Day 120 – Family ties that burden our hearts

The devotional I read this morning spoke to the family ties with this disease.  Addiction is a family disease but we could only change ourselves.  As an engineer, three data points make a trend.  And I had MORE than three data points on this in the past 24 hours.  So, I’m moved to share.

I already mentioned the woman who came up to me after my mini-lead at church on Sunday, asking if we could meet sometime to talk about her son who she believes is in addiction.  That’s been weighing on my mind.  What can I do to help?  What can I say to ease her burden?  What have I learned through my experience?

To add to the trend,  I saw someone from my past yesterday who is struggling again with her addiction…suicidal, bitter, wondering what is left in life.  I was at a loss for what to say.  I had lunch with a friend today who’s ex-spouse went through a similar “full regiment” of treatment to mine.  She is back in active addiction, which is tearing their 13 year old daughter apart. Tonight, I had dinner with a friend whose two children are addicts as well.  He shared of the painful anguish he went through watching them suffer in past years – they are thankfully in recovery today but I could feel the past weariness in his voice.  I have a close family member who is in active addiction; she is never far from my heart as I think of her denial.  And this evening before going to bed, I got a lengthy email from a former colleague who’s brother is starting down the long road of recovery — and the painful “tough love” choices her family has had to make over the years.  Clearly, the message of family ties in addition and recovery was the focus of my thoughts today.

The answers to these situation are so tough.  I know – I’m there myself.  And I see it in others’ eyes and hear the grief in their voice. I remember my inpatient roommate Michael B’s father’s voice when we talked on the phone about Michael’s relapse during treatment after inpatient.  They had used their life savings to send him to rehab at the age of 24.  For years, they could not trust Michael to be in their home unsupervised.  He broke into my house and stole from me – an inexpensive lesson for me early on about trusting fellow addicts in early recovery.  I could hear the grief in his father’s voice that night – yet I’m sure he was no longer able to shed a tear.  They had been through so much, but knew the best thing was to let go.  Today, God only knows where Michael B is…

As family members — mothers, sisters, sons, spouses, brothers, fathers — there is so much we want to do, but so little we can do on our own.  The devotional continued this morning our group experience has taught us that, frequently, we are too close to our relatives to help them. We learn it is better to leave them in our Higher Power’s care.  I am so used to doing, helping…and yet, in these close blood relationships, it’s the most dangerous thing I can probably do.  It can do more harm – I know what it was like for me when someone close tried too hard out of love…the emotional ties were too strong for the assistance to be of much help.  It only sent me further into my addiction.

So what then?

Do we sit back and watch our loved ones suffer?  Go to jail?  Lose everything?  Lose hope?

No.  Don’t just do something.  Stand there.

Well, kneel there…and pray.  Turn it over to my Higher Power.  It really tests my faith.  Do I believe in the power of prayer?  Can I really let go of the need to DO SOMETHING?!  Can I let go and let god?

I think back now on my church’s prayer chain, praying for me as soon as I called 911.  I know my mom enlisted multiple prayer chains in New Jersey for me.  My sister had my listed with her church.  And I can see the results today…my Higher Power at work in my life.

And yet, I face my family members addiction…or the conversation with the woman from church…and I wonder what to say.  I doubt the power of prayer.  Why?

Now I remember why at every meeting when we say the serenity prayer proceeded by a moment of silence for “the addict who still suffers,” I whisper 4 names to myself — Michael B and three others I will keep in my heart.  Why?  Because deep inside, I do know the power of prayer.  I believe.  I’ve seen it work.  For those four especially, it’s all I can do.

Don’t just do something.  Stand there and pray.

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I see life as full of possibilities and the world full of beautiful people possessing unique and often untapped talents. I’m a learner and connector, seeking ways to leverage the abundance in this world through strong community.

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