Monday, December 30, 2013

There is No Situation too Difficult to be Bettered.....

I went to my first Al Anon candlelight meeting this year.  It was really lovely. Someone read a special opening and then expressed gratitude for what Al Anon had done to enrich her life.  Then we went around the room taking turns sharing what we had to be grateful for. 

We all shared how our lives had changed since living the program.  One person spoke about how hearing the phrase, "no situation is too difficult to be bettered" which is read in our closing, had been a gift of hope for them early on. 

Others had learned to live a life without constant fear and anxiety in the midst of a loved one's addiction.  A few were shocked at a life that had so radically turned itself around after losing hope just a year before. 

I love Al Anon.  I love my Catholic faith.  Each has sustained me through the battles of addiction.  Al Anon helped me to learn practical ways of living my faith.  It gave me a tremendous support network and taught me a lot about humility. 

Just wanted to share my experience, hope and strength before the year's end.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Three Steps in Three Years

A couple of days ago, the Dad and I received a call from the Son's work.  It was 6pm and the Son was supposed to be at work at 4pm.  He was a no show and they were worried about him.  He had been late for the last two days.  This is the kind of call we all worry about receiving. 

The Dad called one of his friends to see if he knew how to get in touch with him (his phone had run out of minutes).  He hadn't heard from him.  So the Dad decided to drive to the city to try to roust him in his apartment.  Of course our first thought, as many of you can easily guess was, "will we find him alive?"

I didn't go with the Dad.  I calmly said that I just didn't think I could go not knowing what we'd find.  He agreed.  He thought that I should stay home.  Five minutes later the Dad came through the door and said, "he's alive."  His friend managed to find him and he called....... drunk, but he called.

The snowball is starting to roll downhill fast.  And yet, it is sadness that I feel, instead of panic.  All day yesterday I started thinking about the way that I was feeling.  I started to wonder if my heart had grown hard.  The feelings are so different than they were before.  Yes, I am worried.  I know where this is headed.  I know that things will get radically worse before than have any chance of getting better.  But, still I'm not a nervous wreck.  I'm not pasting on a fake smile.  I am a little sad.  I am tired from the ups and downs of this disease.  But anxiety has mostly left the building.

Last night I was to choose the topic for our Al Anon meeting.  I wanted to talk about this most recent experience and so I was trying to get to the root of what had changed.  What had happened to make this frightening experience bearable?  And then I realized that for the first time, I had actually 'made the decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him.'

Finally, I knew that this madness was out of my control.  Finally, I accepted that God was the only thing that could restore my sanity and finally I decided to allow God to handle this because He knows far better than me.  And, there is peace in this madness.  The anxiety is gone. 

I've been in Al Anon for three years.  There have been a number of times where I've thought that I "had" the first three steps.  But, really it took three years to really get it.  I realize that if I am not careful, I can go right back to insanity.  But for today I am grateful for a loving God who is at the helm.  I am grateful for rest while in His care.  I am grateful for my Al Anon family group. 

Praying always for you and your loved ones.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

May Be Good, May Be Bad....

There is this Chinese Proverb that I've heard many times.  The first time that I heard it was in a family intensive out patient session.  The story is an important one for families of addicts and alcoholics to understand and more importantly, to accept.  I find myself stressing less and instead looking to each thing that happens with curiosity.  "I wonder what I am to learn from that?"

The Son lost another person he knew from his first rehab.  It was the second person to die in three weeks.  The Dad has a coffee drinking buddy who lost his son to cirrhosis of the liver this week.  We went to the visitation last night and as this older Dad sat and received each of us his soft touch extended beyond taking our hands as he tried to encourage us that our son still had such great hope. 

I misplaced a couple of things of value right after the Son's last visit.  My mind instantly went "there".  I tore apart my closet and other places trying to find the items that I had misplaced.  I was sick.  Even though I knew in my heart that our last visit was the most real of any visit we'd had in a long time, I knew that I had to acknowledge that items were missing and he had been here at the same time. 

So, I accused him and he denied.  I told him that I didn't believe him.  He told me to keep looking for them.  Nothing new.  I was so conflicted, this time.  Our visit seemed so genuine.  And then, I found one item and then the next.  Did I blow it?  Will he open up to me again after what I did?  What am I to learn from all of this? 

Have I mentioned how much I hate this disease?  I'm giving it to God.  I don't know how to restore what I have broken.  I promptly admitted and apologized. But, I hurt his feelings at a time where he was showing vulnerability......exactly what I didn't want to do. 

Time will tell but in the mean time, I praying for Henry and all of you.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Without Condition

Within the last three weeks, the Son has lost two people that he knew from his first rehab experience.  It has been a very sobering experience for all of us.  The Son is very hurt.  Addicts have a really hard time dealing with pain.  He came to visit and things weren't going all that well between us.  The Dad wisely reminded me how difficult it is for an addict to handle pain.  "Pray for him and love him" he said. 

It was the message that I needed.  Fear had me panicking about the way he was behaving.  I was reacting.  But when I was reminded to pray and love, I started to see the Son as someone who was heart broken and afraid.  Instead of looking for what I considered as "right" behavior, I could see him.  I could see his hurt. 

I shut my mouth.  I just loved him.  I prayed for him to have the desire and courage to work towards his own health.  Then out of the blue he started reading one of the many books on recovery that are on our shelves.  He asked if he could take it home. 

Today, he opened up to me more than I EVER remember.  He shared his concerns and let go of some of the toxic feelings that he's so good at carrying around.  It was truly a miracle.  It was an unexpected gift.  And I believe that it all happened because this family is attempting to love the right way.

My mom died 15 years ago today.  I think she's praying for us.  Feeling thankful and praying for Henry and all of you.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Perpetual Worry

My mama sent two boys to Vietnam.  I 've always had a hard time imagining how terrifying that must have been.  One brother was in the Army.  He had a one year tour.  He came home skinny but okay.  The other brother was a Marine.  He was shot by sniper fire in the knee because he was carrying the radio.  He came home within a couple of months of leaving but the scars extended beyond his leg wound.

I have always heard one story in particular that is fascinating to me.  I was only four at the time and because I don't have a memory of it, I rely on the memories of others.  My mother saw an official car drive down the driveway.  She mistakenly thought that if  an official came to your door, there was a death.  She must have gone into a blind panic because as these men got out of the car, she took off her shoes and started throwing them at them and yelled at them to get off of her property. 

Last week the third young man that I knew, in six months, was buried due to overdose.  This young man went to the same high school with the Son.  He was at the same rehab with the Son when he went the first time.  He also attended the second program that the Son attended and they spoke by phone to each other often.  All of those facts caused me to feel that "take off my shoes and throw them" type of reaction.

I guess things never change.  Maybe the impetus of worry is different.  But worry and suffering remain.  It is out of my control.  Those first three of the twelve steps are really the hardest to swallow.  They have layers and layers for me to understand. 

The Son struggles.  And, I struggle to accept.  But, today I do.  I guess that is all that I can ask for.  I am praying for an increase in faith, for your Henry and mine.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Southern Festival of Books

  I spent a couple of days at the Southern Festival of Books this weekend.  I'd always wanted to go but had never made time for it or really knew what all it offered.  Now that I know how it works, I'm afraid that I will be there every year buying too many books, as usual. 

Yesterday, I heard only one author speak, Rick Bragg.  He was such an entertaining feller, as my Dad would have said.  He writes a monthly essay which can be found in the back of Southern Living magazine.  It is usually an observation of some aspect of a life lived while growing up in the south.  He is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist for the NY Times and the author of six books, all non fiction.  His memoir, All Over but the Shoutin'  is the story of his mother's sacrifice to raise three boys alone after their abusive, alcoholic husband and father  abandoned them. 

I got there a little early and saw him as I was heading in to listen to him speak in a fair sized auditorium.  He spoke to me and looked me in the eye as if maybe I was someone that he knew and couldn't remember. 

Afterwards he signed books.  I got in a very long line and waited while he took time to listen to each person who came up with a book to be signed, who shared a bit of themselves with him, telling him why his book meant so much to each of them.  Many asked for writing advice and most wanted their picture made with him.  When I got up there I wasn't sure what to say but I said, "my grandfather was an alcoholic and it deeply affected my dad and my son suffers with drug and alcohol addiction...."  "Well, then you know these people,"he said while tapping his finger on the pages of his book.  "Yes, I do."  I said. 

And, I thought that maybe I know him too.  And, it occurred to me that he looked me in the eye, not because I was someone that he thought he knew, but that when you know the faces of those in the margins, you make it a point to make sure that you really look at them and others.  When you've loved a person that society discounts, whether you've been angry with them or not, whether they've made their amends or not, you still realize that they are a person. You are careful to look at others knowing that they have a story too.

Maybe I read too much into it.  Maybe not.  His book is really an interesting story.  It is a picture of addiction and poverty which often walk hand in hand. It is an account of a Mama feeling guilty for the way things turned out....  a portrait of the south in all of it's good and bad parts.  It did sound familiar.

Today is one of the last days in the eighties, at least this week.  It seems like summer never ends and then winter just hits.  I did buy books as Christmas gifts.  It was a lot of fun.  I'm learning to enjoy myself....Praying today for all of our loved ones. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

That Ah-Ha Moment

In the Homeward Bound class at the jail, we talk about awareness a lot.  Many times as I sit and listen to them talk, I am surprised by how unaware they are of themselves.  I guess, foolishly,  I feel very (quite prideful) aware of who I am.  But then something happens to knock me off my self built pedestal which just shocks the socks off of me.

The Son had visited with the Dad and I and we both felt that things weren't going well.  Since I had a few other family crisis to deal with, it was easy to set it aside.  I took him back to his apartment on Tuesday as usual, my mind raced to all of the things that I typically  say to him and each time a thought would come, I would chant this little mantra in my head: " You will just be wasting breath".

It was a pretty quiet ride back.  But, when I dropped him off, I was pretty proud of myself.  It's quite a feat for me to keep my mouth shut.  I had accepted that nothing I could say would change anything.  But then I got home and the other crisis of the day seemed to reach a resolution and so what did I do?  I know all of you fellow Al Anon friends can guess.  I started to worry.  I started stewing and replaying all of the things that he did and said.

I had worked myself up into a big frenzy.  If you saw me in my home, I'm sure you'd ask, " does she have a history of mental illness?"  Somewhere amidst the begging, God, in his annoyance mercy gave me an understanding.  That's the best way for me to describe it.  But, I had maybe a better understanding and awareness of our situation.  It was almost instantly given and it brought peace.

This is the idea that came to mind.  I remembered when we started the process of selling our home, looking for a new one and going to the bank to get a loan.  Asking my ADD brain to do the work needed to complete those tasks was like asking me to climb Kilimanjaro.  Overwhelming can't even adequately describe my feelings during that time.  The Dad is a details machine.  He is in his element with lists and fine print.  Early in the process I told him that I couldn't do those tasks.  I would organize emptying a home that we had occupied for almost twenty years.  I would have yard sales, make trips to Goodwill, organize all those mementos in the attic, pack and move, but please don't make me deal with banks and relators. 

It was the perfect division of labor.  I still had hard work to do, but, the worry left me because I knew that he would handle it perfectly.  All of the sudden, it occurred to me that this was the same.  I couldn't fix my son.  It was too big for me.  If I could trust my husband to handle a move, why couldn't I trust God with the Son.  Suddenly, I was able to understand the relationship that I needed to have with my higher power.  Comparing it to the relationship with the Dad helped me to see that help is there if only I will take it. 

It's a beautiful Saturday here in Tennessee.  Tomorrow our temperatures will drop to the low seventies.  I'm ready for the air to get cooler.  I'm going to clean my house, finish a little laundry, start a new crafty project, walk the dogs and maybe go watch the Dad ride his horse.  That's all possible because I've handed that over ( at least for now) Ha! 

Feeling grateful but still praying.....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

I've mentioned before that I teach a class at the county jail in a program called Homeward Bound.  They teach a lot of classes.  I used to take an Al Anon meeting there and still fill in sometimes but they have plenty of volunteers.  The class I teach lost their volunteer and I naively volunteered. 

I don't  have any training or any sort of psychology degree.  But, the text is written at a sixth grade level so I felt like I could swing it.  There is a training session but it is a four to six hundred dollar course and I would have to self pay as the program has very little money.  I've googled the program and found all sorts of studies done on it's effectiveness but nothing on how to implement it. 

I could follow only the text but as an ex elementary ed teacher, I wanted more.  Since I couldn't find any aids to help me expound on what the text offers, I went to some of the references.  The two books that I bought were Healing the Child Within and Healing the Shame that Binds.  These books deal with addiction quite a bit.  They both refer to twelve step programs a lot.  I can see now why the program coordinator choose a twelve stepper to facilitate this class.

I also asked to teach a writing class.  I teach the classes back to back and we write about some of the exercises in the book.  It has all worked out and miraculously seems to fit together. 

I don't really think you can teach writing.  But, I love teaching others to observe better and then to be able to communicate that to others.  The neat thing that I learned from these books is that in order to heal, you have to remember your story.  They recommend journaling and then going back to "listen" to your story.  As you look at it, you can learn so much about yourself.

I find it so amazing how God put this all together.  I don't know where he will take me next but these things make me look forward to what He has in store. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Just Choose It

I watched the documentary G-Dog and the Homeboys.  It is a documentary which followed Father Greg Boyle, SJ for a year at his gang rehabilitation center.  If you ever need a practical how-to on unconditional love, that is the place to learn about it.

I bought the DVD and took it to my Homeward Bound Class at the jail.  They loved it.  I know this not only because they told me so, but they hugged me, smiled at me and even opened the door to cool the room off without me asking when a hot flash hit.  I consider that real progress!

Addiction is one of the obstacles that they work with at Homeboy.  They have AA, NA and other 12 step programs.  They do drug testing and help connect addicts with sober living houses.  Father Greg was talking to one of the kids about turning his life around.  "What's stopping you, he asked?  You just have to choose it.  You- choose- it, that's all." 

I was inspired.  It made me think of my own recovery.  Am I at a place where I choose it?  A lot has happened to us these last three years.  Addiction might have been the thing that captured our attention, but it is just a symptom.  Now, it's time to deal with the problem.  I think it's time to choose.

So, the hard work will begin, but I don't like the alternative.  I sick of where I've been.  I'm ready for health.  So I choose the hard work.  Praying for all of our loved ones.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Still Wanting my Mama.....

      November 1, will mark fifteen years since my mother died.  The onset of autumn always takes me back fifteen years to the sights and smells reminding me of those last moments with her.  They were both painful and joyful as life tends to be.  I was thirty-four years old and my children were very young.  As she was dying, we all (she had 6 children) took turns helping with her care.  I was two hours away so I came on the weekends.
     Those weekends were a time to sit in quiet with the windows open, smelling the fresh scents that signified the beginning of  death to a season of growth.  The symmetry was not lost on us.  It reminded us to finish things that needed finishing, say what needed to be said, touch as long as we could and say thanks to the one who cared so much for all of us.
     Autumn seems a little quieter somehow.  Perhaps it is because each voice, claimed by death, one by one, until the silence of winter arrives.  This quiet allows me to ponder much.  If she could come back for just a day or even an hour, I would have a lot to say.

     "Mama, I've missed you so much.  I know now, just how much you loved me.  I just never appreciated that as I should have.  I'm so sorry.  I feel like my life is in such a mess.  I'm working as hard as I can to do what is right.  But, I'm a little lost.  I miss you telling me that the tough times will pass.  Sometimes I remember how convinced you were that each of the six of us was absolutely the best or brightest at some particular thing and while I thought you were silly at the time, I miss someone having that kind of faith in me.  I miss having someone who I trust so utterly and completely. 
     I remember how you stood up for my kids.  You were a fabulous Grandmother.  If the Son was messy you reminded me what a good heart he had.  If the girls were fussing and cranky, you reminded me what a gift they would be as they got older.  According to you, they were the smartest, most beautiful children ever.....and you were right.  You were such safety and in this crazy mixed up world, I mourn the loss of that. 
     We're fighting an awful fight now and I need you.  I need your love to combat the evil that tries to take my boy and hurts the girls so in the process.  I need your prayers......I need your strength.  I sure would like to still have my Mama around." 
     I guess it's good that I can't have her for an hour or a day.  Because it would be so devastating to let her go again.  I am a little sad today.  The cool air is a little reminder of what was.  The hard times always make us run to Mama....
     Today, I will imagine her here with me.  I will open my windows and conjure up her peaceful nature and calm voice and bask in it as I pray for my Henry and yours.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Inheritance Lost

    My life has changed so much in the last three years.  I read all of these posts in our blogging community and a few things seem to jump out.  First of all, most of us, have lived with addiction or dysfunction even before now, with the one that brought us to our knees Secondly, once we become aware through the twelve steps or therapy or even a bit of rehab, we start digging into new and healthier ways of being. And, that work seems to eventually head backwards to the source of a lot of problems.
     The Dad and I have been doing marriage counseling for about two years.  We go to meetings (he more than me, I must confess) and for the most part, we have finally reached a place of safety where we can talk about things that might have been too frightening to talk about in the past. 
     This morning I had a phone conversation with Big Sister.  She tends to take on too much at school and she made the comment, "I don't know how to have healthy boundaries because of you guys."  Ouch!  That was true and pointed directly at me.  I used to take on more than I wanted, trying to seek approval.  I was always worried about what others thought of me.  It meant that I was okay, after all.
     The Dad and Granddad have also been having a tough time getting along.  Granddad doesn't really appreciate the fact that the Dad is learning to take up for himself.  Granddad is in his eighties and not very healthy.  His choices don't really protect him and so when we try, our efforts are met with his old ways of controlling.  Since we see with new eyes, it is a little startling to realize that we have put up with this for so long.
     A relative lost her son recently.  He was a drug addict.  It stoked the fires of fear and I became depressed and a little crazy.  The Son picked up on it.  I had to tell him why I was so out of sorts and his response was this, "Mom, I don't mean to sound nasty and I have no right to say this, because I've given you a million reasons to be afraid, but maybe you should just learn to deal with your own business."  I had to stop myself and think about his statement.  Was he trying to manipulate?  No, that was irrelevant.  He was right, I needed to look at why I was responding the way that I did and deal with my fear instead of behaving the way I did.  Was my behavior manipulative?  Maybe....
     I'm going have to find the courage to deal with my business and so is the Dad.  Because we've talked about it and our hope and our goal is for the dysfunction to stop here.  It won't be easy.  We will have to look very closely at ourselves.  We will have to ask ourselves the hard questions.  We will have to expect to meet a lot of resistance from Granddad. And, we will have to challenge our thinking on everything that we do.  It will be so important to be really present with our thoughts.
     I guess the buck stops here.  That will be our legacy.  Perhaps it will make up for so many of the mistakes that we have made thus far. 
     I am always inspired by you guys in the blogging community.  But, when I go into public and listen to people talk, I see how great my friends in recovery really are. 
     Saying prayers for you and your addicted loved ones.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Judgement Seat

The Dad and I went to California on vacation.  There is nothing like the beach and poor cell signals to help you unplug and finally relax.  We had a much needed time to reconnect. 
     Our flight is close to four hours long and we always end up chatting with the passenger who occupies the third seat in our row, after all they practically sit in your lap for that length of time.  This time was no exception.  AL Anon and this addiction journey have really made me introspective.  I hear things differently now.
     The man who sat with us wore Levis, a crisp shirt and bow tie and a navy blazer.  He wore tortoise shell glasses which seemed to be a natural extension of his graying hair.  I asked about his trip and his job.  He did the same.  Those conversations naturally led to our families.  And some how, it always seems to end up with a discussion about addiction.
     Mr. Bow Tie was a Yale philosophy graduate.  And so when he said that his son was not really motivated in school but that he didn't do drugs or anything like that.....I knew that I would tell my story.  That might seem counter intuitive to some but for me, it was important to be nakedly honest.  I hate the stigma of addiction and so I'm not going to cower in it's presence.  Maybe that's wrong.  I don't know.
     Our talks continued.  His dad was a raging alcoholic.  There were definitely some scars there.  He also had a wife back home and a daughter who was a freshman in college.  He was meeting a college friend before his business meeting. 
     We talked a lot about addiction.  It seemed to interest him.  But when we got off the plane, he was arm in arm with the college a romantic embrace.  I was instantly irritated.  Who is he to turn his nose up at someone who suffers from addiction?  And then I realized, who am I to turn my nose up at his issues?  I am the pot......
     Sometimes I am a slow learner.  I think we are all a mess.  We just have to have to courage to look within, the courage to accept it and the courage to change.  Not such an easy task.  But, I'll keep trying.
In prayer for all of you and for our addicted loved ones.  And, most especially for Michael's family who lost him this week.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Moral Reconation Therapy

Last year I helped take an AlAnon meeting to our county jail.  This year I wanted to do something a little different, so I asked if I could facilitate a writing class.  The Homeward Bound coordinator said sure but he needed some other classes covered and asked if I was willing.

The class that he asked me to teach is called "How to Escape Your Prison".  It is a moral reconation therapy program.  I had never heard of it before and felt a bit intimidated taking on such a class without training.  But, here I am....muddling through.  I must say, I've learned so much already.  I just hope that I can teach it in a way that will be fruitfull. 

I am constantly surprised by the places I learn the most.  These are places that I never really wanted to go and yet now I look forward to being in Al Anon or hearing an open AA speaker meeting.  I can't wait till Thursday's at the jail. 

There is truth and life in those places.  I am so fortunate to have been brought to this place.  If any of you know about moral reconation therapy and have any advice for how to facilitate such a program, I am all ears.

Saying prayers for all of our addicted loved ones.....

Saturday, August 10, 2013

You Just Never Know

     A friend lost her adult son in a car accident this week.  He was a wonderful, loving, responsible young man.  He was hit head on by a semi truck because he was going the wrong way on the interstate.  No drugs or alcohol were involved.  He was probably overtired because of the number of hours he had worked. 
     This tragedy was so unexpected that it has rocked our parish and community.  In my world, this would be one of three possible outcomes for my son.  The idea of losing a son has been fretted and worried over in mental preparation for something that can't be mentally prepared for.  I've tried negotiating with God in an effort to save my son.  I've done a lot of work to accept the fact that he is only mine for a while and God could ask for his return at any given moment.
     But, this friend has the most beautiful faith that I've ever witnessed.  Our mutual friend went to offer comfort and prayers and as she was leaving, this beautiful boy's mother said, "Heaven must be thrilled to have gained such a wonderful soul as that of my baby......and I keep hoping it's a mistake."
I was humbled by her strength and grace. 
     You just never know.  We just never know.  If only I could learn to live each day....each minute as it was intended and learn to live in anticipation of God's next move instead of placing ignorant expectation upon it......
     Today I offer a prayer for the soul of Rick.  I pray for strength and comfort of his family.  I pray for each family out there who waits for the other shoe to drop.  I pray for our addicted loved ones and for Henry.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Catching Up....

We've moved!  And, boy am I sore and tired.  But, I am so very thankful to be in a new home.  We started the process of selling the old, moving to an apartment, buying new almost three years ago and while I still have to shampoo the carpets at the apartment, mop the tile floors and unload what's left of our storage unit, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Our girls are moving to a new apartment this Saturday.  The old one was well....old, without a washer/dryer hook up.  The new one is in a better area and has not only a hookup but the washer and dryer too!

The Son is still in his apartment.  He has continued to pay his own rent and utilities.  And he went back to his apprenticeship program to see if they would let him back in.  He is waiting for their answer.

I went with the Dad to a speaker meeting the other night.  I listened to a man that is in my Al Anon group who is a "double dipper" as they say.  He struggled with his own issues with drugs and alcohol for years and now comes to Al Anon because of both parents and a daughter.

He described the process of coming to accept his powerlessness over drugs and alcohol.  It reminded me of how I am many times in regard to food.  He decided that as long as he gave up this substance or only used on weekends, it would be alright.  His talk really made me understand why so many must relapse time and again before finally coming to that place of surrender.

I'm thankful for the men and women who get up there and tell their stories.  They help me so much to understand the battles of the addict and alcoholic.  Understanding helps me to back off and allow things to happen naturally.

I'm entering a writing contest.  I've never done that before but I'm very excited to put a little piece out there and see if anything comes of it.  It is time to try all of those things that I wanted to try before I am too old!!  I'm also teaching not one but two classes at the jail this fall.  I'm very excited.

Just a catch up.  Still praying for Henry and all of our loved ones who struggle......

Friday, July 12, 2013

Everyone Has a Story....

Henry  was my fraternal grandfather.  He was a raging alcoholic who died in his recliner with a bottle resting on the floor beside him.  His disease affected all of the members of the family.  My dad was unable to get an education because my grandfather provided for his drinking habit instead of his family.  Henry was a great source of embarrassment for my dad.  In the 1940's they didn't talk much about alcoholism.  They probably hadn't studied the family disease concept.

In the 1980's I was in high school.  My oldest brother is seventeen years older than me.  He was my favorite.  His wife is now a recovering alcoholic but during that time she was an actively drinking.  I remember saying to others that my sister in law was an alcoholic and my brother's drug of choice was her.  At the time I didn't know the term codependency or understand it but I knew what it looked like.  I was so angry with him for such a long time.  I could not understand why he didn't get it and just get out. 

My sister's husband is a recovering alcoholic.  He has been sober for a very long time now but before he had his spiritual awakening, my sister did what many of us do early on....she became a bit of a lunatic pouring out beer, throwing out his supper.....locking the door.  They have a son who is a recovering addict which only ratchets up the insanity to new levels.

It was easy for me to judge others in those days.  I was perfect you see.  I knew what not to do.  Those kinds of things would never happen in my life because I would not be that stupid.

Dr. Phil says that what you fear, you create.  I guess he's right.  I remember going to my very first AlAnon meeting.  My son was in rehab and there were two ladies there from our small town.  One lady went to my church and just a few weeks earlier her husband had blacked out right there in the pew and the Hubby helped to get him outside and call for an ambulance that he later refused.  The other lady had some mental issues from a childhood trauma.  In small towns we know a lot about our least we know enough to label them.

When I saw these two ladies at the meeting, I thought to myself, "oh my goodness, I am in trouble here...I need professionals and look who is here."  That was a long time feels like it anyway.  I am a bit ashamed of that judgmental girl.

But, life has it's way of taking care of most things.  I've had a slice or two of humble pie.  And, quite frankly, I am thankful that I have.  I am a much happier and healthier person now.  The best advice that I got from Al Anon was to mind my own business.  I learned that what others have going on is not my affair.  I was a bit shocked to learn that maybe I was sticking my nose into all of their problems to avoid my own.   It is true.  I do seem to have enough to keep me busy right here in my own back yard. 

And, who am I to judge the choices of others in their journey?  What do I know about Henry?  Well very little.  But my brother who stayed with my sister in law.....I guess we have a lot in common.  My sister in law grew up with an alcoholic mother and her parents divorced.  I never had to deal with either of those things.  I can't judge her.

My sister got married at eighteen years old and had a baby at nineteen.  I can NOT imagine that and the fact that she has hung in there worked her whole adult life, raised two kids and respected her marriage commitment is quite commendable.  My brother in law lost his mother to cancer at a very young age and then watched his father drink in an effort to cope with the loss of his wife.  Today I am humbled by these two. I think the saying about it's not where you are but from where you've come certainly applies to those two. 

The one lady from Al Anon whose husband passed out.....the one who I thought was clueless...she has started more AlAnon groups than anyone I know.  She volunteers at the local jails and is leaps and bounds ahead of all of the "perfect" families that I know.

The lady that was traumatized as a child....Her father slit her throat as a child and left her to die.  She always has a hug for me and asks about my son.  She always has something wise for us to hear. 

Everyone has a story.  Everyone.  This journey has taught me to start to look at souls and to ignore the packages they come in.  They are only an indication of how difficult the journey for them has been. 

I wish that I knew Henry's story.  Instead, I will pray for his soul and for those of all of our addicted loved ones. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Just Another Step in the Slog

Hopefully one week from today, we will close on a house.  We thought that we would close thirty days ago but that fell through as we could not get the low rate we tried to get.  Now it looks as if every I has been dotted and every T crossed and every inspector or appraiser has looked at every possible liability and turfed it to the next expert in that field and maybe we are at the end of the line....maybe.  And, this is a new house....I expected it on my old one!

I have been living (at least partially) in boxes for 2 1/2 years.  I am so tired of it.  I'm also a little sick of hot flashes.  Our old dog, Moe (almost 14 yrs Lab mix) got up on Friday and started to bleed from his rectum.  It was a significant amount of frank red blood.  We took him to the vet (yes, I know that I am married to one but he has only worked with horses since 1986) and he has anal gland carcinoma.  The Dad and I have agreed on no heroic treatments or invasive diagnostics.  We will celebrate his 14th birthday on August 24th, if he is still comfortable at that time and wait for him to let us know when he no longer is.

Big Sister has a friend whose family are avid scuba divers.  She took the class last semester in college and was certified so she is in Grand Cayman diving with them.  I can't believe what a wonderful opportunity that is for her.  Little Sister is considering going off seizure meds if her EEG comes back clean.  We have done this before and she had a really big seizure before her 16th birthday.  It is a little nerve racking before her first semester of nursing school.  But, it is her decision and she'd really like to get off the meds if possible.

The Son is still working.  We are trying to connect with him as much as he wants within the boundaries we've set.  Figuring out how to keep connecting was exhausting so I am waiting to see how things play out organically.  Unconditional love is a hard thing to figure out in practice. I finally realized that I was still in fixing mode as I worked so desperately to decide what route to take.  Maybe I will learn to wait on my son and the plan God has for him....maybe.

Praying for the soul of Henry, your loved ones and mine.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

We are Family!

There were almost eighty people at our family reunion.  It was so good to see my family again.  I had forgotten just how great they are.  There was so much food that I got up at 5am to go for a walk to counterbalance yesterdays overindulgence!
Our family has had a tough few years.  We have gone through a lot more than just our struggles with addiction.  And, we've worked very hard to put things right.  It has required massive change on every one's part.  When you change, it is painful and long.  It feels as if you will never escape the consequences of your bad decisions.  You find that you begin to expect things to be hard.  Until one day when one little thing changes.  One little thing that perhaps you never expected to happen.....happens and it gives you hope!  Maybe you can begin to hope for more.

And so, this is how things have been around our house.  We've accepted (finally) the bad and are now summoning the courage to hope again.  Yesterday, we went to our big family reunion.  I have five brothers and sisters.  We took a picture together and as I was telling my older brothers (I'm the baby!) where to stand, and my daughter heard them say that I was so bossy.  It occurred to me that I am bossy.  I'm bossy because they let me be.  They made me think I was "all that".  They made me feel invincible.  So, just as you go home and slide right back into that brother/sister role so easily.  I was also able to slide right back into that spot of being loved so much.

My kids felt it too.  For heavens sakes I will even go so far as to say that the dogs did too.  I kid you not, they didn't want to leave and they always want to go home!  The Son could not stop commenting on what a great time he had.  Both Little and Big Sister loved hanging with all of their "big" cousins who now have a lot in common with them.  We're all getting older.  We are starting to appreciate the value in a families love.....more than ever before.  We have learned to accept each other warts and all.

My sister rented one of those big blow up water slides.  The kids (big and small) loved it.  But, as the day wore on, many of the "littles" came off of it crying that a sibling or cousin hit, kicked or bumped into them.  My favorite quote from the day was, "you're not at school, we're family just hit them back." 

And, that is what we do as a family.  We love back.  We hit back.  We stick up for each other but at the end of the day, we work it out and can't wait to see each other next time. 

I'm so thankful for family.  They were just the thing we needed to remind us of the good things.  And, I'm still praying for all of our addicted loved ones!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Family Reunion

Tomorrow the family heads two hours away to a family reunion.  We used to gather together often before my parents died, but now it is rare.  I'm so excited to be with all of these folks again, even the ones that drive me a little crazy.  We are a family.  We are linked by the good and the bad.

I've been gone from my home for about thirty years but when I find myself there amongst my siblings my girls say that my accent suddenly reappears.  I guess they are right.  It is so easy to settle into old habits there. 

My sister bought my parents home and she has kept it much the same as it was all those years ago.  I still know which cabinet the plates are in!  But, more than that, I know that one of my aunts will bring her cole slaw and it is the best I've ever had.  I know that all the kids will find themselves in the creek even though there is a water slide there.  I know that I can look into many relatives faces and see the familiar characteristics and mannerisms of "our tribe" and I understand it on a very deep level.

There is comfort in all of these things.  The Son is planning to go with us.  So are the Sisters.  I am happy about this.  Being the youngest of six and losing my parents at a fairly young age makes me feel as if a valuable asset was lost to my children.  I am so happy for them to have this experience.

If all goes as planned the Dad and I, the Son, Big and Little Sister and two pooches will head to a lovely small town in western Kentucky and eat way too much food, watch the dogs and kids play, tell lots of stories and listen to the whispers of generations past. 

I am thankful for this opportunity.  I am thankful for what I've learned from my blogging family as well.  I pray for our loved ones and for Henry.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Prayers

The Dad, Little Sister and I went to Starbucks before mass this morning.  We were going to meet the Son and Big Sister but we were a little early so we went for coffee first.

Outside of the Starbucks, a double amputee sat in a wheelchair and asked for a little money for a Father's day dinner.  The Dad said he'd catch him on the way out.  Little Sister and I sweetened the coffee while the Dad went back out.  We saw them chatting as we got in the car.

I asked about their conversation.  The Dad said that he had asked if he could spare a little money for a Father's day dinner. The Dad gave him a little money and asked if he was clean and sober.  He told him quite cheerfully that he was.  Then the Dad asked if he prayed.  Yes, he said that he did.  Then could you please say a prayer for my son while he fights to get clean and sober?  Yes was his very serious and thoughtful response.

I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about giving money to the homeless.  But, what the Dad did today touched me very deeply.  Mother Teresa always felt that when she looked at the poorest of the poor, she saw Jesus.  And, scripture backs her up in Matthew 25:35-40 when the passage concludes with what you have done to the least of these my brothers you have done unto me.

But, even beyond that I thought of the scripture that states  But many who are first will be last and the last, first., also found in Matthew 19:30.  This disease has taught us many things but one of the most important was that we are blessed to be in the presence of many who are marginalized.  Asking for prayers from the man in the chair was a moment that I will always hold dear.  I am so proud of the Dad and the man he is coming to be. 
Happy Father's Day to all of you.  Saying prayers for our addicted loved ones, those not with us anymore including Henry.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Paradigm Shift

I've been reading a lot of really good posts lately.  I especially liked Annette's post titled While I'm Away.  It really touched me.  It was a portrait with many layers.  The words demonstrated a beautiful progression of a family who all worked independently yet together to love each other.  I kept thinking about how each person contributed their part without judgement and with acceptance and how those gifts of love made everything just seem to click in perfect order.  It was a great story, beautifully told.

My son has had his ups and his downs.  He is on his journey.  I have accepted the not knowing.  I have accepted him no matter what.  I have accepted that God loves him more than I do.  Those are some big steps to take, for me anyway.  With all of those things in mind, I have noticed a shift in the way I view this journey.

I wonder if any of you have considered this journey a gift?  I know that we all hate what it does to our loved ones.  We hate the fear and the consequences of the disease.  But, so many of us have changed in ways too deeply for most people to understand.  I read in these circles a deep understanding of unconditional love.  And, those who have broken our hearts and made us worry are also the very same individuals who were the impetus for us to seek out real love. 

I am not happy that the Son is an addict.  But, his addiction has made me become a better person.  It has pushed me to lose a lot of baggage that blocked my view of what was really important.  It has taught me to accept.

In AlAnon last night, we talked about shifting the focus from the addict or alcoholic onto ourselves.  We talked about how they drink or use so that they don't have to deal with things.  We focused on them so that we don't have to deal with our stuff.  Addiction is my crash course.  My son has been the reason that I am closer to God's love than ever before.  It is a great paradox indeed. 

I guess I am starting to shift my thinking from "why does he use?" to "what am I to learn from this?"  I'd love to hear your ideas on this subject.

In feverent prayer

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I was quite surprised at the number of comments from my last post.  My blog felt tired and I really didn't think that anyone read it.  I know that I was tired of it myself.  The comments were all so kind and caring and I am so thankful for all of you who take time to try and support me during a low point. 

Addiction is a long slog.  And, I'm not particularly good at long slogs.  It can also end tragically and  I have been so fearful of a tragic ending lately.  I think that it is because the Son has had a good experience at a 12 step immersion program and then lived in a recovery community. This last time around, we did things right for a change and so if he relapsed again, what did that mean?

I'll tell you what I think it means.  I think that it probably means that I don't have any control over his outcome.  Not even if I stand on my head, whistle dixie and bargain with God, do I have even a smidgen of control. 

Control is fear.  I know this.  But what is fear?  I asked a young man who is studying to be a priest that very question.  He says that fear is a lack of faith and a lack of faith is imperfect love.  The Dad and I talked about it today.  We both know that we can't make him want to get better.  We can't will him into a spiritual awakening.  And if the worst were to happen.....there is one thing that we know for sure.  God loves him more than we do. 

And that, is what I have to keep saying to myself to accept what is.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Weary Traveler

I haven't posted in quite a while.  I am weary from the ups and downs of this journey.  I have trouble losing my expectation of a happy ending.  I am finding that my faith needs to grow.  I don't really know how to love without least in a practical sense.  I don't know how to care about someone while watching them harm himself.....I can't seem to stop yelling "don't run out in front of that car" because I know he already knows better and can't stop themself.

I am tired of the stigma of addiction. I am tired of people who make fun of Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen.  Can they not see how hurt they already are?  I'm tired of addicts being referred to as junkies, potheads, crackheads......I'm lost on this road and I don't really know how to get back.

I am sorry for this post but I hope that some of you might help steer me back to where I need to be.  I'm just tired.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

and the Greatest of these is Love....

The son received the sacrament of confirmation last night at Easter vigil.  He took the body of Christ for the first time.  To say that we have been blessed is an understatement.  Son has just moved out of the recovery house into a little studio apartment where he can walk to mass, meetings and work. 

During this families recovery process, there is always fear, but it seems that our fears become greater when he begins doing well.  He is doing so well now that we all want to collectively hold our breath.  Accepting God's will can be so painfully frightening.  It can also be a tremendous gift.  I am learning that it is the ONLY way. 

One of the things that have been baffling to me have been that during my most difficult times, I have also found the most calm and peace, that is when I have chosen to let go and trust.  I am learning that those crosses in my life are really times of great love.  Regardless of how difficult the time is, it is a journey towards God's love.  It is the path to healing, even if I have to walk through a difficult situation to get there.

The son is learning about love.  He is learning how much he is loved.  Friends have stuck by him.  The bishop worked one on one with him, even in the midst of illness.  Prayers have come from too many places to count.  Our friends have extended a hand in many many ways.  His godparents are there cheering by his side just as hard and as loud as his own parents.  Our Lord gave the ultimate sacrifice for him and for me and for you.

Love is the healing balm....for all of us.  Today I extend prayers of thanksgiving.  I pray for continued strength for all of our loved ones who battle addiction.  I pray that we all continue to look for God's will and to have the strength to carry it out.  And, I say a prayer for Henry.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Baby

I will soon be 49 years old.  I can hardly believe it.  I am the youngest of 6 children, the baby.  Regardless of my chronological age, I will always see myself as "the baby."   There was a fairly large gap between me and the others.  My oldest brother was almost 18 years older than me.  My sisters, who are closest in age to me are 8 and 10 years older.

Today, as a mom and a wife, when I am around my siblings, I get this little taste of still being "their little sister" and I love it.  My brother came into town the other day for a doctor's appointment and he called and invited me to come to lunch with him and his wife.  And, the dynamic that was present, was much the same.  He paid for my lunch as he always does.....always has.  And, he fussed at my salt intake and choosing to eat dessert. 

When I was little, two of my three brothers would take me to school while my mother worked. The oldest, would take me to breakfast where I would get a donut and a coke.  The youngest brother, would take me and make me eat healthy.  Yep, he was the one from lunch last week.

My brothers, doing what brothers do, wrestled with me and always let me win and play dirty.  I thought that I was so tough.  They whittled a stick (baseball bat sized) to carry in my car when I went to college.  I still have it. 

My sisters, being closer in age let me get away with a lot less.  My oldest sister was the hygiene nazi.  I remember being afraid of getting my hair washed because we had well water and a pump.  If you know anything about that you know that there will be a tiny stream of water followed by what I felt was a water boarding moment.  I remember telling my cousins that were my age to hate her because she was mean.

My other sister was more laid back but she drove like Mario Andretti and it scared the dickens out of me.  She had a convertible whose accelerator would stick and so on the way to school I would beg her to please go slow....thinking that this would keep the accelerator from sticking.  She would then threaten me by saying that if I didn't shut up, she'd go faster.

Today when I sit from my current vantage point and see the places that my life has taken me and I try to recognize the gifts that God has given me to help me navigate this life, I count my brothers and sisters as a major factor in not only my survival but as the baby, they are some of the major gifts in my life.

You see, I never doubted that I could make it through the hardships because my brothers always told me how tough I was.  I never worried about being good enough or smart enough because they made me feel like I was so smart or so talented.  I was "the baby."  I think I was theirs as much as I was my parents.  How blessed am I? 

Today I just want to be thankful for my brothers and sisters.  I want to take the lessons learned from how they loved me and I want to be the one to give those back.  I pray for all of our addicted loved ones and I say a prayer today for Henry.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Wounded Souls

When I went to the jail on Wednesday, one of the correctional officers came in the room to scold the ladies for trying to take a pen into the "pod area."  The ladies in this program have homework and the Homeward Bound coordinator had given them pens to use.  The rule, for them, was unclear.  This officer was clearly strutting his power in front of me. 

This show of power rattled them so much that we started our meeting talking about that.  I challenged them to pray for him for one week.  You might wonder if I think that prayer will change him in one week and the answer is, I don't know.  Perhaps, that week of prayer for my enemy will change me.   Maybe I will be able to see that he too is a victim.  Maybe I will simply recognize that I need the serenity to accept this thing as it is. 

The ladies ran the meeting this week.  They had chosen a leader who is a small very intelligent little gal who appears to be about 6-7 months pregnant.  She and her husband are both addicts.  She asked me so many questions about whether or not I would bail my son out if he went to jail.

My answer was no.  I told her that each parent had decide for themselves what their boundaries were.  She felt that her mother no longer loved her because of her decision.  She broke down while talking about it.  I told her that love sometimes looked harsh.  I told her that I loved my son enough to leave him in jail because it was the one thing that might keep him from using again.  I told her I didn't like it.  It made me uncomfortable and that if he chose recovery I would be there always every time to support him.  She could not believe that I wouldn't give him one more chance.  But, I will.  I will give him as many chances at recovery as he needs.  I just won't give him more chances to hurt himself.  In other words he has a choice.

One thing is clear in this classroom.  These ladies have been hurt and were looking for love in all the wrong places.  Another young lady has long outbursts of the giggles.  They are usually at an inappropriate time.  In the beginning it irritated me, but I ignored her.  Then I would ask if she was laughing at a teasing way.  But, her recurring statement throughout the meeting was that her mom died when she was very young.

This meeting haunted me a little.  I dreamed about it the night after.  I'm not really sure why.  I am praying for the vision to learn what lesson I have to learn in all of this.  One thing is clear.  We are all wounded.  Maybe we are wounded from some terrible life event.  Maybe we are wounded because our families don't know how to show our loved ones just how much we love them in the midst of our fears.

Today I say a prayer for a clear vision for how to put on love.  I pray for the correctional officer, each lady there, their families, our families and Henry.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Prayer For You....

Happy Valentines Day!  There is a Novena (9 days of prayer) called  the Novena to Mary Undoer of Knots.  I stumbled upon it when I googled a novena for addiction.  I must say that it takes a little discipline to do as it is includes praying a rosary in the midst of this novena.  But, it has brought me such great peace.

It has been a hard day.  There are all sorts of knots created by the chaos of addiction.  The knots of unpaid bills, knots of probation, knots from failing to deal with life for a very long time, knots of being without a car, knots of starting from behind, knots of fear, knots of shame, knots of anxiety, knots, knot, knots....

So today in this second day of lent, I will put on the armor of prayer.  If you find yourself in need of said armor, please feel free to follow this link

Today, I pray for all of our addicted and non addicted loved ones, whose knots are stealing the joy from their lives.  I pray to Him who is Love to heal us and guide us.  And, I say a prayer for Henry.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

That's What Love Really Looks Like

As many of you know, I volunteer at the local county jail.  It started out as a as a substitute position for the ladies who took an Al Anon meeting to the inmates.   The ladies who are selected to participate in the program are lucky to actually benefit from rehabilitation unlike the general population of the jail.  It is an honor for an inmate to be selected.  They are offered classes where they can receive their GED, parenting classes, personal finance classes, various churches take their programs there and there is celebrate recovery, AA, NA, etc. Now, I go every week with the hope of possibly offering a writing class in the future.

I cannot tell you what an education this experience has been for me.  I will say that they feed me when I go.  And I will give you an example.  Last Wednesday was our first class for the new "semester".  It was an entirely new group of girls/ladies.  One thing that you can count on in a new class is that a fair number of the participants will be unable to make eye contact.  The other things that you routinely see is either a lot of self degrading talk or a refusal to accept "what is".

I am lucky.  I have ADD.  In the words of Adrian Monk, "it is both a blessing and a curse."  But, here at the jail, it is a blessing.  Because my brain doesn't always slow down to edit, they get the real honest me.  And, the real blunt, honest me, loves them.  I love them because, I am loved.  I love them because I have always wanted to fight for the underdog.  I love them because of my  Dad used to tell me stories about all of the adults who stood up for him when he was the son of a broke alcoholic.  I know the power of just one person who will care.

I am not naive about it either.  Some will continue on doing business the way they always have.  Others, like my Dad, will become great as God intended.  So going to that jail and being "God's pencil" as Mother Teresa used to say is the greatest high ever.

Last week as one inmate was trying to understand what exactly Al Anon is,  she told me that she really didn't like it that her mom could go there and talk about her, I responded, "well, that's not really my problem."  I went on to say that my answer was not intended to be mean or sassy.  I went on to say that I/her mom, needed to take care of ourselves and allow her/my son the freedom to learn to take care of themselves. 

"It's not my problem" came out before I had the chance to think.  But, when it did, I had every one's attention.  I was able to say things that they needed to hear, like:  "I could not participate one more minute in enabling him because he was killing himself.  I will not be a party to that anymore.  If Al Anon helps your mom to do the hard things to help save your life, it is her right to go there and do what she needs to do.  You make your choices.  She makes hers.  You are worth it.  That's what love really looks like. "

At the end of the class, I had every ones eyes.  Happy Happy Dance!  And, the girl who was mad said, " this is my favorite class" and others chimed in with similar comments.  As they started to leave I told them to wait.  "We give hugs here before we go."  And that is true of every Al Anon meeting I have ever been to but here, like no other place they are given more robustly and received with thankfulness.

Today I say a prayer of thanksgiving for this life and this experience.  I pray for those walking this journey with me.  I pray for my son to stay strong and keep fighting.  I pray for programs like this one to thrive.  And, I say a prayer for Henry who has certainly added to my story even though I never met him.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Holy Thursday

Recently, hubby and I were concerned that a person that we knew might be struggling with addiction.  Even though this was not our son or even a relative, those old fearful, wet blanket of heavy hearted feelings appeared.  Addiction is such an evil and pervasive disease.  I found myself going back to the cycle of fearful paralysis to anger and finally to acceptance if this is God's will for me to walk along this path again.   Even though it is not my own journey and is less personal, it is a reminder of where I've been, what we can return to and how far reaching this disease really is.

It took me a really long time to accept the crosses that were mine to carry.  Somehow, I felt if I carried those, then I should be done.  Mission accomplished.  Right? 

I mentioned earlier that I had gone on a silent 2 day retreat based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius.  One of the things that we discussed was that we are all on our very own Paschal path. At any given moment, we can look at our lives and venture a guess at where we are on our paschal path.

 Last Friday, I was having a holy Thursday.  And Holy Thursdays and Good Fridays are very much a part of our lives as Christians.   The good news is that while we are living through  those kinds of days, there is the hope of Easter ahead. 

If you've done the stations of the cross recently, you will remember that three of the fourteen are the same.  They are when Jesus would fall under the weight of His cross.  Certainly these stations are wonderful reminders to us that even Jesus fell under their weight.  More importantly, he got right back up again.  There was help along his way.  Veronica, in her simple gesture of wiping the brow of Jesus showed us how we can be of service to others along the path.  Simon agreed to share it's weight.

Today is not my time of walking the path.  But, it is a time to step forward and lend a hand or a prayer.  It is time to remember kinship.  It is a time to know that we do to Jesus what we are doing to those whose path is in the dark places right now. 

I have certainly met my fair share of Veronica's and Simon's.  I am blessed.  My son is nothing short of a miracle right today is all that I have.  He could be right back in Holy Thursday again in a heartbeat.  I know that.  The one thing that is for sure is that  this disease has taught me to appreciate the good days. 

Maybe I am just about to enter an empty tomb.  Maybe.  Son maybe entering the church this Easter.  He is working one on one with the Bishop another priest and one seminarian.  He went to mass today.  He is working again.  He only asks for books and prayers.  He is grateful.  And, so am I.

Today I say a prayer of thanksgiving for the bounty that is mine.  I pray for those just beginning this fearful journey.  I pray that you will have the fortitude and strength needed to fight for your self or your child or both.    I pray that you will be able to receive the help of those who offer to bear the weight or wipe your brow.  And, as always, I say a prayer for the soul of Henry.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Full Communion

My son has started going to mass.  Sometimes, he has to walk one and a half miles to the nearest bus stop in cold temperatures to catch the bus.  This morning, he paid a friend gas money to take him to the 7 am mass at our local cathedral.  After mass, he went to our catholic book store just down the street and purchased Matt Talbot holy cards and a crucifix, St. Rita and St Maximillan Kolbe medals and a chain. 

His great and urgent desire is to come into the church.......Yesterday!  This is an answered prayer.  So, why do I fear this.......miracle?  Why is it that I prayed fully believing in the possibility of this very thing only to see the possible pitfalls and visions of the past? 
I am Peter.  I keep looking down.  I keep forgetting the possibilities when our Lord steps in that just aren't available without Him.  And so, I am allowing "other voices" to influence seeing this happy time of prayer come to fruition. 
When he went to the bookstore, he told the lady checking him out that he lived in a half way house and she gave him a prayer that I imagine they frequently give out to the homeless and others less fortunate.  It really touched a soft spot in my heart, for many reasons.
One, I know that owner of the book store.  She has a really large section on addiction and she has strategically placed it in a place where those who need to be there have a little privacy.  She doesn't know my son, but my son received the fruit of her works of mercy and I am humbled. 
Secondly, this is the first time that I have ever heard of him showing raw and honest humility.  This shows me real healing.  It really does take an honest spiritual awakening to put away pride and have the joy that comes from realizing that God is with you.....even here.....even at the bottom.
I am so proud of him.  He's digging up and out.  Slowly and taking a lot of steps that are humbling ones.  Sometimes, I look at what he is doing and I think of the fact that this is so far out of the realm of anything I had ever imagined for him, and yet I am amazed.
And so, when he said, "Mom, I just really want to take the body of Christ, when I am at mass."  I pinched myself, and called my best friend in disbelief, making sure that I hadn't been punked or delirious. 
Today, I say a prayer of thanksgiving for miracles.  I ask for an increase of faith.  I pray for my son and yours and for Henry.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Silence is Golden

I traveled to Atlanta Georgia this past weekend to attend a silent retreat based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  The spiritual exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers and contemplative practices designed to aid in consideration of creation, sin, repentance and redemption which should help to better discern God's will. 

I arrived at 6:00pm EST on Friday night.  I had been quite stressed because I had allowed fear to take over, once again.  When I arrived, a volunteer named Mary, wearing a blue sweater met me at the door.  Outside of that door there was a sign which reminded me to, "Be still and know that I am God."  My room was simple and beautiful, free from any distractions.  I had a bed, a desk and a bathroom.

We were greeted with a welcome reception and fresh fruit, cheeses and cru de te platter, wine and other soft drinks.  Then we had a marvelous blackened fish dinner with roasted broccoli and strawberry shortcake.  After dinner we went to the chapel and had evening prayers and then silence began.

At first, it was a little odd, but afterwards, it was more of a burden lifted.  I was there to be quiet with God.  It is in silence where you are really able to hear and to calm yourself.  The talks were so fruitful.  The spiritual exercises have a lot of similarities to the 12 steps of AA and there are 12 step retreats held there as well. 

There is so much to say about the retreat that I am saving it for future posts.  I just wanted to point out a few things.  First of all, everyone should try to get away on retreat.  It takes all responsibilities off of your plate for a little while.  And with all of the clutter out of the way, real contemplation can occur and with it comes peace. 

Secondly, I am just in awe sometimes of our recovery community.  I purchased a book called, "Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps".  I noticed that another retreatant had been carrying the same book around.  And, so being in a silent environment, we noticed one another.  One day after mass, she walked over to me and just hugged me, and walked away.  I never talked to her.  I didn't have to.  We walk a shared journey.  The characters do not matter.  She could have been the addict, or the mother or wife or sister or doesn't matter.  What matters.........really matters in the whole scheme of things is that we are looking to God for healing and that my friends, in my humble opinion, is the answer.

Praying for you and yours and Henry.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Dad...(is better than your Dad)!!

The days grow longer.  The seconds of daylight have turned into minutes.  They are beginning to add up enough to feel the difference.  They add up to hope.  I am truly a girl in need of the sun. 

My Dad hated winter.  I remember on particularly cold days....say 20 degrees or below, when we would have days strung together so cold and brittle, that he would look at me and say, " I think it's warming up."  He would have willed winter away if he could have.  I am so much like him.  I never saw it,  until he died.  I loved his spirited personality and his eternal optimism.  I loved his appreciation of the outdoors.  I loved that he came from a rough beginning and did not let it define him.  Most of all I loved how safe he made me feel.  I loved that he never doubted me and always saw my possibilities instead of my limitations. 

My son is doing so well.  Yet, I seem to see all of the possibilities for failure.  I am so thankful that he doesn't live here, for his sake as well as for mine.  I wish for my Dad and his calm steady strength.  I wish that he was here to say, "he's got this, that boy can do anything."  I miss him strutting across the floor "doing his little dance" when he was feeling good or trying to cheer us up. 

My son looks like my dad.  He is quite handsome.  I know you're probably saying,"spoken like a true mom".....but, really he is so handsome.  He;s got my Dad's beautiful dark eyes and skin and his Dad's tall physique.  He is really a good looking fella.  And, he's as smart as a tack.  He's beginning to find his faith.  There is every reason for hope. 

I guess this boils down to me needing to find my faith.  I am reminded that the days grow longer.  The sun shines warmer.  We are about to approach springtime and Easter and new births.  What better things to fertilize my faith? 

My prayer for today is one of thanksgiving for such a loving home that I came from.  I am thankful for the progress that my son has made (he's started telling me about his God moments!)  I pray that one day, I can do a little dance around the room and be the one to remind my kids that they are amazing because they were made by God.  I want to be the one to help them see just how great they are.  I pray for an increase in faith, for your sons and daughters and for Henry.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the Journey

I've been busy during these holidays but have slowed enough for a quick update.  Son finished 60 days at the 12 step immersion program and is now living at a recovery house.  He looks so good.  I could be wrong but I believe he has had his own "spiritual awakening."  He has a beautiful new attitude and is working the program.  Thanks be to God. 

Daughters are doing well.  We have signed up to run an upcoming half marathon in April.  I am in the least athletic shape of my life.  This is really just a goal to help get into better shape; better health. My real goal is just to commit to the training required to run it.  Then if I can cross the finish line whether I run, walk or crawl, I don't care.

Christmas was lovely.  We were moved.  Travels completed.  Kids were all together.  I had finished all of the shopping and wrapping and was trying to be very cognizant of what I bought each person and why.  And, then I wrote a little piece that I wanted to read to them.  I think I will share it here.  Merry Christmas everyone, (It's still Christmas till Sunday, you know). 

I buy these gifts, keeping in mind, who you each are as individuals, created uniquely by God, and try to look for items, tokens, that will make your life easier or better, or perhaps just bring you joy.  And, I do this because I love you so much and this is a concrete way for me to show you that:  You are loved, You are loved, You are loved, You are loved….in a way that I am able to show you. 

But, sitting in adoration one Saturday, I began to unpack the reasons why I shop/select the items that I do and why I do it.  I was trying so very hard to look at each of you to boil down your real needs and I came to the conclusion that your needs are all the same.  You each need to be loved.  You need the assurance and trust that you are loved. 

You need to know love, from me, so that one day, you can fathom the love that our Father in heaven freely offers.  That is THE gift of Christmas and every day.  The best gift that I can give you is love.  There is no material item that I will ever choose that will substitute your need to be loved.  So, please know that these gifts are not intended to put a price on your value.  They are merely items that will soon be forgotten. 

Our family has been through so much.  We have weathered deaths, illness, storms, financial difficulties, and a world of change.  And, here we are, together.  We are all working to heal in a myriad of ways. 

We are trying to learn to love in such a way that the other knows, feels and understands the depth of the love that Dad and I have for each other and for each of you individually.  We won’t always show you love in beautifully wrapped presents under the tree.  Sometimes we will show you by doing the hard things, saying the unpleasant things and choosing a more difficult path.  We won’t find pleasure in any of it.  But, we will do it because we are learning to love as God did.  He loved us so much that He gave His only son up to death on a cross for us.  That kind of love is hard for us to show, but we are learning that it is the kind of love that cannot be avoided if you are to be happy and healthy. 

Our greatest job is to help you one day find your way to heaven.  As I watch the news, I realize that it is not an easy task.  But,  I pray that each of you can  begin to grow your relationship with Him each and every day.  I hope this for you because when you do, you will discover who God created you to be and when you start that find your way, it will bring the most amazing joy, regardless of any obstacle that might have brought you down before.  That is the gift I would give you if I could.