"Seeking God is always better than not seeking God no matter what the circumstances."

Praying Parents and the Trauma of Addiction

Andrew loved my lemon pound cake muffins. He constructed fat sandwiches from the chopped vegetables and the sliced meat and cheese I had packed in a cooler for the twenty-mile journey by lobster boat to his grandparents’ island cottage. “These are killer!” he declared, and as I thanked him, my hand rested on his shoulder just long enough to notice that nothing but bone lived under his baggy Tshirt. Andrew had long alternated between batting and embracing addiction, and it wasn’t long after our idyllic island weekend that Andrew’s life ended, a sad emptying out of an unrealized fullness.

Talk to anyone long enough here in Mid-Coast Maine and you’ll hear the stories:  an uncle with a drinking problem, a boyfriend who overdosed, an adult child who can no longer parent effectively, leaving children to be raised by their grandparents. Our opioid crisis is disproportionate to our sparse and mostly rural population, but we are not alone. Between 2000 and 2014 there was a 137% increase in opioid-related deaths in the U.S. This crisis is killing 72,000 Americans a year.

Although there was a slight recovery in 2019 (up .08% to 78.87), for three years in a row, life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped. The last time this happened was in the years between 1915 and 1918, and history buffs will know why:  World War I and the influenza pandemic ravaged the population worldwide. This time, however, the threats are very different. The experts are labeling this phenomenon “Deaths from Despair,” and the causes are myriad:  economic, job disappointments, family crises.

From the moment Katherine James learned her own son was using heroin, the cloud of addiction hovered over their home. Her family’s story is peppered with wild ambulance rides and wild hope; the long wait for answers and the slow arrival of joy. A Prayer for Orion: A Son’s Addiction and a Mother’s Love is a prayer for all our children, for there’s not a one who’s invulnerable to a slow slide into some darkness, and those who remain in the light are there by grace alone.

As James gazed out her living room sky light at Orion’s belt in the night sky, the three stars were celestial prayer beads for her three children. Her story underscores the tension we all experience as praying parents–earnestly offering up our children’s names before God, knowing full well that we are untrustworthy intercessors; pleading for straight paths and still waters even though the map of our own spiritual journey shows greatest growth in the wilderness.

Struggling to come to grips with her son’s addiction, James reached the searing conclusion that “seeking God is always better than not seeking God no matter what the circumstances.” (123) With that in mind, our most healthful stance and fruitful takeaway from the James family story is to “practice not judging, practice not blaming.” And to pray for our children. Will you join me now?

God, will you shield our children from the evil of addiction?
Will you protect them from the allure of escape?
Please cultivate in them (and in us) an acceptance of the natural and God-designed emotional responses that are hardwired into all of us. Guide us as we help them to learn to own their emotions, to give them a name, and then to enter into the practice of feeling their feelings rather than trying to handle them in ways you never intended.
Strengthen us, Lord, to model emotional health and a sinewy commitment to real life and all the challenges and disappointments that might entail. As families, may we comprehend your three-dimensional love. May its depth, width, and height transform us, enliven us, comfort us, protect us.
May we serve you alone,
Crave you alone,
Long for you most of all.
In your great and merciful name,

Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Readers, please note that James’s writing, while always lyrical and fresh, is also gritty, and she shares dialogue without a filter.

Grace and peace to you,

michele signature[1]

It was also a joy to share a review of Katherine’s award winning novel, Can You See Anything Now?: A Novel (Paraclete Fiction). Click here for more details.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase A Prayer for Orion: A Son’s Addiction and a Mother’s Love, simply click on the title or the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo by Kanan Khasmammadov on Unsplash

61 thoughts on “Praying Parents and the Trauma of Addiction”

  1. Michele,
    My best friend’s daughter died of a drug overdose at the age of 28. She had godly, Christian parents. It brought home to me, the fact, that none of us is immune. In a day and age where we’d rather self-medicate than deal with our feelings and emotions, this is bound to happen. I earnestly pray for a hedge of protection around our “children” of any age. Thank you for sharing…
    Bev xx


  2. Michele, this is one of your most touching posts. It is evident it came straight from your heart. The tragic story of Andrew is, unfortunately, one many of us can relate to. The opioid crisis has touched us here in Pennsylvania farm country too. Thank you for the prayer. It says so elegantly what many of us want to pray to God.


  3. The opioid crisis has hit everywhere and it seems that we don’t even know the extent and who might be affected. A woman from church lost two sons to overdoses within a month of each other at the end of 2019. As a parent, I am not sure I could endure that kind of loss. She has chosen to walk by faith and has an amazing faith-filled community surrounding her. This book is needed but it could be difficult to read. Thank you for sharing.


  4. I don’t know how you bore the loss of a child, Michele, even with God’s help. So many gone too soon . . .
    Praying this book will help so many who have children, relatives, friends who are addicted.


    1. Oh, Martha, I haven’t had that particular loss. In the story I was sharing, I was talking about the grandchild of some very good friends in the intro, and then the book is written by Kate James.
      Blessings to you as well.


  5. We’ve had drug addictions on both sides of our extended families. Thankfully, none of them died, But addiction had such an iron grip for so long, and it was impossible to reason with those involved. One ended up in prison and got clean; another went through mental health treatment. I’m not sure how the others eventually got free. But I understand the helplessness and grief. Those would be all the more magnified for one’s own children.

    This particularly struck me: “pleading for straight paths and still waters even though the map of our own spiritual journey shows greatest growth in the wilderness.” Sometimes while praying for a smooth path, especially for my kids, I remember this, and add, “but your will be done.” And I hope His will won’t be too rough. Yet I know, as you said, it’s usually in the most difficult circumstances that we grow.


  6. Will completely join you – the struggles today are so different for the children in this time than ever before.


  7. Not one of us is immune. I think we take for granted that things will work out without our efforts. Thanks for linking up.


  8. It has struck a few families we know.. even caused a very premature death. It’s so sad and disheartening to see the struggles that both the love ones and family members and the one struggling with addiction go through..


  9. Thank you for sharing your beautiful prayer, Michele. This part, especially, strikes a loud chord for me: “Guide us as we help them to learn to own their emotions, to give them a name, and then to enter into the practice of feeling their feelings rather than trying to handle them in ways you never intended.” This sounds like a powerful book, though also hard to read at times?


    1. Yes, hard to read, and it occurred to me because of something Kate said in one section that so often the lit fuse in addiction is a need to numb those emotions, so those words found their way into my prayer.


  10. God bless Katherine James for persevering to write such a book. It must have been very difficult, given the honesty, vulnerability and humility necessary to keep it genuine and therefore meaningful. I too pray for those suffering with addiction–their families as well. Lord, help us all to fight alongside them and beat this enemy!


  11. Michele, addiction is so widespread and is not a respecter of persons or families. Thank you for reminding us all to keep on praying for our children and grandchildren.


  12. Although the book sounds wonderful, I don’t think I can read it yet–our own experience with our daughter still has raw places–she didn’t overdose or die or become addicted, but all of those could have happened. I still can’t read stories of people with cancer without sobbing at some point, too, even though my husband has been well for 16 years now.


  13. Michele, this sounds like a powerful book. I love the idea Katherine had of using Orion’s belt to pray for her children. Honestly, there are days when I fear one of our sons will fall into addiction. Each has their vices, but so far, the vices haven’t completely controlled them. God’s been challenging me a lot this year to be very intentional about praying for our boys. It seems like children need this gift from their parents as much as ever.


  14. Thank you for this, Michele! Addiction is something we have not had to deal with in our family, thankfully. I am so glad! We did have a child struggle with anorexia and that was scary enough. You feel so out of control—and you are. But God is not. He is always in control! Thank you for the book suggestion.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!


  15. This is beautiful. Being in recovery 17 months and now having a daughter of my own, it brought tears to my eyes. Michele will you please follow me? My blog is on addiction and recovery and I think we write very similar. God bless you.


  16. This sounds like such a powerful, hard hitting book to read. My thoughts go out to all those affected by the trauma of addition. The ripple of fright, uncertainties and pain it can create for family and friends in supporting roles is so difficult.. practice not judging, practice not blaming – such important words. Thank you for sharing this with the #DreamTeamLinky.


  17. Addiction can be so heartbreaking to witness. This sounds like such a brave book. Thanks for sharing it with us at #dreamteamlinky


  18. It sounds like a very gritty and hard-hitting story Michele and one that unfortunately a lot of us can relate to in one way or another. It is so sad and I honestly don’t even want to contemplate the thought that this would happen to one of my children someday. It is a frightening thought but we all need to be aware of the harsh realities of drug addiction. Like you say we all just want to protect our loved ones and keep them safe. Thank you for sharing this review with#globalblogging. Very worthwhile indeed x


    1. I don’t like to go there in my imagination either, Tracey. Thanks for taking the risk of reading my review. I think the horror is that there are just some things we cannot fix ourselves no matter how much we love someone.


  19. Thank you for your review and the kind words of wisdom you express in your prayers. I have not known a deep opioid addiction myself, though having had a season of Cannabis. I know there is a big difference though having worked with drug dependent people form 3 months. All that is tried to be done is to stabelise them in their addiction, it is said that is the only way, buz no one cares about the deep hopelessness and powerlessness that is experienced in those addictions.
    God be thanked, I hear stories and testimonies of some who have overcome as they discovered God’ amazing love. May your encouraging words go far and the families who are hurting be comforted that they are not alone.


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