Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Renewed Strength

Yesterday, I went to a benefit for the rehab center that my son attended.  It was a luncheon to benefit the women's program.  The featured speakers were  mother and daughter,  who had written about their experience with addiction.

They did a wonderful job.  They spoke in the same fashion that their book was written in.  A certain event or memory would be discussed by both mother and daughter; Each from their own perspective.  For me, it was most enlightening.  The mother would record a memory and I could totally relate and understand her point of view.  Then,  the daughter would speak and she would talk about her response to her mother and it would resemble the same angry, manipulative response I might have gotten, oh a thousand times.  But, underneath that anger and desperate physical need to support her own addiction were memories of right and wrong and worry over her  mother.

The daughter started the talk by discussing a moment where she received a spiritual awakening....on a floor of a bathroom, blood dripping down her nose, with no idea how she got there or where she was.  One thing she felt sure of was that she was probably dying.  She lay there feeling her breathing grow more shallow with each breath.  She said that her main feeling was how sad it would make her mother to learn that she died this way.

This gave me hope.  I always worried that his thinking might be permanently altered.  And, maybe it is, but maybe it has been taken hostage by addiction.  Lately, I have been the "holier than thou" gal in the house.  I might be, but it is not my intent.  My intent is to bring all the "boogers" out of the closet and expose them for what they are so that my family can be heal itself and grow closer.  The day in and day out anger makes you start to question yourself. 

Yesterday, that talk renewed my strength.  It reinforced that I am fighting addiction and it fights dirty.  I will not let discouragement get the better of me.  I will close my mouth and lean in to this storm as I walk through it.  I will imagine that I have an actual "lifeline" attached to me and allow our Lord to help me to walk through all of the anger and bombs that will go off along my path.

I am not angry.  I have not been perfect in my life.  If I got what I deserved, I'm sure I wouldn't be able to take it.  So, I am thankful for God's grace and help.  Today, I pray for continued direction.  I am so thankful for my beautiful cousins who spend a lot of time and money helping the cause of addiction and for being there for me with love and concern, yesterday.  I know our grandmother is smiling from above.  I am thankful for those who aren't afraid to tell their stories no matter how bad.....that is the epitome of courage.  I am thankful for all of the prayers that you all send and I say a prayer for Henry.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"The Truth Does Not Change According to Our Ability to Stomach It." Flannery O'Connor

I was having coffee with a good friend this morning and we were discussing the works of Flannery O'Connor.  We have both, only recently, begun to dig into a bit of her work.  But, I like what I've read so far.  I like her bold, direct, truthfulness.  I don't think she was mean spirited;  I think she just cut to the core of an issue. 

Life is so hard.  It is hard when addiction is present.  But, it's hard with cancer, cystic fibrosis, mental illness, learning disabilities, physical disabilities are present....the list could just go on.  We all have a cross to carry, of one sort or another. 

So, why should we hide?  Why should we whisper about the things with which we struggle?  Doesn't that just create another level of work?  I write under a pen name to respect my son's privacy.  But, as for me, I'm taking off the mask.

My son is an addict.  I feel a lot of guilt over worrying more about his grades and how he appeared to others than I did about whether or not he felt totally, unconditionally loved.  He has ADD and I worried more about his impulsiveness than I did about hugging him for a bright idea that popped out of his mouth.  I worried more about his language than I did about listening to the ideas behind those words.  And, for all of those things and more, I am so sorry.  I can't take them back.

Today, I don't know how he is doing in his sobriety.  I try to only focus on myself.  But, I am praying for a chance to make up for all of my previous mistakes.  I want the opportunity to rebuild whatever kind of relationship that I can.  My son is an addict.  That means that he is different than before.  Not good, not bad, just different because of what he's put into his body and because of the experiences he's had. 

I am different too.  I am different because of this road I have traveled.  I am different because I have given him up to God.  I am different because I am accepting this cross.  I want the chance to love him again.  I want the chance for us to hang out without him worrying about drugs and alcohol.  I want the chance for him to start to dream again.  I want the chance for him to find something he can be passionate about. 

But, if he doesn't, then I will keep walking down this path.  It is all too big for me alone.  I must rely on God to give us the answers that we can't even imagine.  Today, my prayer is for the faith to keep walking, eyes straight ahead, faith in my heart and prayers on my lips.  And I say a prayer for Henry.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Until an Opportune Time.....

It is only day 12 of lent and in my own personal dessert, I am floundering.  Dealing with addiction can be a little like pitching a tent and living in the dessert.  This feeling of failing usually occurs when I am looking down at the cracked earth and remembering how little water I have.  And, I understand how little strength I have to fight the enemies.   I feel alone and powerless.

Jesus went into the dessert for 40 days.  He experienced a lot of temptations but he did not waiver.  His faith remained intact.  The Gospel of Luke tells us "And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time."  When is the  opportune time?  For me it is when I'm tired, trying to handle things on my own, not waiting and listening to God's will, and worrying because I think that I have control.

In order to take care of myself, I must give up the will of God.  I must ask what my job is for this day, this hour, this minute.  I read that God doesn't keep us from suffering he gives us peace during suffering.  This is very true.  If you detach from all things material and from your prideful selfish ways, then you will feel this tremendous freedom and God will give you the peace that he has promised.

 I like to think of it like the "runner's high", which is experienced after going through a lot of pain but staying on course until finally despite how far you've gone you feel this euphoria.  You have to go through a lot to really experience that "high".  I think the same is true of the challenges we must all face.  Many times we expend more energy trying to go around them than just to throw your arms out wide in surrender and walk in a straight line right down the middle of them. 

This where you say, " I accept the pain, the fear, the humiliation, the unknown and I trust."  Then, there is peace.  Today, I pray that you recognize your vulnerabilities and create fewer opportune times for the devil to tempt your walk through the dessert.  I pray for the addict in our lives and I pray for Henry.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lord Hear Our Prayer....

We have very little control...all of us...regarding anything, except our own boundaries and decisions.  So, when our loved ones are sick or they still don't see that substitutuing alcohol for drugs as a problem, all we have is prayer.

In our humaness, it is hard to wait.  It is hard to say, "not my will but yours, Lord."  But, that is what we have.  It seems like very little when we are impatient.  But, we only need the faith of a mustard seed.  So today, in my frail lenten lack of faith, I pray:  "Please guide my son back into your care.  Give him the strength to fight this disease.  Please help increase my faith.  And I pray for the soul of Henry."

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Loneliness of Addiction

My father's brother is 92 yrs old.  He is the only remaining child of Henry and Shrilda, my grandparents.  I went to visit him over Christmas to learn as much as I could about my Dad and his dad.  He loved to tell stories about his childhood.  And, he was a great story teller.  I kept asking about Henry and he gave brief answers and changed the subject.  He did this many times. 

Henry was my alcoholic grandfather, whom I never met.  My father didn't have a lot of nice things to say about him.  But, those words weren't mean, they just came from a place of hurt.  Now that I live with an alcoholic/addict myself, I wanted to hear what life was really like during those times. 

Clearly, this wasn't a subject that my uncle wanted to talk about.  I asked how he treated them.  My uncle said that he and my Dad would do a job (cleaning out fence rows) and Henry would come and collect their pay and spend it on alcohol.  If they argued about it, he would become physical.

Next, I asked if he was mean to grandma and my uncle chuckled and said, "he knew better than that."  This made me very happy on many levels.  First of all, I did not want to hear that he would hit a woman , my grandma, and secondly, I was so proud that her presence "made him know better." 

He gave me an example of her strength.  One day, Grandma was making what he called a butter biscuit on the wood stove.  She had filled the pan with this bread dough which had a pat of butter in the middle of each biscuit and she decided to stoke the fire before she put them in the oven.  As she was doing this, Henry came in drunk.  He started to pick on the boys and she said, "Henry, you leave those boys alone."  My uncle said, "Mama never asked more than one time."  Apparently, Henry forgot that fact because Grandma took that log out that she was stoking the fire with and whacked him, right between the eyes!

This is a funny story now, but living with active addiction/alcoholism isn't.  Addiction/alcoholism is very selfish.  It will take from anyone and everyone in it's path.  It is tiring and leaves families feeling so isolated and alone.  Even recovery is lonely.  Those questions regarding sobriety always plague you.  The "dry drunk" behaviors are no fun either.

I must admit, that it is lonely, even when you are in a crowd and you hear others speak of all of the wonderful things that their kids are doing.  Even if your family member is doing better;  because this disease has such a long road to recovery, you become afraid to comment.  It feels as though you are watching everyone else moving forward in life and you are in this limbo and unable to participate in moving forward.

It's not all bad, though.  It is in the loneliness that I find humility.  It is in humility that I find God.  It is with God, that I learn who I am and who he wants me to be.  It is in God, that I have the faith and peace to wake each day, thankful.

Today, I say a prayer for all of you who feel alone.  You are not, because I unite with you in prayer.  I pray for our family members, that they may return to God in day at a time.  I pray for each of you to see beyond addiction and learn the lessons that God has in store for you.  And, I pray, as always, for Henry.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It is Between You and God

My last post was about opening up about addiction in our lives.  And, it seemed to be a very important issue for many readers.  For me, one of my proudest moments as a mother, was at family group when my son said, "Hi, I'm ____ and I'm an addict."  I know that may sound strange to many, but it's true.  It was because this young man hadn't taken responsibility for anything in such a long time, that this was music to my ears.  I will admit that I was in the safety of a room full of family members who were going through the same thing. 

For the most part, I am very direct.  I don't usually beat around the bush and I tell it like it is, good, bad or ugly.  I am not patting myself on the back for this character trait/flaw.  I usually wish I had tempered my comments.  I'm not too concerned with appearances.  This could be considered a strength or sheer laziness.  I am pointing out these traits to illustrate that on the surface, I'm not very prideful. 

But, I've been studying pride and humility during this lenten season.  Humility is a virtue that is opposed to pride and related to the cardinal virtue of temperance.  It is the foundation of spiritual edifice.  When we live humility in our daily activities, we don't care what others think of us.  We find living our lives as God intended more important than what another person thinks.  But, it goes deeper, it extends to our need to be appreciated or loved or respected.  These seemingly harmless" needs" are bits and pieces of pride.
It takes a lot of energy to keep up an appearance.  And, when we do, we are robbing others of lessons that we have learned.  We are continuing the stigma that is associated with addiction.  I am not trying to suggest that anyone go out and put out a press release regarding their loved one's sobriety.  I am just saying that if we start small with those we trust, and we are honest many good things happen.  First of all, we lighten our load.  We are sharing with others who might be afraid to admit that their lives are less than perfect.  And, we show others just how pervasive this disease is. 

There will be many who will give you the condescending looks and phony concern.  But, if we are truly humble, this will not matter.  In the twelve step program we learn that addiction and other's reactions are out of our control.  We learn to take care of ourselves.  We do this by getting to know ourselves;  Our true authentic selves.  Why would we care what others think?  I used to think that I was protecting my son.....but, maybe I was protecting my pride. 

I love Blessed Mother Teresa.  She was simple, direct, tenacious and humble.  She modified a saying that I work daily on trying to live.  It is a great example in living humility.  I hope this helps.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

I'm so proud of my son.  He's not perfect.  He has so much to learn.  But today, he's trying.  He is a child of God.  God has a specific plan for him.  He might not have chosen addiction for him, but I believe he will use it for good in my son's life, if he allows God to. 

Today, I have a prayer of thanksgiving for this painful clarity I am being given.  I pray for all of our Henry's to look for healing in the arms of God.   I also offer this simple strong prayer to our Guardian Angel.

Angel of God, My guardian dear, To whom God's love commits me here.  Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide.  Amen

Friday, March 11, 2011

Preconceived Notions.....

My daughter has epilepsy.  She is well controlled, now.  In the beginning, it was such a frightening thing to think about.

 My husband and I saw her condition in two entirely different ways.  Neither was wrong or right, just different. My husband being (a bit) older, remembers when some of the older folks, thought those who suffered from seizures were mad.  This caused him to want to hide her problem as a means of protection.  I felt that everyone needed to know in case something happened.  I didn't think too much about what others thought. 

This same daughter had scoliosis.   I took her into the orthopaedic surgeon who began asking about her medical history.  I mentioned her epilepsy and he quickly corrected me by saying, "seizure disorder" in a very stern voice.  He later said that he didn't want my 12 yr old to feel bad about the use of the word epilepsy.  I said, "she didn't have any reason to until just now."

I am not suggesting that my husband, who loves our daughter with all his heart and the surgeon, one of the most caring individuals I've ever met, were out of line.  It is a decision to weigh; Do I protect from ignorance or do I promote honesty while  chancing bias?

The same thoughtful consideration goes into whether or not to go public about the addict/alcoholic in our lives.  It's not really my story but it does affect me.  It is a careful line to walk. I want to share some thoughts that I have on the subject.

When my husband  and I first learned of our son's addiction, we didn't tell a soul.  We wanted to protect him and quite honestly, we were scared, ashamed, embarrassed and prideful.  It didn't take very long for those pasted on smiles to feel as though they weighed 1,000 lbs.  and each person who asked about him required a phony story which began to grow old. 

Then we decided to tell those family and friends that we were really close to.  It was amazing.  The support and relief were so consoling.  We began receiving a healing balm of extra prayers.  And, others began to open up about the alcoholic or addict in their life. 

  I have ADD.  I can't tell you how hard I work at NOT interrupting.  A thought will pop into my mind and it takes the strength of elephants to stop it from popping out of my mouth.  There are so many folks that love to crack the ADD jokes.  I was even in a counselors office recently, who told me how many times I had interrupted her and that I talk too much. 

My point is this, we all have something.  And, we will most likely be judged for it and any other preconceived notion a person might have about us.  But, I think that shedding light on any problem is the first step to freedom.  Letting that secret out, strips it's power. 

For a long time I suspected my son had problems with drugs.  I felt that saying it out loud made it true.  Sticking my head in the sand, made it true.  Admitting it might have started a firestorm, but it was a firestorm to healing. 

However you wish to handle your story, at the very least, take it to our Lord in prayer.  He knows how tired you are and is willing to take on your yoke.  There is a lot of traffic on this blog and very few followers.  I suspect it is because this subject matter is so hard.  I write anonymously myself.  It is a means of saying out loud, to God, that I am here and I am taking on these problems.  It is a way of talking about the loneliness of this problem.  It is a way of talking about the fear of loss.  It is my way of being heard.  I encourage you to find a way of being heard. 

Today I pray for all who suffer from isolation because of addiction or alcohol;  that they will have the courage to take back their lives by turning on the light.  I pray for the addict and alcoholic, that they allow God to teach them the lessons that they need for today.  I pray that we all try to look beyond any preconceived notions we might have.  And, I pray for Henry.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Longing for Lent

Lent is a forty day period (minus Sundays) from Ash Wednesday until Easter.  I used to dread the thought of Lent.  I hated giving up meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays.  I hated coming up with something to give up.  I felt like bad things came during this time.  Easter would magically make things better.

Now, I have a whole new view of Lent.  I actually have a little longing for it to arrive.  It's like needing to clean out that closet that is crammed with all sorts of stuff and ready to overflow.  You can't really organize your house because there is no room to put things away.  You can't even remember what you've stashed in that closet. 

When you live with an addict, you learn that you only have control over your own actions.  You need to understand why you act the way you do.  What motivates that action?  Have I made an inventory of my sins/shortcomings?  Have I been willing to make the necessary changes?  Have I tried to make amends for them? 

To me, doing these things, feels a lot like lent.  AA and Al Anon teach us to make these steps a matter of practice.  The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius also recommend a daily (twice) examen.  It becomes a matter of practice.  It feels better after you've "cleaned up" the messes of your life.  Doing this daily, is like balancing the checkbook on time. 

I think this is why I long for Lent.  I get this extra time to really examine myself.  I get extra time to strip away distractions.  I get extra time with God.  This desert is a place to be alone and contemplate.  I look forward to this season.  It's the only way to really clean house. 

Today I pray for a fruitful lent for all of you.  I pray for the addict/alcoholics of our lives.  I pray that we all begin to long for the joy of removing all our barriers to Christ.  And, I pray for Henry.

Friday, March 4, 2011


We all need God in our lives.  He gives us purpose.  Many people wander aimlessly looking for what they are called to do.  It can be frustrating to be unsure of what your gifts are. 

Often times we define success in terms of money, which is sad. Money is necessary, but it corrupts so much.  Why are we here? 

What have we been called to do?  I think we imagine some big announcement...."You'll be a great politician."  What about others who don't have an obvious direction?  This is where looking for God's will comes in.  I think it takes a tremendous amount of faith and introspection to understand yourself enough to know what your good at, especially when the world is out to tell you what you can't do.

My son and I have been driving together to work.  It is a long tiring slog.  I get frustrated with the cost and time taken out of the middle of my day and then when I would normally be relaxing.  Also, I worry that this enables him...even though he has started paying gas.  But, what I gain is this:  our relationship is growing. 

I was worried before that we didn't have a relationship because he only seemed to be pulled towards his father, but that was OK because a boy needs his Dad.  But, I was concerned that I had lost him along the way.  I don't worry anymore.  I am watching him take care of me more and more each day. 

The other night we were driving home and the traffic began stopping.  Before I could begin to complain, my son was on the phone with a buddy who lived nearby.  He got quick detour directions that got us right where we needed to be without being stopped on the interstate.  "See Mom, I got us where we needed to be."  He was so proud.  It was such a small thing....but it's not.  It's all those little things that tell us that we are needed, that we helped, that we matter, that we weren't put here to just cause problems.  I imagine the addict needs that more than anyone. 

I am thankful that my eyes were opened to that need in him.  He is so giving to me.  He thanks me and reminds me that things will be okay and he keeps telling me that he'll never put me in a nursing home!!!  I know that sounds funny, but, I trust that he never will.  This is my paycheck.  This is my gift for merely driving.  God is so good. 

I pray to notice others gifts more often.  I pray that those facing addiction learn to fill their hurts with learning their gifts instead of using a substance or tearing others down.  It is so much more rewarding and a better use of energy.  I pray for more wisdom as we approach this Lenten season.  And, I pray for the soul of Henry, my grandfather.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Continuing to Let Go....

I quit my job a couple of weeks ago.  That may not be a big deal to some, but to me, it was.  I worked for my husband.  I have worked for him for almost 16 years.  I kept the books, ordered supplies, managed employees, cleaned, made coffee, ran after lunch...whatever needed doing. 

I began this job when my kids were 2 , 3 , and 5 yrs. old.  Now they are 21, 19, 18 yrs old.  When I started, it was thrilling for a couple of reasons.  This was my husband's new business and as a young mom who had spent the better part of 5 years changing diapers, feeding and cleaning babies, I was so thrilled to do something "grown up". 

I had a degree in elementary education but a teacher's pay wouldn't even cover the cost of child care, so I stayed home.  Then I was plunged into a job that I knew absolutely nothing about.  I was terrible at it in the beginning....but I always showed up and I was pretty cheap.  There was so much to learn and it was all so foreign.  I worked very hard at doing a good job.  It made me feel like I was making a contribution and I felt like an adult.

Lately, I've become interested in other things.  And, in all honesty, I'm still not all that great at my job.  It is not my passion and I don't think God calls me to it anymore.  But, my pride has taken a hit.  I know those taking over are better suited for the job.  I know it will be a good thing for my husband's business. 

So, why am I sad?  I've had to think about that.  I think it is because I really just wanted to contribute and have others be proud of me.  Pride...such an ugly monster.  But, when you're not very productive, you're not contributing and it's time to walk away.  I didn't even know it wasn't working because I didn't look up or within from my daily grind.  I just kept doing what I'd been doing until I learned of my son's addiction. 

That woke me up and made me notice. Just before we learned that he had a drug problem, he was so difficult, we were all so unhappy and I was praying, "can we ever have joy again?"  I've let go of trying to control my son's addiction and now I'm letting go of something that I was never really good at anyway. 

I am wandering.....but,  this exploration is one that will hopefully take me to a place where God wants me to be.  Then, I think I will find joy.  "I'm releasing one more thing, Lord, give me the courage to keep letting go of unnecessary things." 

Today, I am thankful for Al Anon and the lessons it teaches.  I am thankful for the courage God gives me each day.  I pray for all of you to let go of those things holding you back from your true vocation.  And I pray for Henry.