Suffering Is Optional

 

Photo Credit: Randy Mason

From Hope for Today, January 30:

“The alcoholic was obsessed with alcohol, and I was obsessed with the alcoholic. I watched, monitored, controlled, and exercised my need to feel hurt. I felt self-pity, embarrassment, superiority, resentment, and anger. All of these took obsessive turns filling my mind and heart. I wondered why I indulged in these draining behaviors and emotions, which only resulted in further misery for me.

In Al-Anon I began to realize that wretchedness and gloom, though familiar and comfortable to an extent, were optional. Serenity is possible with changes in my attitude, expectations and responses. Today I want to exercise my option to be happy, to feel calm and good.”

I indulged in these draining behaviors because I was sick too, a fact that many of us find very hard to accept. Joining this recovery fellowship has been a real education for me, as I gradually learned that loving an addict and/or living with him/her has taken a powerful toll on me in ways that I often couldn’t see.

What may have appeared to be healthy coping mechanisms when I was a child—trying to control the chaos around me, for example—has become a losing battle when I’ve tried to take control of the addict I love. “My life had become unmanageable…” Yes, when I needed pills to go to sleep. Yes, when I couldn’t afford many things for myself because I was giving money to my addict. Yes, when  I took responsibility for the tragedy of addiction, isolating myself behind a curtain of shame, like a bad person, certain that God was punishing me.

Now, I sleep at night. Now, I sometimes treat myself to things. Now, I don’t feel responsible or ashamed. Now, I know I’m a good person. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

And therein lies much of my happiness: acceptance of what is and faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. My Higher Power, far from punishing me, walks with me always. I just have to offer Him my hand.

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“I COULDN’T HELP HIM BEFORE IT WAS TOO LATE”

18049911_10203030656565409_1657078504_oA mother wrote to me: My son died of a heroin overdose. I need to start to forgive myself for all the mistakes I made. I try to understand why he couldn’t just stop what he was doing to himself. It isn’t as simple as people want to make it. I live with the pain of not being able to help my son when he needed it, but I get up everyday and try to live my life the best I know how. I still feel that I hide from so many people who can’t understand what it was like to live with a son I loved and couldn’t help before it was too late.

My reflection: My father was a drill sergeant in the Marines and he used to point his finger at me and command, “Tell Jeff to stop, godammit. Tell him to stop.” I wish it were that simple.

Today’s Promise to consider: I found it impossible to force my son to quit using. Through a fourteen-year addiction, I discovered no clear answers, but I learned that my loved one had to choose to change his life. And for myself, I learned to stay close, pray and forgive.

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From Darkness Into Light

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Photo credit Randy Mason

A mother wrote me recently: “Your memoir has released me from my shame.. Reading your recovery story has shown me how, in spite of everything bad that’s happening now, I can get on with my life and learn to be whole and happy again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

My story takes you through my recovery from addiction and the effects of living with it. But it didn’t start out that way. I began it several years ago solely as a story about my daughter’s drug addiction. And as I got deeper into the writing of it I realized that there was much more of a story to tell, and that that story began with me in my childhood.

And so I began the excavation process, the unfolding of my life, and laid myself out before the reader in the Introduction. Angie didn’t become an addict in a vacuum. She is the latest in at least four generations of troubled souls. So I allow you, the reader, to get to know me long before my daughter was hijacked by this cruel disease. It adds another dimension to my very personal story, and allows you to consider that addiction is often a generational illness. And you will see why it is, indeed, “A Mother’s Story.”

Ironically it was my daughter Angie whose disease brought me to a place of wellness and peace in my life. All the ugliness of behavior and spirit that often goes with unbridled addiction is documented in the book, as addiction is a monster that takes few prisoners. Yet Angie was a beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her before addiction seduced her. Her tapestry described in the book reminds us that beauty is often born out of loss.

This is a story about my recovery in the face of all this heartbreak. How I’ve been able to accomplish this is a testimony to the power of spiritual transformation. And so, paralleling the roller coaster ride of her illness, I share with the reader throughout the book my evolving recovery and my journey toward serenity.

This journey has freed my children from the same oppression that held me hostage growing up. Many people who have suffered through the darkness of addiction are consumed by despair. But as I continue to grow and change, my loved ones are the beneficiaries. Perhaps some elements of my story will resonate with you as well.

Marilea Rabasa is a blogger and author of A Mother’s Story: Angie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore by Maggie C. Romero (pseudonym) published by Mercury HeartLlnk and available on Amazon. She can also be found on www.recoveryofthespirit.com

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Crying is Okay Here

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A child has died. Not my child, but the child of a friend. Technically, he was no longer a child. But still, he was her child. She was supposed to have her child forever. Except forever didn’t last.

I didn’t know this young man. My friend’s son. I don’t know if he liked basketball or if he wore his hair parted on the side or how he preferred his steak cooked or on what day he was born. My arms don’t cuddle the memory of his tiny heft and softness as though years haven’t flown by since his birth. I don’t know the feel of his hand — if it was calloused or smooth — or the sound of his voice curled around the name Mom. Like silk. Or wind. Or leather.

No, I don’t know the things, the essence, the him that filled the space in his mother’s universe like stars, filling and fitting like only he could. But I can imagine.

I don’t know what dreams her child had for today and tomorrow, or what dreams my friend kept polished up for her son. I never looked through their window of hope to the future. But I feel the slam. And the crumble.

He was, now he isn’t.

His mother has to find a way to live with that.

This mother is a puddle of tears.

Sandra Swenson is the author of  The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction . Her forthcoming book, Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers With Addicted Children will be published by Hazeleden in October, 2017. An accompanying app will be released spring 2018.

 

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Lighten Up! Do We Still Know How To Laugh?

gift of laughter

From Courage to Change, March 13:

“I’m apt to think of Step Seven—‘Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings’–as a step I take tearfully and on my knees. I’ve had that experience, but I want to entertain the possibility that Step Seven might be taken with joy—and even humor.

Sometimes the sign that I have actually gotten humble enough to ask my Higher Power to remove a shortcoming is that I can laugh about it. Suddenly a past action or decision of mine seems ludicrous and I can stop taking myself so seriously…

So the next time I want to tear my hair out because I haven’t gotten rid of some nagging shortcoming, I’ll try to lighten up and see how silly my intensity can be…

Desperation and pain can certainly lead me to humility, but in Al-Anon I’m cultivating a new and eager willingness to follow my Higher Power’s guidance. Because I am willing, I’m freer to learn from all of life’s lessons, not just the ones that hurt.”

How did I ever get here? When I began my recovery journey I was in so much pain I couldn’t see through the river of salty tears I was drowning in. I was consumed with sadness, alternately watching Angie slowly self-destruct and determining to save her from herself. We all know that unhappy place, and we pray to be released from our sorrow.

I’m one of the lucky ones; I stuck around long enough to learn how to laugh again. “whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not…”

I’m not angry at God anymore and I accept His will for her. I believe He is a force for good—it wasn’t His plan to visit the misery that we read about on people all over the world. His purpose in our lives is to teach us how to rise above it. With acceptance, faith, gratitude and humor.

I laugh a lot these days, at myself most of all. The problems I carry don’t seem very important in the grand scheme of things. Humility has given me a healthier perspective, and I’m thrilled to be able to see the comedy in life. It’s a great leveler.

“He who laughs, lasts.” Mary Pettibone Poole

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Sitting with Grief and Hope

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Photo Credit: Randy Mason

So many people in my circle will say in anger “They will never know how it feels until it happens to them!” We are talking about the loss of our loved ones to addiction, the struggle that we had fighting their addiction, the sacrifices we made, the changes we went through and the pain that we will carry forever. Nope some of “them” (YOU) will never know these feelings, and for that I am not angry but grateful.

I hope that those of you who “don’t know” never will!

I hope that you won’t spend days searching the streets for your strung out child.

That you won’t sit in courtroom after courtroom either trying to get help or standing with your child to face the consequences.

I hope that you don’t ever face the disappointment and distress of having your loved one turned away from treatment because he is not high enough or abusing the “right” drug.

I hope that you never look at your child and see a junkie and fear to have them in your house.

I hope you never have to say no to your loved one who is begging you for money “for food”.

I hope you never have to fear your telephone ringing with an unknown number.

I hope you never have to “prepare yourself for the worst” – because trust me, you never will be able to do that.

I hope you never hear the words I need help from your loved one, and have no ideas or real ability to actually help them.

I hope you never “know how it feels”.

However, if you are lucky enough to read all of the above and not relate to any of it, I hope you can accept that as a blessing AND also be open to those of us who were not so blessed. That you can look at those people and their families who do not have the same blessings and treat them with acceptance and kindness. The addiction and recovery communities need support from our entire community.

-Darlene Mersereau

 

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The Journey

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How much have we lost in this madness of helping our loved ones?

Distant memories of old friendships, good jobs we enjoyed, family members who didn’t understand how we could keep loving, and relationships broken beyond repair. Most of all many of us have lost ourselves. When I stop and look around I barely recognize my life. My answer to that is not to stop too often.

We keep going, patching pieces of what is left together, and putting on the brave face; trying to save someone who often appears not to want to be saved.  We keep going.

I encourage you to stop. Take your own advice. Step back for a moment and survey the only life you are going to get. You can’t save anyone but you must save yourself.

 

The Journey
 
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save
Mary Oliver

 

 

 

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CUNNING, BAFFLING AND POWERFUL

Terry Gorski writes, Addiction comes into our lives posing as a friend and then slowly grows into a monster that can destroy us.

(Terry Gorski, Straight Talk About Addiction)

My reflection: I was deluded by addiction. It entered our home and looked like a phase. I shrugged off my concerns with the thought my son’s behavior was normal because many teenagers smoked pot and drank beer. Surely, Jeff would grow out of it. Silently and rapidly, addiction grew fat, fed on our angst and misery and, in the end, mocked us with its strength and power.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. It’s crucial that we parents pay close attention to the signs of impending danger so that we can intervene early. We are part of the medicine that can heal this disease. Education and closeness are the keys.

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“CAVE” FEELING

Webb Wisdom

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and crowded.  Emotionally it feels like we are being pulled at from every direction.  We know it’s time for a break from people and obligations when we begin wishing we were alone in a cave somewhere with nothing but water and a bible.  We are spiritually exhausted and need renewal.  We need to be somewhere no one can call or find us.  We need to be somewhere where no one can ask us to do anything or even talk to us.  This is the”cave” feeling and when we feel like this we know it’s time to set some boundaries and take care of our self. webbwisdom.com 2016/October

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Hell

The Addict In My Basement

In high school I read a story about three people from different stations in life being asked to describe their idea of hell. This was a blanket statement.  What is your idea of hell? Most would have heard that question and assumed it means the place no-good-doers go to when their life is over.  The answers were very  much in line with that school of thought.

The first  was a middle-aged man, white, married with several children, of a stable financial class. He said that hell would be a burning, hot place. Cliffs and ridges of brimstone and hell’s fire. Loud sounds of moans and screams, explosions, and lightening but no rain. Nothing moist or wet. Everything is dry and life-sucking.  In this man’s hell he could hear his wife and children screaming but could not discern where it is coming from. The screams are shrill and speak of violence and…

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