Addiction takes courage, for all of us 

I wrote this when my son was fighting to recover his life after a fourteen-year heroin addiction: 

When I met with Dr. MacAfee, my son’s beloved addiction therapist, he explained to me that addiction is the loss of self, and that recovery of self is a transformative process. In a way, everything was new to Jeff as he re-entered life without drugs. Recovery offered Jeff the freedom to rediscover his identity and, in time, a real and authentic young man would emerge. This he would have to do alone, and I realized more clearly the enormity of the fight that Jeff had to face in order to win this battle.

Later in the day, after my meeting with MacAfee and while Jeff and I were in his apartment, I was thinking about all that Dr. MacAfee had said. I told Jeff, “You have a lot of courage to do this again, Jeff.” He paused and then said quietly, almost to himself, “Courage? That’s a word rarely used with me. Yeah, it takes courage.”

Libby & Jeff CataldiMy heart swelled with feelings of sadness as I tried to make logical sense of it. I wondered why it seems easier for us to believe the bad things in life. Sometimes we seem to believe the words of others more than we believe our own thoughts. Jeff did get praise, that’s true, but he also heard many comments directed to him or said about him, comments like “Quit screwing up, Jeff,” or “How many times do you need to go through rehab before you get it right?” I wondered what Jeff saw when he looked at himself in the mirror. I wondered if he saw a man of courage who is rebuilding his life or if he saw a man who has accumulated years of failure. How do people go forward when others, even those who love you, give voice to all the negative things that are lurking in the shadows of your own mind?

Today’s promise to consider: Recovering from addiction’s wrath takes courage—both for our loved ones and for ourselves. In the last years of my son’s fourteen-year heroin addiction, I thought about the courage he would need to rebuild his life. In time, I learned to appreciate that I, too, would need courage—not only to stand by him and stay close, but to have the strength to stand back and allow him to navigate his future. There is only room for one in addiction and recovery. 

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