Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sunday Inspiration

“God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.”

-Dag Hammerskjold

Mad Libs Revisited, Thanks to Drinking and Drugging

An old friend of mine called today with the news that her daughter was in jail for burglary.  She, like so many of our children, was stealing from the neighbors to pay for her OxyContin.  The story is painfully familiar, especially when viewed through the 20-20 mirror of hindsight.  In fact, its predictability reminds me of the fill-in-the-blanks booklets called “Mad Libs” that my kids used to love when young.

Each Mad Lib involves a story that you customize to make “yours.”  I’ve given you some options so you can create your own version of the teen addiction story: ”My son/daughter is now in rehab/jail/prison/the hospital/the morgue for shoplifting/burglary/armed robbery/an overdose/drunk driving.  This is the first/second/third/felony/overdose/car accident.  I can’t believe that this is happening to me/my family/our child.  He/she was a great kid/much loved child/honest, joyous person/good student. I had no idea that marijuana was addictive/prescription meds are abused by 20% of high school students/substance abuse cost our country half a trillion dollars last year.  How can this happen to us!? Drug addiction/alcoholism only happens to negligent parents/bad kids/sociopaths/anyone but my child.”

At the end of the day, my story is your story; and your story is shared by millions of American families.  Funny how the stories sound pretty much the same, with only some minor variations.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could close the book on those sad tales by helping our children understand what is at stake with that first drug or drink??

Recipe for Recovery from a Child’s Substance Abuse

Over the past year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has been focused on developing a working definition of recovery that captures the essential, common experiences of those recovering from mental or substance use disorders.  The ten guiding principles identified, while written for and about the addict, apply so clearly to the family’s recovery, as well.

First, check out SAMHSA’s definition of recovery from mental and substance use disorders: a process of change through which individuals work to improve their own health and well-being, live a self-directed life, and strive to achieve their full potential.

Now, take a look to see how SAMSHA’s Ten Guiding Principles of Recovery show up in your life—or not.

  • Recovery is person-driven.
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways.
  • Recovery is holistic.
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
  • Recovery is supported through relationships and social networks.
  • Recovery is culturally based and influenced.
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma.
  • Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility.
  • Recovery is based on respect.
  • Recovery emerges from hope.

If one of these principals is missing from your own recovery, you might want to shore up that element in your life to support the strongest recovery possible. And–food for thought and dialogue– what’s missing from SAHMA list that you have found helpful in your own recovery?

Sunday Inspiration

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.”

Mark Twain

Addiction and Recovery in God’s Hotel

Today, I’d like to post an excerpt from a new, remarkable book called God’s Hotel,  A Doctor, a Hospital and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet.  Throughout the book, Dr. Sweet explores the issues that make us well or sick, lost or found, whole or broken.   So many of those issues have nothing to do with health care per se and everything to do with community and hope and the common threads that unite us all.

As Dr. Sweet attends the funeral of an ex-patient—a man in recovery who changed the lives of  many other addicts and alcoholics, she noted:  “As I, too, looked over the quiet crowd, I wondered how many of those I called Bad Boys and Bad Girls were, in reality, spiritually thirsty and spiritually sick.  Perhaps they were the most sensitive, the most easily hurt of all my patients, the most tortured by the human face of knowing we are doing to die. Perhaps the tattooed, prematurely aged, skinny and solemn patients in front of me were the real empaths, and my patient, Mr. Rapman, had something to teach me—that my life was unmanageable, that I might think about getting it up to a higher power, and that the twelve never-ending steps were, like the pilgrimage, for me also to tread. How was I any different from those quiet, attentive people, touched, even transformed, by the life of someone now dead?”

When faced with addiction or alcoholism, our lives become as unmanageable as the lives of our chemically-dependent children.  We really aren’t a lot different from them in that respect.   Those twelve steps are there for us all to climb, with our admission of powerlessness the first step towards getting better.

Hindsight is 20-20

When my son had been in recovery for almost a year, he told me, “Mom!  I can see colors again!  It’s not just black and white!”  He hadn’t realized until that moment how his vision had been diminished by the chemical assault on his brain.  But over time, the brain had recovered, and the lights turned back on.

What a great metaphor for recovery.  I didn’t realize how damaged and limited I was until I gained some time and distance from addiction.  Only then could I look back and understand how much I missed while focusing entirely on the gritty black and white of substance abuse.  My never-ending obsession with “Is he clean or sober? “  “Dead or alive?” “Lying or telling the truth?” made me miss entirely many nuances and color in my life.

My older son’s college graduation exists only as a dim, faded photograph in my mind because I was all-consumed with my younger son’s chemical dependency at that point in time.  The proud, handsome grad?  I hardly saw him because I was scrutinizing the other child for signs of drinking or drugging.  What else did I miss during that horrible stretch of time?

Looking back, I could be sad about what I missed while staring at the sun of addiction and burning a hole in my retina and brain.  Instead, I am looking ahead and making sure that I see and seize those precious and fleeting moments of color in my life.


Help stop teen substance abuse before it starts by watching and sharing the Emmy-nominated Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic documentary on

Sunday Inspiration





“A Mom’s hug lasts long after she lets go.”

~Author Unknown




New Glasses – New Vision

Life experience is interesting.  Maya Angelou is quoted as saying “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”  Today, I see things differently – as if I’ve been given new pair of glasses that help me view events from that perspective.

Lately, the news has been on my radar, singling out individuals for ridicule or disdain.  Two incidents come to mind.  First, the tanorexic mom whose picture and profile was posted in everyone’s view.  At first, I thought oh my gosh – what is she thinking? Then I realized, this a person with an addiction who might be better served with love and compassion. Maybe there is help in some form of rehabilitation – she may not want it though, and that’s her choice.  Next a police officer was in the spotlight for re-filling and keeping prescription pills from an elderly friend – a police officer no less! I see it as the pervasive nature of the drug epidemic – there is no segregation, and it’s that serious. Police officers are people too and can be victims of the prescription drug epidemic like everyone else, equal opportunity!  Why shame and stigma?

I hope I can be the open minded person with empathy and compassion versus the judgmental opinionated person the news media targets.  It just feels better! My recovery has helped with this and when I know better I can do better.  I am a mere mortal so I have to make a conscious effort to adorn my new glasses every day.

If I Can Change…Leaving Teen Addiction Behind


My son came over this weekend to help with some yard work.  It is a joy to have him around these days, a joy that I don’t take lightly.  I feel blessed that he has embraced recovery, and I feel even more blessed that I discovered that I am Master and Commander of my own recovery.  Because at the end of the day, I can control only my pain, my joy, my state of mind—regardless of what he does or doesn’t do.

We talked about his plans for the evening, and he mentioned that he was going to be hanging out with his long-time friend who had first introduced him to alcohol in eighth grade, courtesy of a childhood sleepover.  (Amazing how an eighth grade “experiment” can topple legions of teens.) Tossing my emotional baggage from that alcoholic introduction aside, the evening’s pans seemed pretty benign because that young man is also in recovery. But RED ALERT!  The plans for the evening included a neighborhood young lady whose pot fumes used to spill over the fence we shared into our back yard.  She had wild parties teeming with wild friends when her parents were out of town.  I imagine my son was in at her parties instead of at the movies, like he said.

I’m sure my face revealed dismay when he mentioned her name, and I blurted out a disparaging comment about “the kind of bad girl she was.”  My son looked me in the eye and said, “Mom.  People change.  If I can change, so can she.”  His wise comment was a great reminder to withhold judgment and to never rule out the possibility of recovery. It is there for all to seize, kids and parents alike.

May There Be….

“May today there be peace within.  May you trust that you are where you are meant to be.  May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.  May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”

Mother Theresa