How to find compassion when facing addiction

When our children are in addiction’s grasp, is compassion the antidote? Dr. Gabor Maté, Hungarian-born Canadian physician and author of the highly respected book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, asserts that addiction is rooted in the pain of individual trauma and family history. He emphasizes that addiction must be met with compassion. He quotes the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: “Whatever you do, don’t try and escape from your pain, but be with it. Because the attempt to escape from pain is what creates more pain, and that’s the reality with addiction.”

My son suffered a fourteen-year heroin addiction. He was shooting heroin into his neck and had spent time in jails and hospitals. When he entered his last treatment center, he was beaten down and fragile, both psychologically and physically. It was then, in that moment of desperation, that he met Dr. Patrick MacAfee, who became his beloved addiction therapist. 

Dr. MacAfee later told me: “For all of Jeff’s manipulation, the one thing he desperately wanted and needed was honest contact, respect, and truth—the very things he chased away. Shining a flashlight on Jeff and his addiction never helped. I had to work with him with candlelight.”

Today’s Stay Close Promise: Gabor Maté asserts that addiction is rooted in pain and that empathy is needed to counter the suffering. In the early years of my son’s addiction, I found it very difficult to be compassionate with him. In time, I learned that my son was alive under the drugs and that he hated himself for all the pain he was causing our family, but he was in the choke hold of his illness. 

Today, let us stay close and join in prayer that our loved ones choose sobriety. In the meantime, we will be there with compassion.

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17 Comments

  1. thank you for posting this. i have to keep reminding myself when dealing with my sons addiction. so hard

  2. thank you i need help reminding myself when dealing with my sons addiction. pls keep these posted they help so much all of them.

    • Dearest Terry,

      We all find it difficult and need reminded to keep our hearts open when we are hurt. You are not alone. I’m with you, too. Stay close.

      Libby

    • Dear Terry,

      We walk together and help each other. Stay strong. I’ll stay close in love and prayer.

      L

  3. I love Mate’s work and your meditation is one I need to remember. Thank you.
    Blessings,
    Linda Clare

  4. As Mom’s who try to love and support, we too need compaasion and empathy from people in our lives

    • Dear Leslie,

      Absolutely, we need compassion and empathy from people in our lives. I found solace in Al-Anon, where the people in the rooms shared their pain and hope. They were a lifeline for me.

      Stay Close,

      Libby

  5. Thank you for this. I need to remind myself daily that my son is still there and he needs my love and compassion. It’s sometimes so hard to do when I see the damage which has been done.

    • Dear Deborah, I totally agree. It’s gut wrenching to watch our child hurt himself, us, and others, but as my son told me, “I never wanted to hurt you. I tried to keep you out of things and to the side, but I’m an addict, Mom. I’m an addict.”

      I join you in prayer that your son make the decision to change his life. I’ll stay close in love and prayer.

  6. My daughter is a meth and heroin addict. She is in tx. We have her child. Pray for wisdom that I will know how to react and respond with so much anger and hurt she has caused. Financially she has drained us with no show of appreciation. It is so hard to love an addict who shows no remorse for the caius they cause

    • Dearest Amy, You are right! It is so hard to love an addict who shows no remorse for the chaos they have caused and continue to cause. The one thing that kept me steady was knowing that my son was under the drugs. I knew that his humanity was still there, but it was UNDER the heroin and other drugs. When he finally found his recovery, he told me, “I never wanted to hurt you. i tried to keep you to the side and out of the chaos. But I’m an addict, Mom.”

      But — it still hurt. We still feel betrayed. We still feel anger.

      I’ll stay close in love and prayer. I join you in prayer for wisdom and peace. My love to you.

  7. I found this sight through Hope United. What a wonderful tool to add to my toolbox as we are walking this journey of our sons addiction and daughter in recovery. Thank you all for sharing your story. I too attend AlAnon and Nar-Anon.

    • Dear Vicki,

      I’m glad you found this site, too. All here have suffered and want to give back. Al-Anon was my saving grace, where I met people who didn’t judge me and who understood my journey.

      I join you in prayer for your son’s healing and for your daughter’s continued strength. Love to you.

  8. All of this information is a lifeline to me. Thank you for sharing these very enlightening and inspiring stories.?

    • Dear Deb, I’m glad you’re here. Keep coming back. xo

  9. I know that….but my ego it seems keeps up the face “that you wont get one word or incident over on me”…… that’s the best way I can describe it I guess I can’t put down my guard because I think it might show weakness? I struggle with this constantly I know compassion is the answer and kindness but when I’m in fear I’m losing my son but when I see him high I feel anything but empathy and I so want to feel that!!! I’m not constantly on empathetic just when he’s using I become a different person. His battle has been 20 years long and we have a great loving relationship when he’s not using. I’m a grateful Al-Anon and I still can’t surrender


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