! And it may inspire his choices too! It does not mean I give him money, or even stay in conversation. It means I speak carefully, and with care to any denial, using communication skills learned along this difficult journey. I try my best, might be imperfect, or might have to take a time out and discuss at a later time. I have choices. The first choice is to connect, to love well.
So, he’s manipulating me? Not really, not deep down. He hasn’t asked me for money, he’s telling me a story. I’m assuming he wants money. And if he asks me for money, well then he’s been clear with me. There can be no manipulation if I’m not participating in it. Look how I’m manipulating his intentions, this situation with my immediate assumptions and my jumping thoughts. How about I manipulate myself, in a more positive way, back into reality and being present and available to be with my son, to listen and to respond as this conversation continues?
Do I really want him to get his act together? Yes, but I am not in charge of his life, his journey. I am not God. Do I really want to play God? No! Is there any chance that this conversation is part of my son’s progress? Could be! I can want, want, want, but to demand I get my way in my time is just adding to disconnect, and stress. How about I get my act together? Yes, that seems like the more doable and more effective response!
Should he be more honest with me? Well, that would be wonderful, yes … but, at this time he can’t or won’t and, again, arguing with that reality sets me up for the argument in me, and with him. Not something I want to risk. I want connection, honestly, not to feed excuses for stress and using. Am I even available and ready to respond calmly and kindly if I heard “I want money for drugs, mom”? Can I just get honest with myself, and with him? I can, and it will take continued work on my part, and practice.
I need him to love me, to come back to me. Oh my goodness, how painful it is believing he doesn’t love me and isn’t with me. It is exactly at that moment that when I believe he does not love me and is not with me, I have left myself in fear, and I have left him. It is really hard to connect to my heart, and to be in a place of love when I’m way in the future and way into the fears of it, and the fear he doesn’t love me. It’s hard to realize the truth that that love has not left him. Under the layers of the disease, I do know in my heart there is love, and it really starts and ends with me. He is coming back to me when I remember that. I am coming back to me when I remember that. The power of love, in its divinity, in its essence, remains now and always.
It’s not about getting love from from the outside, but being it. Love is just so inviting, it find us, and sometimes we need to look for it. It waits for us everywhere and anywhere, at all times. It invites us to drop our assumptions and expectations, it invites us to release the conditions of our way and time and to welcome love into our hearts and lives. It is receiving that in order to give it.
We speak of unconditional love, and that’s what it is. There are no conditions. Nothing and no one has to change. The only condition is to be and act from that state of grace, gratitude, open mind, and open heart that love will inspire. From there, other ways and solutions arise. Love allows time and patience, the unfolding, and the return to love when we get distracted by fear. When we’re open and willing to come out of fear and into love, our choices become clearer. Our communication becomes clearer. Our connection with our loved ones becomes clearer, and we light the way.
In the darkness of addiction, these lights must shine. Within each of us is this light. Under and around fear, with understanding, the light of peace and love will shine.
Let your light shine. Drugs don’t win here. Love does!
Life is so full of twists and turns, un-anticipated obstacles and those we can see ahead. There are challenges and there are joys, there are falls and there are opportunities that can lift us up and/or we lift ourselves up. What is it about this process though that can become so un-welcomed, even feared? Why is this process often perceived to be a burden? I admittedly have tired of having to pick myself up again and again. I have resented the fact that sometimes it has taken a lot of hard work to keep my head above water. Yet that's where it is, that is just the way it is - now what? It's that work within the twists and turns that lifts me higher, and higher, and empowers me to know how to do it during the next challenge. That work brings a sense of freedom, capability, an opportunity to gain wisdom, and experience that serves not just me but others too. That has a lot of value! And truth be told I was never promised that life would not have twists and turns, obstacles and challenges. I have been told though that life will have joys, and that in order to receive joy I must be open to it, seek joy, appreciate it and create some joy too.
In the world of addiction, times of joy can be very fleeting or perceived to be non-existent. We hear often that many are waiting for the next shoe to drop, the next relapse, unable to trust a loved one, unable to stop the worry, unable to get off the roller coaster. And this is how joy becomes a far distant concept ... Not only distant, but unattainable. Oh can you feel the stress of that? We anticipate not the good, but the ongoing pain of the past and project it right into the future ... and we follow this imagined future. However the problem is that we are in the present day and our souls know this. And that's why it feels so uncomfortable. Any day really is the only day truly available to us, and the discomfort of imagining a scary future is the signal that we're going where we really don't belong. We belong to this day with all its twists and turns, some we choose and some we don't, some we can control and many we can not. In my experience, I do know that playing the role of god and foretelling a painful future has brought me nothing but pain. As I move into anticipated fear, I am the creator of this pain. Good to know! Because if I am the creator of that pain, I can also be the creator of joy!
My beloved cat Max is so sick. He is 15 and has been my buddy all this time. Despite medication and care, his little body is weakening. I have often scared myself anticipating his continued deterioration, his death and all the pain I'm going to feel when that happens. When I accept the way of this, its natural process and my own process however that looks (and sometimes it doesn't look so pretty!), I can honor the grief. I also notice that this anticipation of pain disallows me from appreciating his life right here and right now! There are undoubtedly twists and turns of life, challenges, obstacles and things that we may wish wouldn't be happening. But, when I stop fearing it all and stop insisting it all go away or go my way in my time, I take care of the moments of grief and remember the moments of joy and create some too. I brush my dear Max, pet him, coo at him, speak with him, give him treats, refresh his water, look in his eyes, I appreciate that right now he is living, and so am I. I am living love. The love replaces the fear. And so it goes. It is a process of deliberate choice and application. But to stay in fear is a disservice to us both. It is a disservice to life today, to love today and to love eternal.
How important is it then that replacing our fears with love and coming back into this day gets done, and done for and with our loved ones who suffer? For if they do not know how to do this for themselves, we can do it and create a space to love them as they are. This kind of love will naturally uplift us because our truest nature is love - to be it, share it, to give it away ... not to get it back, just to give it, to be love itself. I have thought it is the experience of God through us, the experience of God within us to embody this kind of love. And sometimes it is going to take the deliberate choice and work to get to that place of unconditional love - a love without conditions, even the conditions of insanity. Who would I be without all those stories of the future? Right here, right now, a heart full of love, being love itself. I would see that each of us is this love despite the twists and turns, and because of them. Feel the love that you are, feel it lift your heart and send it out to the other hearts of love that may have forgotten who they are too. Re-Member, Re-Connect to Love (with you and with them). Drugs don't win here. Love does!
From my heart to yours, may there be peace ... and joy,
I was out with some friends, who have heard only a very small bit of my story of loving a child with an addiction, when that moment arrived. That awkward moment. We were out in nature, remarking how beautiful the landscape is, and basking in the great news of her daughter graduating from college, landing an excellent internship that will support her plans for med school next year. She's moving into her own apartment with a friend. Life is amazing. And then onto the next child who had a successful school year and is enjoying family life before beginning her summer job. Lots to share, lots to really celebrate, lots to fill my heart with gratitude for my friend and her joys. One remarks what great kids they are. What great parenting. And then the quick rationalization about luck. Was that for me?
Then it happens ... the awkward silence. There's someone else in this group with a child who is not being asked about in detail. And that someone is me. The child is my son. Sure, one of my intentions is to focus on my friend and her good news. And finally I do have some good news to share! But, still ... I thought my news would be judged, that there would be that air of pity, or risk the conversation just dead ending. Here's the thing though. It's not that they didn't ask about my son. It's that I struggled with the thought that they would judge my good news as a little weak in comparison, and that I would somehow make this exchange even more awkward. It had nothing to do with them or their stories!
What I understand is that these friends care about me and don't want to "make me feel bad" by asking about my son and risking that it might shift me from pleasant times to maybe not so pleasant. And maybe they're not in the place to shift into what could possibly be a sticky conversation, or they're just not sure if I would welcome it, or maybe they don't even know how to bring up a sensitive subject. We were after all out having fun. Oh, my goodness ... look at all the stories in my mind!
When I'm not in all of these stories and believing in comparisons or judgment, what happens? I am so full of love and gratitude that my friend is enjoying her children, that she has a sense of security about the current state of their lives. I choose to not share so we can all just enjoy her story. And I am full of gratitude, not caught up in any comparisons (theirs or my own). I have a child I love so much and can celebrate that he lives and his life has purpose (what that all means who knows, but I know it does!). He has courage, he is resourceful, he loves, he smiles and brings laughter, his growing wisdom is remarkable, his life experience is profound, he has graduated many life schools and his job is living and learning and growing and achieving. Isn't that what we're all doing? Other than all those stories, I am in a state of celebration. I celebrate those moments of connection with him, and the most important moments of all - when I get to love him without conditions, without stories. That's my work. To turn these stories around and return to love.
And, later on in our little gathering, I didn't wait to be asked about my son, I share my news because it feels right for me. I want to share myself with people who care about me, and who I care about. Maybe another time it might not feel right or necessary to share, but this time it did. Whatever the story might be, whatever the news may be, I choose to share love (spoken or not).
From my heart to yours,
I’m sure if you’re reading this it’s because you may love someone who is addicted and you fear for their life. With addiction we see our loved one, but we can barely recognize them, or they’ve become someone so changed by addiction doing things they never would have done otherwise. They’re physically living, but not quite here, and we fear them dying. This is what is called Ambiguous Grief. Of course we know that at some time, some way or another, we all will die. Is it hard to hear that? Consider also that some how we grow up fearing death, and we fear it even more when we love someone whose substance use and behavior is so risky that it really could result in death. It’s a reality that is hard to come to terms with. Which brings us to grieving the living, grieving lost dreams, grieving the way we used to be, grieving many things. Yet, it is not like the conventional death, there are no casseroles or memorial services, there are no condolence cards and it can make us feel very alone, even resentful.
But and unfortunately, we are not alone at all. We share this grief among millions of others who also love someone who is addicted. We hear statements like “they died too young”, “children shouldn’t die before their parents”, “they shouldn’t have died, and not like that” … yet it all happens in its own time and we did not get a vote on it, nor in the way it happens, and we are left to grieve it. In that grieving, it is possible and common to experience anger and guilt, so many deep emotions. Many have commented about their addicted loved one that “they should just get it over with and die already, put us all out of our misery”, being said out of pain and fearing the long road of struggle when loving someone through their addiction. I invite you to bring your attention to the comments above in quotes: none of them are the whole truth are they? Why? Because notice again: It is in fact a reality that people do die at all ages, parents do outlive their children, death happens for a variety of logical reasons, and we can and do speak out of pain words that when calmer we would not have spoken. But when we’re in that mindset, we feel even worse and then can might condemn ourselves for saying certain comments or just not handling it well. Please forgive it and know it is normal. Give yourself compassion. It consumes a lot of energy to grieve and like addiction, we can say and do things that in other circumstances we wouldn’t. Please be willing to know that your love is safe and continuous. Even addiction can not have the power of the love in you, the love that you are, and the love that your loved one is too. Those painful thoughts and words do not change the love either. So, how does one handle grief that can be so pervasive and overwhelming?
1. Allow your grief
Allow your emotions. If you need to make time to vent, to cry, yell, drop to the floor then do that. It’s no secret (at the very least to you) so don’t keep it a secret. It’s perfectly ok to state that you’re grieving, having an “off” day (and consider that it’s not off as your emotions are valid – it is grief). Sure it’s ideal that people will acknowledge and support you, but that might not happen. It’s your grief and you can be with yourself and take care of you, and without their acknowledgement. Be true to yourself, do not run from or try to numb your grief. Honor it. And honor others to be as they are. They understand, acknowledge, support you or they don’t. Find someone else to talk to if necessary. If no one else at any given time, use a journal or paper to write out your thoughts and emotions to express your grief.
2. Take your time.
Grieving is a process, and it takes time. That is just the way of it. When mixed with conscious choices and effort, the experiences in our daily lives can shift, as well as our emotions. We eventually can find ourselves back in our routines and choosing life and even joy. And if not, it may be time for professional intervention. Do not let your grief continue without your care and attention. When doing so, and it’s not changing, get help.
3. Get support
Find people who can support you and listen while you speak of your grief, speak about your loved one, your memories, your confusion. Request their silent listening. Often people just want to know how to help and feel awkward not knowing, so help you and help them by honestly requesting what you need. Keep looking until you find those people. Take yourself to support groups where they do understand because they share similar circumstances. (Al-anon, Nar-anon, Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, NAMI, etc)
Your loved one is under the layers of addiction but that doesn’t mean they are gone. They can always be found in your heart, at least. Remember the love shared and savor it. Addiction does not change that kind of love, and it does not change good memories. Cherish those positive memories, record them in a journal, create a scrapbook of photos, whatever you can to hold your memories dear so you can remember times that filled your heart with love and joy. That was real too!
5. Your loved one is not their disease
Even though their behavior, appearance, attitudes and words can be hurtful or significantly different, they are still a person. They are a person and not a problem. They still need love and consider that beyond the addiction, they also want to love. Disconnection is part of the disease. So stay connected to your heart and love. At the very least, send it silently out to reach your loved one whether you know where they are or not. Of course it’s normal to still feel anger, frustration, or blame toward the person, but understanding the illness can divert some of those feelings.
6. Be open to change
Life and circumstances have changed, yet most likely you did not ask for any of it. You are now at a place to make a deliberate choice to change your perspective, and in doing so, change the relationship with your loved one. It may be very hard to accept the choices of your loved one and how they are living. Still, you can connect with love, honest communication and skills when educated and supported through and because of addiction. This perspective can not only help you in relationship with your addicted loved one, but in all relationships. Be open to changing your perspective and inviting some joy and into your life, this will help keep you more balanced and available to meet life and its challenges (and its joys too). Be open to allowing some joy and gratitude also.
Consider ways to honor your loved one’s life by choosing life and choosing joy in their honor. My son told me “Mom please make yourself happy. I really want you to be happy, and I can’t do that for you. I’ll make it or I won’t, but I want you to do that for me, and do that for you.” I understood the reality of the disease and that my son could not possibly take on the task of my happiness when he could not do that for himself. Though we can feel happier around people and situations, happiness is an inside job. We can’t do it for another, and another can’t do it for us. At some point, our deliberate choice to choose life and joy may present itself. When we choose this, we are better able to actually connect with our loved one and to ourselves.
Without doubt, you will need to be educated about addiction and it’s manifestations that might very well show up. You will need to take care of your emotional, physical and spiritual state. You will need to focus on your own recovery, you will need to learn a different and more effective way of communicating with your loved one, you will need to develop a plan, and practice much like the way your loved one must to sustain recovery. You will need to make difficult choices to choose life, to choose joy and self-care so you are available to love in such a way that can be helpful to your loved one, and yourself. The choice may be challenging at times especially during crisis. Remember, your emotions are valid and you will need to take care of yourself with compassion. Of course, you may continue to experience the grief because the nature of addiction is that there is risk, but as long as there is breath there is hope.
As you take care of your grief in this way, you may begin to notice that the grief is no longer consuming your days, and there will be more and more moments where grief can co-exist with the peace, love and joy you are creating despite of and because of addiction. And surely, there may be more and more moments that you are now identifying with peace, love and joy and not even aware of the grief. Know that nothing remains the same through out time. Notice the natural ebb and flow. As in nature, sometimes the tide is in and sometimes it is out. As it will be with your grief. Allow for the tides to come in and re-connect to life and love. This lights the way for you and lights a path for your loved one to find you too. And always love remains!
From my heart to yours,
To be or not to be ... that is the question? Well, I've got another pressing one here too ... What do I do when I really don't know in what direction to turn? Breathe ... and welcome ... allow ... notice without attaching to the story, the labels, the interpretations ... breathe ... welcome ... notice ... breathe again ... notice the moment with the five senses or however many are available ... breathe into the present moment ... release the need for an answer ... silence ... listen ... allow ... welcome it all. I am being done, present, receiving, patient, calm.
Oh sure, we've heard these suggestions to just breathe, right? maybe even tried them, but. But what? Still don't know? Not working? It's the thinking and believing that something else is needed, that knowing is needed, that doing something right now is needed. But, oh the stress of insisting and expecting the knowing and the divine invitation, message and maybe lesson is to allow the not knowing. It is the expectation that is the issue that takes us completely away from calm, presence, of the ability to get still and just listen. That's where inspiration comes. That's where the ideas percolate. That's where the seeds of peace are planted and grow. In that moment, there is no need to know. Notice that it's not a need like breathing if life as we know it is to continue. The need becomes being with it as is. Arguing with it certainly isn't helping is it?
In the not knowing and in the stillness, you may be presented with other possibilities. Invite calm and love into your heart. Invite and welcome not knowing. How liberating it can be to release that illusion of control. Come into your own business in that moment and then the next one and the one after that. There is a power that is at work, there are people who are making their own choices and none of that is your business. It doesn't mean your helpless. It means your clearer to get calm, inspired and make choices from that place, not a stressed out place. And, for me I can say it sure takes practice.
So what is my business, after all? What do I do when I don't know what to do? My business can be to: breathe, release control, consider a kind response, journal ideas, pray, consider if and how I will communicate, seek trusting supports, do something healthy and nurturing, offer but not insist another receive, invite, listen, try to understand, *question my fears and concerns, seek to understand, notice and let the things I can not control just be which certainly helps to let go and get out of God's business and another's very path in life, especially when I am not invited. They too, like all of it, are God's business. They too may be being moved and used for a purpose I simply can not know, and one that is far beyond my ability to imagine or assume I know what is best or better. But when I go there, I leave myself and wander deeper into fear, assumption and expectation - ouch!
What do I do when I don't know what to do? Breathe, wait, just be and let it be, trust, get open to possibility. My experience of this is inspiration and being moved rather than trying to manipulate and control. Part of the flow, flowing, adapting, adjusting, available, present. A much more peaceful place to consider choices. A re-connection to love itself. It begins with me each and every time. What is your business? It surely becomes clearer if and when we bring our awareness to and practice getting out of another's and out of God's business, and listen for a kinder and more effective way. I can't take care of the future until I take care of this moment. And that's the only one I've got right in front of me. Breathing in, I breathe into this moment. Breathing out, I am here.
Wishing you peace.
Weeds or Wishes ?