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,
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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