Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mary, the first Steel Magnolia

I've often talked about how we enable the addict.  I had done just that in many many ways.  I had protected him by hiding something from my family because I wanted to eliminate another bomb being dropped.  I felt like I had hit my stress quota.  It was dishonest and I lacked faith and for those things, I am truly sorry.  The problem is that the bomb tends to grow with time, as does my fear of exposing it. 

The truth came to light and the bomb exploded, imploded and threw shrapnel.  My intent was to protect but it just never really works out. 

Now I felt injured.  I felt misunderstood.  I felt like what was already broken was just continuing to break.  I started to fear.  I started to imagine all sorts of bad endings.  I started to panic.  Feeling totally alone, I called my best friend.  She listened and said in a very determined voice, " You get up right now and go to the adoration chapel."  She went on giving me a laundry list of prayers that I was to say.  "You need a mother right now;  pray the rosary;  Mary will help you through this time."   She didn't say, "Aww bless your heart."  no, she gave my frozen self that smack in the face that brings you back to reality.

In a childlike stupor, I did just what I was told.  I got in the car and drove 15 minutes to the adoration chapel.  Once inside, I begin by praying, "I don't know what to do."   Psalms 46:1 says, " God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble."  He, the real presence, was there.  I saw him, felt him. and heard him.  I began to calm down.  I began to hear his fatherly advice.  No, I didn't hear a voice.  I began to get thoughts that were real ways of positively moving on. 

A wise saying is that you should talk 10% of the time and listen 90% of the time.  I think this is the beauty of the adoration chapel.   I was forced to listen.  I arrived in this place a humiliated soul.   I was at the bottom.  Any pride that I might have felt before was gone.

The idea that humility is a bad trait is such a misunderstanding.   I have heard some define humility as the state of being teachable.  C.S. Lewis said that "humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less."
I spent two hours in this holy place.  I read about humility.  I prayed.  I listened.  I began to see a pattern of the strong women in my life.    My best friend did not have the world's reaction of giving advice on how to proceed.   No, she sent me to Mary and Jesus.

 My friend has eight children.  They are of various races, from different places, with different capabilities and she is this tiny person who makes it all work.  I have seen her go for an entire year praying for a child that God had set aside just for her and then travel to Ethiopia to bring her home.  Language, learning and culture barriers have not been able to keep the love away that she brings to this child.   She makes it work with God's beautiful grace.  She is such a role model.  She even has time to parent her aging friend. 

Then I thought of my favorite cousin.  She has three children.  Two of her children battle a chronic disease.  She has a full time job of tending to daily treatments and medicines which are necessary to keep them healthy.  She is the most humble person that I know. 

The other day she told me the most interesting story.  She was part of a chat for parents of children who have the disease her children have.  Another family had requested prayers and if anyone could,  some financial assistance.  This disease makes it so hard for both parents to work.  Another person in the chat started complaining about her request.  My cousin had the right perspective.  She said that the way she felt about it, that even one more prayer obtained for her children was a blessing.  She felt that there shouldn't be any other judgements.  Do what you can or what you like. 

What struck me about this story was the value that she placed on prayer.  That was such an extraordinary display of faith.  I was so impressed.  She is also a tiny little gal that no one should ever underestimate.  She quietly, strongly gets things done in the midst of fear and worry. 

Then there is Mary, our role model.  She said "Fiat."  She gave birth in less than ideal circumstances, knowing that she would give her child up.  Then, she stood at the foot of that cross and watched what no parent would ever wish to see.  At her son's direction, she still mothers us today.  She prays for us when we ask.  She prays for our children. 

Robert Ludlum, author of "The Road to Gandolfo", said "There was a will of steel beneath the soft magnolia exterior.  This describes the role models that God has placed along my path; steel magnolias.  I am so blessed. 

If we remember in times of adversity, to go to our Lord, we will get the right advice.  But, there's a bonus.....there's peace and direction.  Today my prayer is for anyone who suffers to always retreat in prayer.  I am thankful for my wonderful role models.  I pray for those suffering from addiction and as always, a prayer for Henry. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Two Steps Back......

Have I mentioned just how hard step one is?  Well, it is.  I keep having this silly notion that I can control something.  I didn't really think I was so dense.....but, I must confess to you, my loyal readers that I messed up. 

My son has decided that drinking isn't nearly as bad as drug use.  I tend to agree to a certain point.  My son is an addict.  I have accepted this, I'm just not sure he has.  For an addict, like a diabetic, this is progressive.  This means that the disease will cause him to get sicker and sicker.  Also, there's the threat of this taking him to a stronger substance.   I don't think he believes this. 

What should I do about this?  Pray and look inward at taking care of my needs by enforcing boundaries.  Well, I enforced boundaries.....but I couldn't help myself.....I let him have it about just how stupid this behavior was.  I told him just how big a fool he was to not tap into AA.  Then, he let me have it.  He told me that degrading him wasn't exactly the way to get him to church or AA.  I agree.  He went on and on and on....basically putting me in my place.

This was a lose/lose situation.  I feel rotten.  I think they say that it takes 10 positive comments to make up for one criticism.  I think that's true.  You see, as he was telling me just how unqualified I am at most things and I was beginning to question myself, I thought, my comments probably do the same to him.  Oh my.....

I thought about it all and told him that it was anger and fear that I had because I knew just how dangerous this drinking could be for him.  I told him I didn't really mean to degrade him.  Now, I must work harder to make him feel the love that he totally deserves as my son, a child of God.  Now, I must ask for forgiveness.  Now, I must remember just who is in charge. 

Every time I think I can speed things up for my impatient self, I royally screw things up.  When I am frustrated that he can't figure out that a substance won't fill his void, our Lord is probably shaking his head in frustration at how I can't understand that God is in charge.  He only asks me to love. 

Today I pray for patience, perseverance and gratitude.  I pray for all of you who have trouble with control.  It is certainly an addiction all by it's self.  I pray for the addict and I pray for Henry.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Am Blessed

I went to McDonald's today.  I had been on a four mile walk with the dogs and the park bathrooms were closed for winter maintenance.  I thought I would die before I found a bathroom.  Just as I got to the door to the restaurant, a very large older man held  the door for me.  He asked how I was and I said," fine and you?" through gritted teeth, feeling as though my bladder might burst at any moment.  He stops, looks me directly in the eye and says, "I am blessed."

His matter of fact statement surprised me and snapped me out of my selfish little snit over a bathroom.  I said, "then you are more than fine."  And, so am I.

I wonder why we want more, when we have plenty and we want less and appreciate more when we have less?  It logically seems that it should be the other way around.  But, it takes a stripping down to really discover who we are.  Some might think that a fancy sports car defines their personality.  Some think that power or position define them.  Others might think that their failings define them.  So, with less clutter, it is easier to get to know who God intended you to be. 

This revelation is yet another gift our family has received as the result of our son's addiction.  Steps one through three in AA and Al anon, help us to see that God is in charge.  We are to look for his will in all that we do.  I learned that I had to look inward.  I had to not only take an inventory of the things I'd done wrong, I had to start to figure out what brought me joy.

 When you are a wife and mother and employee, it is easy to learn what your husband, kids and fellow employees want.  Trying to do what needs doing, usually takes precedent over anything you might have wanted to do.  Before long, you forget about having that joy all together.  This not only robs you of the gifts God has given, it robs your family of those gifts.  The meaning of taking care of family is a world view definition more than a spiritual one.  I think it is time to re-examine those ideas.

I have a close family member who has children who suffer from a chronic disease.  She dove into their care as any Mom would.  But, somewhere along the way, she lost herself.  It happens little by little.  I remembered how truly smart she was from our days growing up.  I don't think she did.  I think she was beginning to doubt herself.  Recently, as with many of us in the middle/late part of our lives, she felt the pull for more.  Like employees who have spent their entire adult lives at one position, it is hard to see outside that box.  It's hard to know where to start.

This is where we start paying attention.  What makes you happy?  What makes you excited?  What comes naturally?  What gives you anxiety?  There has to be this time in prayer and attention to "get to know" this adult self. 

The addicts in our lives didn't do this.  They used a substance to alleviate stress.  They were too afraid to look inward to find joy.  Maybe they defined joy as the world would and that was just too empty.  We must all look inward to find what God put us here to accomplish.  Then, we will find joy.

My family member is finding her voice.  It is thrilling to watch.  She seems shocked and amazed at what she is able to accomplish.  I'm not surprised at all.  But it's so fun to watch her find this joy.  I can't wait to see what God helps her to accomplish.  I know it will be great.

Today, my prayers are for all readers to allow God to direct their lives.  I pray for the addict, the addicts family and those who suffer for any reason.  I pray that you find your inner joy.  I pray that you use it to give back.  And, I also send a prayer for Henry.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One Step At a Time

I often wonder about the origin of our expectations.  Addiction has challenged my thinking on almost everything.  It has given me the gift of humiliation and humility.  Yes, humiliation was a gift that led to humility.  Thomas Merton said that "pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real."  The beauty of being real is how relaxing and easy it is.  Being real eliminates this constant study and survey of what we think others might want or expect.  It eliminates striving for something that is not who we are, which is exhausting.

Many people ask about my son.  There are those who are unfamiliar with the disease of addiction.  They might think that rehab should just fix the problem.  Then there are those who are really rooting for my son.  They ask in great expectation of his progress.  In the past, I would have looked at the person asking and tried to accommodate them by giving them an answer that they wanted to hear. 

This way of thinking is one of pride.  It is foolish and dishonest.  It really isn't about my son, it is about me.  Al Anon and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius have taught me to take care of myself.  Does that mean going to the spa and having a massage?  Well, I guess it could but, way beyond that, it teaches me to become very introspective.  It teaches me to consider my every motivation.  It teaches me to discern.  These tools are intended to strip away all of the unnecessary garbage that we pick up along life's journey.  Stripping away is necessary to create a place pure enough to allow God to become close.  He will give you the clarity and vision you need. 

Now, if someone asks about my son, I tell the truth.  My son is an addict.  He is on his own personal journey.  He is exactly where God wants him to be at this time.  Step one in AA and Al Anon says, "  We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable."  If I am truly powerless and I can admit that, then I have to be hands off.  I can't ask him to go to church or to AA.  I can't try to make his recovery easier.  I can't help him get a job.  I have to let go.  If I nag him to go to church, who benefits?  Well, that would be me.  He needs to travel his own journey, as do I. 

My journey is all I have control over.  Maybe modeling this new way of life will be far more effective than my nagging and judging of the past.  So, my son is traveling this journey one step at a time.  He is traveling it on God's time.  He is the only one who can write and know his story.  I only share mine.

I am shocked and surprised that I have such a sense of well being in the midst of something that rocked my world six months ago.  I am thankful for the gifts I receive on this journey.  God really does provide.  We really don't trust that most of the time. 

Today I pray for perseverance in seeking God's will.  I pray for those suffering from addiction, that they might have the courage to give God control so that they begin receiving gifts.  I pray for Henry as always and for all of you that you may find the joy in taking things "one step at a time."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Looking a Little Like Lucy & Ethel.....

When I feel anxious and out of sorts, I try to become still and quiet.  I reflect and examine.  I pray and study.  These are the ways I recharge my batteries and sync back up with what I need to do.  This weekend has been a quiet one.  I needed it. 

In the quiet, I was able to remember a story from when my mother was still alive.  My mother was this quiet and peaceful soul.  She didn't like drawing attention to herself.  She didn't like confrontation.  She was a home body.  As the oldest in her family, mothering just came naturally to her.  Her youngest sister was quite the opposite.  She was a spitfire.  She loved having fun.  She didn't mind telling you what was on her mind.  But, as different as they were, they loved each other so much.  It didn't matter that ten years separated them or that their personalities were so different.  They were sisters. 

They had one other sister, who was older than my aunt and younger than my mom.  She and her husband had problems with alcoholism.  Once a year or so after my grandmother died, my mom and aunt would try to make a visit.  The whole family, knowing how little that this aunt had, would pull together, buying food and clothes and pooling money to "help" them out.  I imagine that they had never heard the term enabling. 

My mother wasn't really comfortable flying.  But, she and my aunt bought the tickets and took off for what would be their last visit.  My cousin and I met at the airport to pick up our moms when the trip was over.  I greet my very quiet mother who says that she was so very thankful to get on the plane.  She said that she almost wanted to kiss the ground in that plane, she was so happy to be there.  She had been looking forward to that flight for days.  I look at her and think, who is this woman?  Then my aunt tells me how they had emptied their purses of every last cent to "help" out my aunt.  My aunt was nothing but rude and invited them to leave when they suggested she might have a problem with alcohol.  She had actually tried to kick her penniless sisters out after they made the trip and literally gave her their last dime. 

As my mother and her sister are walking so fast out of the airport, my cousin and I are barely able to keep up, their chatter is nonstop.  They laugh at how they were out of money and had to beg the flight attendant for extra peanuts.  My mom was a diabetic and so my aunt was worried about her not eating.  She begged for extra snacks, with my mother pleading for her not to worry about it,  and the flight attendant, clearly irritated with this crazy duo, throws the snacks at them. 

My mom was a softy, but she wasn't being thrown out.  I'm surprised that my aunt didn't give her sister what for.  She probably did. It is a funny story to us because one, we didn't have to deal with it and two it sounded stranger than any sitcom we could have come up with on our own. 

 Sounds crazy, right?  It was.  It still is today.  Addiction starts whirling and whirling and anything within reach of it's vortex gets sucked in. How do you remove yourself from the vortex?  Well, that would be to accept that we are not in control.  That would be to focus on what God's will is for us.  It would mean to stop enabling.  It would mean to detach from the problem and let the problem belong to the addict. 

I love my family, warts and all.  We all have a crazy aunt.  I think I've been called the crazy aunt by some of my nieces and nephews.  That's okay.  My prayer today is for the reader's family.  I pray that they will have the insight and courage to hand their problems over to God and seek his will in their life.  And I pray for the soul of Henry.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Today has been one of those antsy days.   My pre-Al Anon self would have allowed that fear and anxiety to snowball totally out of control.  But today, I look inward.  Why do I feel this way?  What is fueling this fear? 

I look at my life and realize that every little item that contributes to this out of sorts feeling is because of something that I haven't dealt with. When I don't deal with something I dread, I am being slothful.  When I ignore my diabetic diet because I'm upset over what I can't deal with, I am being gluttonous and using food instead of God to help me deal with my problems.

Oh what a tangled web we weave.  My life in the church taught me all about confession but my son's addiction taught me just how practical and necessary it really is.  It helps me to anticipate.  When I don't use the gift of confession as I should, it leads to the place I find myself in today. 

This is my cue to slow down my life.  This is my cue to pray more about my life.  This twinge of fear and anxiety is a little reminder that God is in control.  I need to pray for strength to carry out my tasks and faith to give the rest to God. 

My son's addiction gave me perspective.  I pray that I never lose it.  Today my prayer is for a good examination of conscience, the ability to discern God's will and the faith to carry it out.  And, I pray for the soul of Henry. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Unfolding Mystery

I love a good mystery.  Growing up, I liked "Murder She Wrote" and "Perry Mason".  But, they became too easy to figure out.  Then I moved on to John Grisham.  I loved his earlier books.  The twists and turns kept my eye on all possible suspects and scenarios.  Now, I live the ultimate mystery.  I guess it's a good thing that God gave me a desire to l try to unravel them.

I used to think God created a grand plan for me.  I'm sure it involved fame and fortune. Thank goodness I was given an opportunity to look beyond that mindset.  About two years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity,during the coldest part of February, to go visit neighbors who have a winter home in Arizona.  February is a slow time for my husband's business so I had limited funds for my trip.  But, my neighbor had a little convertible all ready for me to drive while I was there. 

I arrived just days after an exhausting few weeks.  My entire family and my husband's secretary had gotten the swine flu.  Thankfully, it came in shifts.  But, for about a two week period, I had to cover at least two other people's jobs.  On top of that, it had snowed and that made taking care of the horses an even bigger task.  I left my home praying for my flight to not be cancelled due to weather.  I landed in 65 degree sparkling sunshine.  It was all I could do to not lay down and kiss the ground.

My marvelous neighbors told me to come and go as I pleased.  They told me to eat there or eat out.  It was my vacation.  The first day I got that little convertible out and put the top down, while wearing a jacket (dessert mornings are cold) and drove off to breakfast.  .

 I then drove off to Phoenix to have lunch with a colleague.  It was an hours drive and the sun was sparkling.  There in that little car, on the interstate driving through the dessert, I talked to God.  I mean that I discovered him there.  I felt him in the sun.  I felt his power in the wide open space.  I felt the peace of the dessert.  I truly felt like this would revive me.  It could help me to survive hard times.  It would rest my fatigue.  It would give me vision.

Everyday there, I noticed God a little more.  I felt strengthened for what lay ahead.  If anyone asked me what I did on that trip, I'd have to say that I spent a little time with God. 

Five months later, I would face the fact that my son suffered with addiction.  At first, I kept looking to the past.  I kept trying to figure out what I'd done wrong.  My list was too long to list here.  Then, I kept bargaining with God to let him recover and not relapse. 

Then, I joined Al Anon.  I found God in that little church basement with an eclectic collection of people.  The more I got to know them, the more I saw the touch of God.  They encouraged me to take care of myself.  I was there to work on me.  It was the only person I had control over.  This was such a hard task.  I had spent 22 years of my life taking care of my family.  I don't even know who I am anymore.

My prayer began to be for God to show me who he created me to be.  Little by little, he shows me a little more.  It is so exciting.  There is no grand revelation that I'll be rich or famous.  I'm just learning the joy in the everyday.  I'm also amazed at how taking care of myself is teaching my family to do the same.  It is time for them. 

My son went on a tirade about how he was so angry with the counselor for telling us to cut off contact with him.  He kept telling me how hard and upsetting it was.  I just listened.  After about thirty minutes, he said,"But, I learned a lot."  I said to him, " I don't regret doing it for even one moment."  "I think it might have saved your life."  He didn't argue.

Did you see that coming?  Not me.  I love these numerous little mysteries unfolding before my eyes.  Because I am leaning on God, he gives me the words and the timing with which to use them.  It doesn't take the grand gesture.  It doesn't have to be on my time.  It's like sitting on the sofa so curious for what the next scene would bring. 

It wasn't easy getting here.  I had to come to the place where I was willing to give God my son, no matter the outcome.  That is a big step for any mom.  If this hadn't worked out this way, I know that God would have given me what I needed to handle it. 

I'm so thankful for a change in perspective.  I pray that you will have the courage to look for God in the everyday and trust him with everything you love.  I pray for all those who suffer from fill in your blank. I pray for an increase of faith, a daily examination of conscience, and an effort to make amends where possible.  And, as always I pray for Henry.