Three generations of women in 1980: my mother, Angie, and me. I love them, and miss them both.
“In a letter to a friend: ‘So how to get through the holidays? It’s all in how we see things, our attitude, how we choose to view our world. I make myself look on the bright side of things, not because I’m a goody-goody (Ha!), but because it makes me feel better. At what point in the road did I decide I deserved to be happy? I don’t know. But when you reach it, you’ll know. And you’ll feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. That’s what recovery feels like.
All the best to you, my friend, and hope the holidays will be less of a chore for you this year. Keep in touch and take good care of yourself. Maggie’”
All the hype and increased expectations pull on our heartstrings over the holidays like no other time of year. I used to dread them, but with each passing year of recovery, I’m grateful for my acceptance of situations I cannot change—as well as my ability to celebrate rainbows.
“It wasn’t until I was tested as her mother that I found my ability to harness any faith at all. My sadness as a child paled before my growing despair as an adult child. The journey I’m on now has given me fresh new insights as I’ve confronted myself and understood where I have come from. My journey has in turn helped me understand where I have taken my own family. What was given to me has been passed down to my children. Yet I understand now that I could not have turned out differently, nor could I have been a different parent. My behavior as an adult was scripted from my childhood. What I need now is faith in something outside of myself to help me carry the burden—and gratitude that I’m finally able to ask for help. My faith has everything to do with turning over my self-will and accepting the will of another. I have found peace and serenity in acceptance of life as it is happening every day. Letting go and handing over the reins has given me the freedom to live my own life now without feeling shackled to the past or frightened of the future.”
“My newest concern was not if she was still on drugs. That was patently clear to us all. Now I feared that she would lose that leg, the one with the femoral artery she injected God knows what into when I left her alone in my condo in Virginia—the same artery that got infected again right after she moved to San Francisco. And now that same artery was infected again, threatening to break like a worn out rubber band. She really could lose her leg. And then what will become of her? Whereto, Persephone? A state hospital somewhere in California for the rest of what’s left of her life? Would this be the bottom we all pray for and fear at the same time—the one that convinces her that she must embrace recovery or die?
I live with this reality every day. Sometimes I look up and ask God for a sign, some way of knowing something. But this is why I’m learning to replace fear with faith. I’ve spent much of my life controlled and manipulated by fear, rarely feeling good enough, secure enough, valued enough to just be me. Fear so often clouds our good judgment, and faith releases us from too much responsibility, too much self-importance, and from our need to control. Over and over again in times of crisis in recent years I’ve accepted what is—without resistance anymore—and I’ve discovered for myself that faith and acceptance go hand in hand.
My behavior when I was in San Francisco six months ago is a good example of this. Expressing any anger to Angie—feeding the angry wolf—would have been an appalling waste of energy. I’ve known since she was in her first rehab in 2002 that she’s not a rebellious child in need of a spanking; she’s sick. She may or may not get well someday. But wherever her journey leads her it will be her journey to make. I can only love her and wish her God’s speed. I have absolute faith that life is unfolding as it is meant to. Having faith in anything—a rock, a friend, the God of our understanding—is a shared experience, ending our isolation.”
From Each Day a New Beginning, 9/30:
“’Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?’ Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
We choose the lives we lead. We choose sadness or happiness; success or failure; dread or excited anticipation. Whether or not we are conscious of our choices, we are making them every moment.
Accepting full responsibility for our actions is one of the requirements of maturity. Not always the easiest thing to do, but necessary to our further development. An unexpected benefit of accepting our responsibility is that it heightens our awareness of personal power. Our wellbeing is within our power. Happiness is within our power. Our attitude about any condition, present or future, is within our power, if we take it.
Life is “doing unto us” only what we allow. And it will favor us with whatever we choose. If we look for excitement, we’ll find it. We can search out the positive in any experience. All situations present seeds of new understanding, if we are open to them. Our response to the events around us determines whatever meaning life offers. We are in control of our outlook. And our outlook decides our future.
The day is mine, fully, to delight in—or to dread. The direction is always mine.”
We all go through tough times, often wondering how we will endure the unendurable. Watching our children go down paths we would never choose for them, and being powerless to stop it; or many of us burying our children, and forced to face the closure that comes with that. How do we bear it? How do we go on? I put my faith in God, and know—without a doubt—that things are happening for a reason, and that much beauty is often born out of loss. I’m so grateful to have the eyes and heart to see what has been left to me. My recovery is a miracle. God is good!
“It’s been very difficult for me to separate Angie, the daughter I raised, from the addict she has become. But this is work that many of us must do in order to gain some objectivity when dealing with our loved ones. A parent writes in Sharing Experience, Strength and Hope:
‘I could not bear to look at pictures of him, as they were only a sad reminder of what he had been and what was taken from him. I missed his sweetness, his innocence, his loving nature, and his honesty. That was my son, not the shadow of the person he was now. I was losing him and myself while my family was being torn apart. The only thing I was sure of was the fact that I was powerless.’”
For the longest time I was unable to participate in this surreal exercise: look at my child in front of me, the same body, height, facial expressions, hand gestures, and remember that this person was capable of hurting me multiples times. At first, I didn’t; I only saw the daughter I had raised because I so wanted it to still be her. But in doing so, I was laying myself bare and vulnerable to the manipulations of an addict. And so, multiple times, I did allow myself to be hurt. But then I learned in my recovery program how to detach emotionally, not out of anger but with love. I learned to recognize the truth of what was right in front of me but take intelligent steps to protect myself. And most of all I learned, though I was no longer being sucked into the rabbit hole with Angie, that I could love her as purely and completely as if this thief had never appeared in the night and stolen her from us all.
“You love your child forever not because she is happy or successful or makes you proud but because she is your child.”
From Each Day A New Beginning, November 24:
‘If onlys are lonely.’ Morgan Jennings
“The circumstances of our lives seldom live up to our expectations or desires. However, in each circumstance we are offered an opportunity for growth or change, a chance for greater understanding of life’s heights and pitfalls. Each time we choose to lament what isn’t, we close the door on the invitation to a better existence…
The experiences we are offered will fail to satisfy our expectations because we expect so much less than God has planned for us in the days ahead…
I will breathe deeply and relax. At this moment my every need is being attended to. My life is unfolding exactly as it should.”
I’ve wrestled with my faith most of my life, always too self-reliant for my own good. But as I’ve watched my daughter succumb to heroin addiction, it has been a great comfort to me to learn how to harness a newfound belief in the power of something outside of myself, something I can turn to in my despair and know that something beautiful will come out of it. And it has: my whole life, and how I choose to live it now, is a miracle.