Today’s article  is re-posted from Kathy Pooler’s blog, Memoir Writer’s Journey. Written by Libby Cataldi, it is an honest and open look at family suffering in and family healing from addiction. You may access the original post here.

In gratitude, harmony, and support,



Seven Things I Learned From My Son About Sobriety

by Libby Cataldi


My son is a recovering heroin addict and his addiction lasted fourteen years. At the end of his using, he was shooting heroin into his neck, having destroyed his veins in his arms, legs and feet. Today, he is ten years sober. That doesn’t mean his addiction is over, but it does mean that Jeff made the decision to change his life.


Here are some things that I’ve learned:


  1. It takes courage to live in sobriety. I once told Jeff, “You have courage to try again.” He replied, “Courage. That’s not a word usually used with addicts.” But it takes courage. Every day, he must make the decision to live a sober life.


  1. The community of AA was and is an important part of my son’s recovery. There he found people who knew his journey and have walked in his shoes. Jeff learned to lean on that community and to contribute to it. He gave the 12 steps a chance and they changed his life. In AA, each person makes a difference. They saw him: They celebrated his successes and stood with him when he was in need.


  1. Addiction is a family disease and we all suffer. But family can be healing, a part of the medicine. In sobriety, when we saw Jeff taking responsibility for his life, our arms and home opened. Trust takes time, so we each needed to be patient with each other. Success isn’t short term. It takes time for life to settle down and for new structures to be built.


  1. Life in sobriety is an adventure. My son learned to take risks, live with courage and have fun. He told me that when he went back to work in sobriety at a PR firm, he felt like he was going to get fired every day for the first year. He didn’t feel qualified, felt in over his head, but he tried his best and became a strong employee. When he left, they thanked him for making an important contribution to the company. As they say in AA, “Suit up and show up.”


  1. Life in sobriety is worth living. Jeff told me that drugs were about excitement – big weekends and bursts of pleasure. Sobriety outweighs all that. Being clean lets a person build a life of substance with real relationships, people who depend on him, a career he can count on. Jeff says that the biggest realization of all is that life is incredible without drugs and he can’t imagine losing the things he now has.


  1. Service is an important part of recovery. Learning to live in sobriety is about giving and receiving. In AA , the saying is, “In order to keep it, you have to give it away.” Reaching out a hand to help another person strengthens each of us.


  1. For my son, his sobriety is based on his spiritual practice. Every morning, he reads, stretches, meditates and prays. His life is based in honesty with everyone he meets, and with himself.


The Buddhists say that suffering serves to awaken compassion. My prayer is that all the suffering we’ve been through leads us to greater compassion for our addicted loved ones and for ourselves. Miracles happen. I’ve seen them.



Family Suffering and Family Healing

2 thoughts on “Family Suffering and Family Healing

  • May 18, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Oh my God, Libby Cataldi is my hero. Her book Stay Close literally saved me. She taught me how to stay close to my son; how to detach with love and continue to lead my life. Good stuff Lena! XO

    • May 18, 2017 at 6:38 pm

      This post is so simple and profound. May I stretch my capacity for compassion… toward myself and all others… we are all in this together. Thank you for your comment Carri.


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