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Accepting Addiction As A Disease

“Learning that addiction is a disease offers us a new understanding and suggests that compassion could replace anger and hurt. We can spend our time wishing things were different but must accept the fact that we have no power over another human being. We need to care enough about ourselves to give up the struggle over which we have no control. We may have tried many things such as keeping score, pointing the finger and blaming others in order to keep from feeling so much pain. No matter how harsh reality is, we can learn to accept each new day with confidence. Accepting addiction as an illness helps us realize we cannot waste action and energy in fighting the battle but instead we can seek recovery for ourselves.”   Is it a disease or a choice? I’ve entered into this debate many times. But I’ll leave the final word to the experts, one of whom, Nora Volkow, I quoted in my memoir: “Insist that our loved ones are choosing to be addicts, that they want to stick a needle in their arm and live in a gutter, and we feel justified in our anger and our bitterness. Keep feeding those feelings, and they will consume you. I choose to believe that my daughter is wired differently and is prone to addictive disease. That’s no surprise, since four generations in my family have all had addictive disease in varying degrees. For whatever reason we still are unsure of, whatever life stresses beckoned her into that dark place, she became a victim of addiction. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National...

Am I Helping Or Enabling?

Memoir Excerpt:  “Rehab was mostly clear sailing for Angie. But there was one incident at the end of March that was upsetting: she snuck out beyond curfew with a friend and got drunk. She came back eventually, very repentant, and good-naturedly accepted her loss of privileges. The staff felt obligated to call me about the incident. I wasn’t sure what it all meant, but I joked with Gene that she has acted out more since she was twenty-one than she had in her whole life! I’ve heard it said that once drug abuse takes hold in someone, they stop growing emotionally and remain stuck. Angie was thirty that year but clearly acted like a rebellious teenager. And up until the present when she found the courage to break away from me, she had been almost completely dependent on her father and me. But we, addicted as we were to her, made that easy for her. From time to time throughout her addiction, she fought to establish her independence from us. Then she would turn around and ask for help. I wanted so much for her to take charge of her own life, but later on it would be crystal clear: Addiction was in control and was happy for any handouts. Drugs cost money.”   I made many mistakes early in Angie’s addiction. Taking over too many of her responsibilities, I should have closed the bank sooner. I often say that deep pockets are dangerous. They allow us to be generous and feel good about it. A friend in Virginia told me that she’s glad she didn’t have the money...

Accepting Ourselves

“If we have submerged ourselves in the needs of others we may have lost sight of who we are, our self-esteem and individual rights. Awareness of the futility of doing the same things over and over, trying to control another person, and expecting that one day these actions will work, is freeing if we allow it to be. We are entitled to our own opinions, beliefs, limitations, and strengths. Accepting and loving ourselves for who we are will enable us to grow and change. The less we try to manage others’ lives, the more effective we become. If we are accepting of others and the things around us, we can simply be ourselves.” The definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I have accepted that my Higher Power will restore me to sanity. I will cease trying to force solutions and control my daughter. She has her own path and her own Higher Power. And I have...

The Courage To Let Go

Memoir Excerpt:     “Angie told me once that that’s why she hated NA meetings: pimps, dealers, and strung-out junkies just itching for their next high often attended them. But in Angie’s case I don’t think that’s true. I think she didn’t go to meetings because she needed to deal with her addiction her way, and not be told by anyone else what to do: CSR—compulsively self-reliant—just like her mother. Or maybe she just wasn’t ready to embrace recovery at all, a painful possibility I had not yet considered. I was still determined, at that point, to believe that she was going to beat her addiction and that I, of course, would be the glorious savior she would spend the rest of her life thanking, handing me my redemption on a silver platter. I would finally, thank God, let go of the oppressive burden I was placing on my daughter by demanding she get well so that I could be OK. My mother unconsciously did the same thing with her children: she was a demanding perfectionist, beating back the pain of self-doubt and unworthiness by raising “successful” children. I’m very glad to have found recovery from my dysfunctional upbringing. It has helped to ‘relieve me of the bondage of self’. And most importantly, most importantly of all, my recovery has freed my...

Accepting Imperfection

“When we strive for perfection in ourselves and expect it in others, we may feel we have failed when this doesn’t meet our expectations. This step teaches us to accept each other and ourselves as we are, even if it’s less than we had hoped. We strive only to do our best. This invites us to practice humility in order to begin our progress toward recovery.”   True humility is the ability to see myself in relation to God, and this keeps me where I need to be with the people in my life. It has nothing to do with humiliation; it’s maintaining a realistic and balanced perspective of myself. I’ve heard it said that addiction is a disease of relationships, and it certainly has the power to destroy them. When I try to let go of many of my defects and practice humility, my relationships work better. This, I believe, is God working through...