Sitting with Grief and Hope


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


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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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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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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No More Shame, No More Silence


Misconceptions about addiction are so pervasive it’s no wonder that those struggling with addiction — and their families — suffer in silence, solitude, and shame.
Even though our society encourages substance abuse at every turn, when someone becomes an addict (often beginning in the teen years), society quickly treats him or her as a vile human being.
In general, people seem to use the term ‘addict’ for anyone who uses drugs, so they make a moral judgment. They don’t seem to understand there is a difference between drug abuse and addiction — that addiction is the place where dalliance ends and disease begins. People seem to view the addict as someone who behaves in a horrible way by choice and therefore is a bad person not an ill person. As a child – a child – substance abuse was a choice Joey made. But, why he started and why he can’t stop are two different things. Addiction snuck up on my son – picked him out of the substance-abusing crowd – and choked him. Substance abuse is a choice. Addiction is a disease.
Also, addiction is often viewed as a parental failing. People don’t seem to understand that I did not cause my son to become an addict. (As a parent, I do not possess that power.) They don’t seem to understand that addiction happens because a renegade sip or snort or sniff crosses an invisible line between want and need. True, I am an imperfect mom. Imperfect parenting, however, does not cause children to become addicts. (If that were so, every child would grow up to be one.) As a parent I made a lot of mistakes, but causing my son to be an addict is not one of them.
There is a widely held belief that only ‘bad’ people become addicts. The truth is that addiction can happen to anyone who takes the first sip or puff or snort or pill prescribed for pain. Even though my son has done some bad things while being an addict, my son is not a bad person. Addiction has nothing whatsoever to do with whether a person is (or was) nice.
Because addiction is so misunderstood, it is viewed as dirty laundry not to be aired. But I believe the truths about addiction need to be brought out into the open. (It is, after all, in dark corners that bad things grow most freely.) We need to think about, talk about, addiction as a disease, not a disgrace.

Sandy is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction. 


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Baby Steps Lead To Bigger Ones

“First Step Prayer:

Dear Lord,

I admit that I am powerless over my addict.

I admit that my life is unmanageable

When I try to control him/her.

Help me this day to understand the true meaning of powerlessness.

Remove from me all denial of my loved one’s addiction.”

The first step is probably the most important one in assuring our recovery from the effects of another’s addiction.  And it’s because I refused to take it that it took me so long to start to recover. I simply wouldn’t accept my powerlessness over my daughter’s disease. I felt as though I would be dropping the ball and appearing not to care about her. I felt that I had to do everything in my power to save her.

So, deep pockets enabled me to put Angie through four rehabs. Deep pockets also had me paying her rent, paying off her loans, paying back the creditors she got into trouble with. All my “help” simply gave her more money for drugs. In short, deep pockets are dangerous. She might have learned something from the consequences of her actions if I hadn’t kept getting in the way.

My life had, indeed, become unmanageable. I love Angie very much. So I kept making things easy for her. But we can enable our children to death. Now I’ve let go of all my attempts to control her and her disease.

And I feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders.

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Where do I go for help?


Trying to locate appropriate treatment for a loved one, especially finding a program tailored to an individual’s particular needs, can be a difficult process. However, there are some resources to help with this process. For example, NIDA’s handbook Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask offers guidance in finding the right treatment program. Numerous online resources can help locate a local program or provide other information, including:

Information for Families

Magnolia New Beginnings


This project has been funded in whole or part with federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, NIH, under cooperative agreement UG4LM012347-01 with the University of Massachusetts- Worcester.


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Jeff and I talked about what helps people stay in recovery and he said, Getting sober is just the beginning; learning to live in abstinence is the goal. As human beings, we have a hunger to be seen and to feel connected with those around us. And when we don’t, so often we use drugs to cover the feelings of loneliness – but drugs only isolate us even more. In time, we move further into addiction and further away from the people we love. In groups like AA, we find connections, people who know our walk and won’t judge us. They ‘see’ us, they celebrate our victories and they know how imperative fellowship is. These connections prove to us that we are not alone.

My reflection: Family groups like AA and Al-Anon work. Not only do recovering addicts find a safe space to grow strong within a community of understanding peers, but we, parents, can find a similar environment in Al-Anon. The loving members of Al-Anon saved my sanity when my son’s addiction took me to my knees. There I found people who knew my pain.

Today’s Promise to consider: The family groups of AA and Al-Anon prove to us that we are not alone. When we feel raw and wounded, it takes courage to reach out and allow ourselves to been ‘seen.’ Today, I will pray and hold out my hand in faith and vulnerability.

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Silence Isn’t Always Golden

It is the addict, not my child, I help by keeping silent. So I will speak out. I will try to open eyes and hearts and minds–I will try to help people understand the disease of addiction–before it’s too late. ~Sandy Swenson

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