Today is my son's 24th birthday and in 3 days we will celebrate two years of family recovery from addiction. Yesterday we buried one of his best friends. The one he ran with when addiction was active and ruling his life. The one who when he was the new kid at school my son befriended, who came to our house for dinner, who I drove to band concerts, practices and celebrations. He'd been in jail for 2 years and was sober when he came home. He lived for a little more than a week out of jail. His friend lost his life because of addiction, because of a battle with xanax and oxy-contin, because of dirty doctors, over prescribers, drug dealers, lack of guidance, lack of support, lack of understanding, too much denial, too much judgement and because people turned away, including myself. I turned away because I was scared of what he'd become and I was fighting for my own child's life. I'd thought of him while he was in jail and prayed for his redemption, his health, his wellbeing and his heart but I didn't visit and I didn't know he'd been released until I found out that he'd died in his sleep and yesterday I knelt on the floor in a mosque and then watched his family lower his cloth wrapped body into a grave.
It was not lost on me that if it were not for the path I'd taken, the intervention, treatment and whole family recovery work that saved my family and put us all on a path of wellness and sobriety that I could be his mother broken hearted and wailing at his grave, her fingers digging at the dirt, tears streaming down her face. It is also not lost on me that this disease might just be in remission and that it is not out of the realm of possibility that I could be that mother.
For today though I am not and for that I am both humbled and grateful.
This morning I feel like I failed Abe. While he was in jail, my son was getting well in treatment, we were learning how to be a family in recovery, how to create a recovery ready family. We were healing, transforming and changing too. I can't help but feel that I could have done more for his family, for all families by sharing more of what we've learned, the alternate path we took to hopefully end addiction in our family and how we've changed.
This morning I am holding both boys in my heart. Their beautiful lives, their loyalty and friendship in the face of this killer disease. I don't want to go to any more funerals for young people because of addiction.
This morning I am making a promise to do more to honor recovery and save lives. To not be afraid to rebel against old ways and old paradigms of treating addiction and to do more to show families and mothers the gentle, powerful path forward in recovery in hopes that lives will be spared and families will survive the collateral damage of addiction.
I will not be afraid to raise my voice for families.
I am working with families on a new paradigm for treating and ending addiction. I have a BIG dream to serve millions of families. Addiction has no place in our families.
I never stopped believing that his recovery, our recovery, was possible and each day we wake up in faith, strength, love. Today we celebrate life, we celebrate recovery, and we mourn the lives of those we love and lost to the evil of addiction.
May Abe rest in peace, his battle has ended. May God bless his precious heart and his soul be held in love.
If you are a mother looking for a gentle path forward for your family I am accepting three families to work with this fall. Our time together will be confidential, full of compassion and anchored in the kind of support that can change everything. If this pulls on your heart, my heart is ready to respond to you and your beloveds. Send me an email with "devoted" in the subject line and we can set up a call to get started. firstname.lastname@example.org
I AM DEVOTED and ready to serve.
Once again, I am shown that there are a lot of people on the ground doing what they can to help families and strengthen communities. A WHOLE LOT.
That's where the real change happens, on the ground. The government has a huge platform at their disposal to effect change. I hope they use it in the most people empowering way. Yesterday I just wanted to remind the people who are making policy who they were making all this policy about.
YOU. FAMILIES. US.
Drugs, Addiction, Substance Use, Substance Misuse, all of that is a two part matter.
Economic and Emotional.
A supply and demand matter and a matter of pain.
The way to end addiction is by strengthening families, relationships and communities and creating the conditions where there is no demand. That starts on the ground.
Healthy, happy, prosperous, well loved and well connected humans are less inclined to seek to fulfill primal needs with substances that highjack brain function. It's our job and personal responsibility to work a strong life program that promotes health and wellbeing, both physical and emotional and our responsibility to model that behavior for our children. The government can't do that for us.
Drug dealers, including the pharmaceutical companies know addiction is a money maker. We reduce the demand by refusing to partake. If there is no demand, then there is no reason to sell here.
The best way to create a life long customer is to hook them young while their brains are still developing or to prey on someone in pain, not just physical pain, but the pain of shame, regret, grief, disillusionment, sadness, loneliness.
I went to Washington yesterday mostly to see what they were up to and hear how they were going to address the growing problem that kills 144 people a day, that causes 23 million families to suffer at the hands of addiction and to shine the light on those families and to put the idea out there that if they don't use the massive platform to educate families on a new way to treat addiction then its never going to change.
No more rock bottom, I said.
No more tough love, I said.
No more waiting until they want it, I said.
No more treating addiction and substance misuse as a crime in the community and in the family, I said.
We are a family, two years in recovery. Those messages didn't work for us and they are dangerous. Recovery is possible but you have to learn how to be in recovery, not just the person with addiction, the whole family and the community.
SPREAD THAT MESSAGE.
Make sure there is policy in that plan that creates recovery ready communities and recovery ready families, I said or people will just keep circling back into the system and our kids will keep dying.
There are national organizations that are still preaching tough love, turning your back on sick people you love and using a shame based model for healing. That needs changing. We have evolved and the brain science proves that needs changing.
That old model and message doesn't work. It goes against our true nature as human beings.
I am not having it.
Addiction, substance use is a call for help, a call for love. Treat it from that perspective and see what happens.
If you or someone you know is suffering, I am here. I've channeled our experience and made my career into helping others get to the other side. I am ARISE Intervention and Family Recovery trained. You can email me to have a free consultation. Then we can create a plan for your family recovery and if I can't help you I know A WHOLE LOT of other people who can. The Recovery Community LOVES helping people get well.
Reach out. Help is closer than you think.
I AM DEVOTED,
"I am being confronted with my choices" I said with a tremor in my voice and those stingy tears burning the back of my eyes. It was hard to keep talking. He's alway had a good sense of my heart. I was trying to protect my son from the magnitude of my emotion and intensity of what I was feeling around some of the most life altering choices I'd made in the past few years. The mother son relationship comes with deep bonds but there are also boundaries that we keep and we've navigated better as we've evolved during our walk through the darkness.
The choices I was being confronted by in that moment were, the choice to end an unhealthy marriage and the choice to live a life of sobriety. Choices I wasn't forced to make by anyone but myself. My True Self. Choices I made willingly no matter what they cost with the faith that what I lost would be worth what I'd gain. I didn't want to burden him with my pain but I also didn't want to dishonor my feelings nor deny him an understanding that I'd experienced.
The first choice began to unfold six years ago and every summer I am confronted with that choice in a way that triggers deeper emotion when my kids go on vacation with the family that was my family for 20 years, without me. I want them to have fun, to connect with their cousins and aunts and uncles and their Nana, who I love and had a very close connection with when I was still married to her son. I am still connected with the family but it's not mine anymore. It's his, and theirs and that's a hard place to be sometimes. There is lingering grief for the way I wish it could have been. I know deep in my soul that I did the right thing for me by making that choice. That my happiness and peace depended on that choice even though it was disruptive for everyone else.
There is fear that tickles my heart because I am not there to protect my kids. I am not there if they get hurt or sick or scared but I have to remember that I chose this and have faith that they will be well taken care of no matter what happens. I have to remember that God/The Universe/Spirit has their backs even if things get uncomfortable, which they will, because that's life.
It is undeniable that I made the right choice for my self in this situation. Do I wish I could change how I got here? Yes, but dwelling there is a waste of my energy. Instead I choose to learn from the past, I choose to dwell in the present moment and look to the potential of the future.
The other big choice, the choice to live a life of sobriety began to unfold during my walk on The Path of Devotion, a path of self discovery and healing. During this time we were in the midst of a difficult battle and confrontation with substance use disorder/addiction with my child and then learning about recovery through his recovery, also a path of self discovery and healing. I'd been impacted by addiction my whole life. Generationally, personally, and in relationships with others. During the battle with addiction as a mother I decided that substances were no longer welcome in my life or my relationships. I chose sobriety two years ago on August 15, 2015 after an intervention I held for my child which began his path of recovery.
My ex-husbands sister had ordered me a glass of wine after my son was finally, safely checked in to a treatment center for his addiction to prescription xanax and opioids. (Two drugs I think should be recalled but that is a different story.)
I took one sip of that glass of wine that night. I looked at my daughters who'd been through so much with their brother and his trauma, who'd been through a divorce because of alcohol, who'd seen their grandmother deteriorate and ultimately die because of addiction and thought,
I was guilty of exposing them to drinking as a coping mechanism and drinking as entertainment too. No more was I going to allow substances to have influence over us, my life or my relationships. No More, was I going to give that which was killing us a place in our lives. I was divorcing the drinking culture for good. I was going to show them that you could live a happy life without drinking or doing drugs. I couldn't bear going through it again with either of my daughters and I couldn't bear going through it again in my next relationship. And there was no way in hell I was going to let addiction rule our lives again and if that meant I had to be sober for that to happen, I was all in. I had finally realized what I needed most. My own sobriety.
The truth is I didn't come to that decision all at once, it had been unfolding ever since I'd taken the first drink in high school, smoked marijuana for the first time in college, tried other drugs and experienced feelings that I'd been searching for, even though the feelings not real and were short lived. Those things took me away from my true self. Those things triggered substance use disorder/addiction in my own brain and made me give up on my passions and kept me from realizing my biggest dreams when I was young. My family had no idea what was really going on. I just kept getting in trouble and finding new places to go when the trouble got too intense. Marriage was my self served intervention, but that only works if both people talk about changing and both people want too. Motherhood got me a few giant steps closer to sober but alcohol was still influencing my life, I just didn't understand it the way I do now. I didn't understand what it was keeping me from and keeping from me. I could see what it was doing to the people I loved but I couldn't see that it was also influencing me. Little by little though I began to see and want a different kind of life. I played the game for a long time. I wasn't playing it anymore. I chose sobriety at first as a show of solidarity with my son, as a way of creating an environment for recovery to flourish and to try and break the cycle of addiction in my family for the future. It was the legacy I wanted to leave future generations.
Ultimately what made me want to stay sober is the way I feel in my body, in my heart, my soul and in my mind.
Unfortunately there is a cost associated with choosing sobriety that I hadn't considered or felt in the way I was feeling it, when my almost two years sober son called me to catch up and he caught me in an emotional moment. Caught in a feeling that I didn't realize he too had experienced feeling, that all the people in recovery feel when they finally accept that they cannot use substances the way some people (very few people, acutally) can without losing their lives, their sanity or something else of great value like their beloved relationships, freedom and independence.
My choice to be a sober woman affected my friendships and it had finally sunk in, in a rather painful way that many (most) of those relationships were over because of my choice not to drink anymore, that many of my friendships were based on that point of connection alone and if I wasn't going to play that game, I wasn't going to be invited to play. And when I was invited to play I had accept that most of them were going to be under the influence and just deal with it.
When he'd called I'd just had a a difficult conversation about my choice and the fact that I don't drink anymore, that I don't enjoy being with people when they are drinking and that I don't get invited to social things anymore that I used to. My friends statements were echoing in my head. "Everybody drinks" being the one that triggered me the most.
My heart heard, "everybody drinks, so if you want to get along or have fun or do things with us, you have to do it this way or we can't be friends." It was not unlike another phone call I'd had with another friend in a different group who'd said basically the same thing about a girls trip. And another friend who'd said, "well, you don't drink anymore so there's nothing really to do together." When I'd asked her why we weren't as close as we used to be, that's what she said. I'd also heard it in a different way from my therapist about dating now that I was sober and gone through a process of transformation. "You are really limiting the dating pool." she'd said. "I'd rather be alone than risk the potential pain." I'd said right back.
The "everybody drinks" conversation made me feel angry, defensive and a little bit scared that I was never going to feel understood by people I cared about and I'd possibly be alone a lot, but I tried to keep my cool and stand up for myself and how I needed to be, knowing deep in my soul that "everybody drinks" is not a true statement and reminding myself of all the friendly sober people I'd met during the last two years and the people who I had healthy friendships with.
"I understand that I chose this." I said to her. "I just can't do it. I just can't take the way it feels when someone I love who professes to love me turns on me when they are drunk or on drugs. I just can't put myself in that situation anymore. It hurts too much. So if that means I am not going to get invited anymore, ok."
The thing is I'd tried to play that way my whole life. I'd started drinking in high school after one sophomore incident and then holding out until the two days before my senior year in high school when "everybody" was drinking or smoking pot even the smartest people I knew, which made zero sense to me. My senior year was an epic emotional and physical disaster that put me on a sure path of self destruction, created chaos for my parents and much confusion disguised as "partying" that lasted for almost 10 years and gave me a good foundation for shame, guilt and "not good enough" to build my life around.
I just didn't want to do it anymore. After going through what I did with my mom, with my marriage and with my son and my own self I was sick of it. I drank the wine, I smoked the weed, I'd done the drugs, I'd drunk the drinks all to fit in, to do what "everyone else was doing," to connect with my husband, to connect with my mom, to be with the guy, to let loose, to have fun, to be free. The thing was it felt fake. I wasn't having fun, I wasn't feeling free and I didn't like the way I felt. On top of that I did a mountain of things that I regret all while not being of right mind or right spirit.
And like I told my sister the other day, "I can't handle the sadness I feel when I drink." And like I'd shared with my Path of Devotion Guide and friend, Jen, "My awareness & intuition became so much sharper when I didn't drink that drinking became even less appealing. It messed with my spiritual connection and I didn't like the way that felt."
I finally felt like I had a choice in the matter and my choice now is sobriety at all costs. I told my son I thought I must be really feeling what it feels like in recovery when you have to walk away from a life that you'd created and become accustomed to, a way of being that while potentially dangerous felt safe, and while somewhat false felt real and connected. Walk away from relationships that you'd had for most of your life and people you cared about to save your soul. It's hard going through that kind of transformation and often its very destabilizing and lonely. The thing is, I don't feel a sense of loneliness anymore, like I did when addiction, alcohol and drugs were present in our lives. I feel more connected to myself and others than I ever have. I feel my heart, my body and my life in a new way. What I feel while being confronted with this choice in this way is grief for the relationships lost but also hope that somehow, somewhere along the way the relationships will transform or the lessons I've learned from them will guide me in the future. I know I won't go back. I am having too much fun and feeling much more love and purpose here.
I understand that I am traumatized by addiction. I understand that I have still personal work to do because of addiction even though I've done a whole lot. When I was younger I thought, "everybody drinks" was true.
Now I know, everybody doesn't drink. That was a big fat lie then and I'm not going to believe it now. There is a huge contingent of people who are living deeply connected, loving, joyful lives without substances as entertainment and connection and are coping with the brutal parts of life without drugs and alcohol. I know what living in an environment that supports addiction does to a kid, I am that kid. I know what it does to a spouse, I am that spouse. I know what it does to a mother. I am that mother. I know what it does to a friend. I am also that friend. I see what it does to a person, because I've been that person too.
It is undeniable that I made the right choice for my self in this situation. Do I wish I could change how I got here? Yes, but dwelling there is a waste of my energy. Instead I am learning from the past, I dwell in the present moment and look to the potential of the future.
I got sober on The Path of Devotion and I've stayed there ever since.
Sobriety has given me many of the feelings I'd been searching for my whole life.
I am happy here. Sober, free and in love with my life even with the loss, even with the discomfort.
I AM DEVOTED,
P.S. Music has always been one of my best friends & Bruce has been my beloved companion since I was 13 years old. This song always rises up when I am thinking about choices and came to me to share with you when I was writing today.
Family Recovery Guide
Family Recovery Activist