Love One Another! 11/2008 → The main topic
I am a sixty-year-old father of two grown-up daughters. The events described here concern my younger daughter. They have left an indelible mark on my life, but since I am well aware that ours is not an exceptional case, I have decided to give this testimony in the hope that it will prove helpful to others.
The news that our daughter was a drug addict hit my wife and me especially hard, for just a dozen years earlier, drugs had claimed the life of my younger brother. I never hid the facts concerning his death; on the contrary, everything connected with my brother’s death had been the subject of numerous family discussions — as a warning to all. I thought then that my earlier painful experience with drug use would never again touch my family and myself. As it turned out, I was greatly mistaken. At that time we were living in Warsaw, and the neighborhood in which our younger daughter grew up was seriously infected with the drug problem, or should I say disease.
We sought help for her at various clinics and addiction centers, but in each instance the end-result was always the same: our daughter fled the treatment center and returned to the street. Our domestic hell grew steadily worse. Our daughter was in total freefall and entirely without scruple when it came to getting money to pay for her drugs — mainly through theft in the most diverse ways and places.
After considerable effort, we succeeded in securing a place for her in Sister Elvira’s Community Cenacolo in Italy. (Such centers now exist in Poland, and many other countries, including USA and the United Kingdom.) Alas, after only three months, our daughter showed up at our doorstep — penniless and with another debt to pay. What is more, she tried to convince us that she was cured, which was manifestly untrue. Hell quickly returned.
Persuaded by our daughter’s therapist that we should change neighborhoods, we decided to move out of the city altogether. Providence came to our rescue. With the death of my parents I came into possession of a summer country house outside of Warsaw, which we very quickly turned into an all-year-round dwelling. We moved into it in the middle of the winter (January, 2000). Already before this, we had learned that our daughter was pregnant, a circumstance to which we attached a good deal of hope, since, according to the doctor, the prospect of motherhood could have a beneficial effect on our daughter’s cure. Her boyfriend seemed to want to help her in her predicament. Alas, we were cruelly deceived, for he was also a drug addict. To avoid tragic consequences, we had to separate them quickly.
Our granddaughter, Nathalie, was born in May of that year. No doubt we were not alone in seeing her birth as a miraculous event and additional proof of Divine Providence, since, theoretically, a normal, healthy child had no right to be born from such a union.
As it turned out, the change of scenery proved to be only partly beneficial. The problems returned like a boomerang. Within a short space of time, on two occasions, our daughter tried to take her life. On both occasions, doctors saved her in the nick of time.
We sought help wherever we could find it. Even before this, guided by some instinct or perhaps the wisdom of the old Polish proverb, “When in fear, God is dear,” we sought help in prayer — in the holy rosary and the chaplet of divine mercy. And so, on bringing my daughter home from the hospital after her second attempt on her life, I prayed. After a great deal of persuasion, I got her to kneel down with me to say the rosary. That was the longest prayer in my life, and I shall never forget it. All through the prayer my daughter rolled around on the floor and screamed like an animal. When we had finished, I asked her what was the matter. She told me that all through the prayer, a pair of shaggy paws had been trying to choke her. The following day the owner of those paws returned. After that he reappeared ever more frequently — sometimes several times a day at various times and in various places. Always he was silent. Once only he spoke to her, saying, “You’re not worth anything anyway.” Only my daughter saw him. All we saw were her reactions — always of terror. After two weeks the visions stopped, and an amnesia specialist soon convinced her that nothing of the kind had taken place. For me, the conclusions to be drawn from this were obvious. They could be summarized in the following words: “Satan’s greatest victory is in convincing people that he does not exist.”
At last, we managed to hit upon the right priest. It would take a lengthy conversation with him, and several spiritual retreats, before the cause for our misfortune finally dawned on us. For almost thirty years, my wife and I had lived in an unconsecrated marriage. As a result, we had been deprived of the graces of the sacraments. Only now did we understand the meaning of Christ’s words to Saint Faustina: “I speak to you through misfortunes and illness.” We were experiencing the objective consequences of sin. Again I received proof of who it was that stood behind our daughter’s drug addiction, for every time she tried to go to Confession or receive Holy Communion, she would drop to the ground like a log. I was unable to carry my unconscious daughter out of the church alone. Sometimes two people had to help me carry her out; nor could they understand why she, who was so wasted by her illness, should be so heavy.
It was only after our reconciliation with Christ in the sacrament of Penance and our pledging to live a chaste life that the way toward our daughter’s healing, and our own conversion, was opened.
The period after the spiritual retreats was a critical time for us. That was the time our domestic hell reached its apogee: our daughter’s constant flights from home, night visits from drug dealers, and finally her leaping out of a window from a height of four and a half meters to the frozen ground below. At that very moment, my wife had been saying the chaplet of divine mercy. Suddenly she heard a cry for help. She ran to the room and, on seeing the open window, immediately guessed what had happened. Preliminary examinations at the hospital showed that she had suffered a cracked spine and a compound fracture of the metatarsal bone. Since the first hospital was unable to help her, she was transferred to another. There, after a case conference, the doctors prepared us for the worst: that our daughter might be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life. She returned home almost totally encased in plaster. A few days later, with tears in her eyes, she told us that her craving for narcotics had left her. The great changes we saw in her subsequent behavior assured us that this was not another ruse or lie.
Now, seven years after those events, we are absolutely convinced that her cure from drug addiction and the total healing of her spine occurred as a result of a great work of grace. Our daughter is now a happily married mother of three children, and her illness is — we trust — a thing of the past.
In addition, we can thank God that after almost two years of self-imposed celibacy we received the grace of a sacramental marriage, and that our “Sunday faith” has, by His grace, deepened considerably. We nourish it through the sacrament of the Eucharist, participation in monthly spiritual retreats, daily prayer (the rosary and chaplet of divine mercy), fasting, and reading the Scriptures as well as good books and Catholic literature.
Now, after all that has touched my loved ones and myself, I know that every painful experience we encounter has its own spiritual dimension. I am also convinced that nothing in our life happens by chance. But we will never completely understand everything. We are witnessing times when the struggle for our souls is reaching a culminating point.
I earnestly hope that this little statistical misfortune of mine, which was graced with a happy ending, will help others to understand the cause of their problems and to resolve them just as happily. This I wish from the bottom of my heart.
For more information on Sister Elvira Perozzi’s treatment center for drug addiction see the Community Cenacolo’s English-language website: www.comunitacenacolo.ita