Magnolia, Process, and a Flawed System

The Addict In My Basement

This is the story of one young man’s willingness to get help, and the three women with the determination to find him that help. Picture it: The year was 2017, the month June. Three women with no prior relationship or association are brought together by the sheer desperation of one young man. It all started with a young girl. That young girl saw that her boyfriend needed help. He was going down a bad path and it was terrifying to watch. She turned to the one person everyone turns to in their hour of need: her mother.  Let’s call her Karen. Karen and her daughter sought advice on how to get treatment for this young man by someone who had been through it more times than she cared to discuss: me.  They wanted to know how to get him help, where to go, what to say, who to tell and…

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The Yellow Brick Road

A Member Shares on Recovery: “The Yellow Brick Road”

“We are both on a path, the addict and I. When I think of this path, I often remember the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz. Has anyone ever noticed when Dorothy starts down the yellow brick road there is also a red brick road? As a child, I always wondered what would have happened to Dorothy if she had taken the red brick road instead of the yellow brick road.

Well, I look at our paths, the addict’s and mine, as being on those two roads—me on the yellow and her on the red. We are not supposed to cross over to each other’s paths. That would not help either of our programs…

Sometimes I catch up with others on my path, or they catch up with me: other parents, other spouses, other loved ones affected by the disease of addiction. I know I am never alone. The same thing happens on the addict’s path. She may meet other addicts, some in recovery, some not.

Sometimes addicts may stop and sit for awhile; they may ponder whether this is the right path for them. We can only hope they will move on, but we cannot pull them forward because we are not on the same path and it is not our job. That job belongs to their Higher Power and the timing of it is completely out of our control.

Sometimes both of our paths are fraught with obstacles the same as Dorothy’s with the Wicked Witch, the flying monkeys, and the poison poppies. How we deal with obstacles and how we manage to keep moving on is the learning part of this journey. Sometimes we get help from others on the same path such as the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion, in the form of experience, strength and hope. This helps us to stay focused and grounded.

If we keep going, the addict and I, we will one day get to Emerald City. But please keep in mind, even after Dorothy reaches Emerald City, she still had challenges to overcome, just as my addict and I will.

Keep coming back! Don’t leave before the miracle happens.

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My reflection: My prayer is simple: may this entry bring comfort to another mom or dad, brother or sister.

Today’s Promise to consider: We must join our voices into the resounding chorus that clamors for help for our addicted loved ones. There can be no rest until those who are suffering get the help they need. The hurting never stops for those who have lost a child. We must all hold hands and walk together.

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This is part of a series of monthly posts that reference many conversations with Dr. MacAfee. Thanks, Doc.

A client and friend of Dr. MacAfee, the mother of a recovering addict wrote to me: One of the most important lessons I learned from Dr MacAfee was to hold a mirror up to my son and reflect back to him, without anger or judgment, the honest truth of his behavior and actions. Dr. MacAfee encouraged me to be truthful at all times because without truth both of us would live in denial about what was really happening.

My reflection: I was never very good at honesty when my son was in active addiction. I walked on eggshells, trying diligently to avoid confrontations. This didn’t help my son, our family or me.

Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction survives in lies, while sobriety thrives in honesty. The Big Book reiterates that point saying, sobriety is not possible without rigorous honesty. Today, I will find my courage and be honest with my addicted loved one, without judgment or anger, and with love and kindness. Neither of us needs another battle, but we both need truth.

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MEGYN KELLY JUN 25 2017, 7:00 PM ETHow to Find a Good Drug Treatment Program and Avoid the Bad Onesby LISA RIORDAN SEVILLE, HANNAH RAPPLEYE and ANNA R. SCHECTER

There’s also a vibrant network of online groups have also cropped up, like those run by the nonprofit Magnolia New Beginnings. Founder Maureen Cavanagh said members in the closed groups are vetted, so once they’re inside, they can trust that the advice they get is good and can feel free to voice their pain and provide emotional support.
“They realize, sometimes for the first time, that there are other people going through this and they’re not alone,” Cavanagh said. “The worst thing in the whole world is to feel like you can’t talk to anybody about this.”

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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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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

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Crying is Okay Here


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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