Just Dandy

Just Dandy: Living with Heartache and Wishes

Hazelden Publishing 2020

Dear Mamas

No one ever said it was going to be easy, but no one ever said it would be this hard, either. And even if they had, I would never have believed them. It being life, with all its unexpected heartache piled atop crumpled dreams and wishes. 

As the mom of a now-adult child who battles addiction, I know the devastating toll of this disease—the love and lies, fears and hopes, twisting the mystical umbilical connection into knots. Addiction is ruthless, breaking hearts and bonds and all the rules. Oh, how I wish there were a way to go back in time and nudge the direction of our path over a smidge, just enough to lead us anywhere but here, this place where love and addiction meet. However, as much as I wish my family could have avoided all the pain, trauma, and drama, the truth is I’m a better person now than I was even aware I could be. I have had to dig deep, feel big, see truth, and be real. Because of that, I’ve discovered a deeper level of patience, acceptance, kindness, and understanding of what really matters. For that, I’m grateful. I’m also grateful, of course, for all the wonderful mamas I’ve met along the way. The brave, strong, hurt, terrified, confused, open-armed and open-hearted sisterhood that would otherwise not have blessed my life.

For many years, I was consumed with my son’s addiction, thinking I could fix it, change him, or somehow manage his life and disease for him. Over time, I came to realize the only thing I can change or control is me—but that has real power. Through my words and actions, I can help shed the shame and stigma, changing the way addiction is perceived within my community and within my son himself. And, through my books, blog, and MomPower website, in trying to help other moms on the same path, I have found healing. But I’m also tired. My sixty-year-old self would like to take a rest, but being the mom of an addicted child is a continuous uphill journey of learning and adapting, while carrying an unrelenting grief for what is, for what should have been, and in anticipation of what might be coming next—in addition to everything else we juggle as mothers, wives, daughters, caregivers, worker bees, and friends. Life is not one-dimensional. There’s a lot of other tough stuff piling up, too—day after day, year after year, one after another on top of another. 

But, as moms with addicted children, we are strong—my goodness, we continue to endure the unimaginable every single day!—and we have learned more ways to cope than we may even be aware of. Ways to think and see and respond to all the other tough stuff we’re faced with, too. We may not be able to make every situation better, but we can behave in ways that make them not worse. We really can find our way to being just dandy (and mean it).

Several years ago, at a museum with my dad, I was drawn to a glass case displaying a partially completed piece of handwoven lace, with the dozens of delicate threads being used in this creation laid out like sunbeams from the center. Attached to the end of each thread was a wooden bobbin, giving, I assume, the weaver something of substance to hold on to while also helping to keep the multitude of threads laid out in some sort of manageable arrangement. I told my dad that the piece-of-lace-in-the-works looks like what it feels like to write a book—keeping all the individual thought-threads separate and untangled, and keeping track of which one goes where and how to find my way back to pick up at the place I left off. That piece of bobbin lace also looks the same way my life feels: nothing happens in a straight line—neither around me nor within me; sometimes it looks impossible to figure out; it is still incomplete; and it won’t look the same at the end as it did at the beginning—but I believe that even life’s most chaotic jumble of threads can be woven into something beautiful. 

We have the power to thrive, even while living with heartache and wishes.

Hugs and hope,


The accompanying Just Dandy journal:

Every day is a new day. Every day is a chance to bloom anew.