July 03, 2011
I have learned many lessons over the past several decades about the ravages that addiction to drugs and alcohol takes from the soul. The devastation spreads from the addicted individual to outer parameters of his/her family and friends until its limits turn inward upon itself to crumble our society and ultimately our nation. While learning to quasi-cope with a loved one’s addiction, it becomes necessary to learn the ins-n-outs of the disease, this is not an easy task. Everyone has their own viewpoint about the specifics of drug and alcohol addiction; therefore, it quickly becomes that following your own inner guidance is a must in unraveling a palatable hypothesis for oneself.
While the decades of my own family’s addiction to alcohol unraveled, I learned there is no right way to love an alcoholic… only that you must. I learned that asking for guidance from others counts, but cannot be the final tally for actions and reactions to ensue. I learned that trusting one’s Self is eminent in the face of danger, fear, and choice; and, that danger, fear, and choice comes even without our addicted loved one’s presence. I learned compassion is sometimes elusive, but always within reach and is a potent healing agent. I learned that tomorrows are in the hands of that Something More which we have all co-created from many soul journeys.
Since the publication of "Tales of Addiction and Inspiration for Recovery" one year ago, I have received many letters supporting the book’s philosophy. I had not thought of my contributing words between the heartfelt addiction stories found within this book to be a philosophy, however, I can discern a common thread stitching my thoughts together. That thread is Compassion. I fast learned with my son’s addiction, without compassion there is no acceptance… without acceptance, there is no love. How can we have compassion for our addicted loved ones? How can we not…
My son’s life lessons also impacted my own. I was able to grasp an understanding of the importance of attaining compassion toward those we do not know. The hundreds of individuals who have connected with me online and off since this book’s release have given me the insight that we can generate compassion for all others throughout the globe. I quote His Holiness The Dalai Lama many times in the book--one quote I especially like is:
“True world peace can only be achieved through peace of mind. And peace of mind springs from a genuine realization that all human beings are brothers and sisters. Different ideologies and different political or economic systems are only secondary; the most important point is that we are all the same human beings, living on one small planet.”
With this knowledge, compassion for all our brothers and sisters seems easy enough, right? But, what about the drug addict on the corner? What about the drunk in the neighborhood bar? Or, the kid down the street smoking pot? Do we have the same compassion for these individuals as we do our brothers and sisters across the globe? Compassion is not to be used selectively… compassion is an open heart for all--addicted or not.
One letter I received after the sender read Tales of Addiction came from a woman trying hard to keep her compassion toward her alcoholic mother. In the letter was a poem she had written, it claims much of my own emotions:
I hate you, I love you
This back and forth emotion
This up and down feeling
This stop and start life
Breathing in and breathing out
Getting up and falling down
Hiding while crying
Living while dying
Believing in nothing
Questions in the night
My soul in shadow
No one in sight
Lost and alone
No place called home
Hating you, Loving you
Saving, then losing you
Learning to breathe
*Printed with permission
In the Introduction of "Tales of Addiction," I wrote, “Addicted or not, we all have stories to tell.” As you find the words to tell your story, search for the lessons you have uncovered. The whys, hows, choices and decisions are not the insights needed to attain in dealing with addiction. Tell the story of the lessons you have discovered from learning how to have compassion for yourself and/or your addicted loved one--tell how these lessons have changed your life. Addicted or not, if we all strive for these lessons in growth, our addiction population will begin to fade.
Another letter I received from a reader, and one of the book’s addiction story contributors, touched my soul deeply. In appreciation, I share it with permission:
I had some time put aside to share as promised about the life changing lesson you and your Richard had taught me after re-reading your "Journal" in Tales of Addiction which I have to say touched me more than words could possibly convey. One of my abrasive attitudes before reading your Journal was that I had made a conscious unmovable decision. After attending so many funerals and memorials for addicts and alcoholics who had passed away from these ravaging diseases, I decided that I was done....
My abrasiveness wasn’t bred from ego, but from the deep heart-wrenching sadness and devastation I felt at someone’s memorial service. I could not stand the feelings and witnessing the family members who were left in the wake of this pain and senselessness.
I read and re-read all you shared and it was as if a light bulb went off…I understood my powerful lesson and I felt deep shame. You are absolutely right in asking us to challenge our thinking as to why someone who lost their battle with addiction is any less worthy of celebrating their life. Are they less important because they had a disease? Perhaps this was their path? Is it any less perfect than ours?
I will be going to memorials now, and funerals, hospitals and institutions. Barbara, I thought God put you in my life for my story of inspiration, but today I know it was because of yours. Thank you. I thank you and Richard for teaching me, helping me to open my heart again and my mind.
With deep affection and gratitude,
Being open to our lessons in life is not an easy task. But, when learning to have compassion for ourselves and others, it is a requirement if we are to move forward on our soul’s journey. I wish you a safe journey.
Love & Joy,