04 Jan 10 Truths for Parents of Addicts
After working within the recovery field for over a decade, and an addict myself, I have spent countless hours with concerned parents. Rightfully so, alcohol and drug addiction is a devastating disease. No parent is excited to address their child’s addiction and some aren’t ready to either.
Parents may not want to acknowledge that their son or daughter’s drug abuse has gone further than “experimentation,” but I urge them to ignore their instincts. Drug addiction doesn’t get better over time, it gets worse. So do the consequences.
My mother described the time of my active drug addiction as an “emotional rollercoaster.” Over a 5-year addiction spree, I slowly withdrew from all healthy interactions and activities. As my life began to unravel, I found myself scrambling to keep myself afloat. Lies and manipulations were stacked on top of each other to keep my mom’s weary eyes gazed elsewhere. Eventually, I couldn’t keep up the juggling act and all the balls fell at once. It was one of the most frightening things I have ever experienced. Thank God for it!
Whether you are on an emotional roller coaster ride of your own, or are just beginning to believe there is a real problem going on, I hope this list of truths is helpful when addressing your child’s addiction.
1. Trust your instincts
I never mistook my mom for being naïve or foolish. I’m sure you aren’t either. If you suspect that your child is using drugs and/or alcohol, trust your instincts enough to investigate further. Look at your child’s actions, not what he/she is saying. Take note of behavior and don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations. Most parents I’ve spoken too suspected a problem well before they took any action on it.
2. Enabling isn’t helping
I can’t express this enough! Saving your child from trouble and consequences caused by their addiction isn’t helping them, it’s hurting them and you. These consequences may be the only markers that they may need in order to recognize that their addiction is a real problem.
3. Addiction is it’s own beast
The trust between you and your child may be sacred to you. Unfortunately, his or her addiction doesn’t care about your emotional bond. In the grips of addiction, your child may lie, cheat and steal to cover up and fuel their addictive behaviors. Don’t be ashamed to second-guess or not trust what your child is doing or saying.
4. You can’t take responsibility for their addiction
Your parenting isn’t what caused your child to become an addict. There’s no parenting manual and we all make mistakes. Rather than dwelling on the past or what you could’ve done differently, focus on the present and how to best help your child now. Most parents I work with can honestly say that they never intended to maliciously hurt their children through their actions or inactions. If that’s the case, then you can’t take responsibility for it either. Period.
5. They are their company
Those of us in the recovery field are familiar with the saying, “If you hang out in a barber shop long enough, you’re bound to get a haircut.” It is human nature to surround ourselves with people who share our lifestyles and attitudes. This is no different for the young addict. If your son or daughter is spending time with seedy people, chances are they are engaging and participating in self-destructive behaviors. If they are going out with friends who you don’t know and they are bringing them home, this could be a cause to be concerned. When I was actively using, the last thing I wanted to do was hang out with the straight-shooters and kids on the dean’s list. I wanted to be around kids who used like I did.
6. You can’t reason with the unreasonable
From an outsider’s point of view, it’s easy to say, “why would anyone want to ingest toxins into their body that are clearly destroying their health, relationships and family?” If logic alone could breakthrough the insanity of addiction, more people would be in recovery. Addiction is cunning and baffling. For the young addict, his or her drug abuse progresses over time. Slowly but surely, substance abuse seems like the best solution to deal with problems, and what once seemed innocent and exciting has now become a necessity. When confronting or addressing your child, understand that you are addressing their addiction. You may find yourself having to press your own boundaries to get a message across or to implement a consequence, not uncommon on this playing field.
7. Their rock bottom isn’t yours
Loving your child may not reel them back in. Your child may ruin relationships, lose jobs, drop out of school, or get in trouble with the law. The extent that they can hurt themselves and you through this insanity might feel unbearable. Though these scenarios may seem tragic and detrimental to you, your child may not recognize them as sincerely as you do. Your child’s rock bottom might mean they need to experience homelessness before he or she reaches the point of desperation to change. There is nothing you can do to convince them that they’re at rock bottom if they don’t feel it themselves.
8. You can’t fix your child’s addiction
This is a hard truth to swallow. You may not be able to fix their addiction, but you can support their recovery. Addiction recovery services are widely available. Self help books, 12 step fellowships, counseling services, treatment centers, rehabs and recovery communities are available. Help your child if they are willing to meet you halfway.
9. It’s not hopeless
As difficult and emotionally challenging as it may be, there is hope. Addiction can be a fatal disease, that’s no secret. But recovery can be obtained and you can help your child find a new sense of happiness and freedom.
10. You’re not alone
Just as your child didn’t come with an owner’s manual when they were born, there isn’t one for addiction. The good news is, you are not alone. Reach out to others for support and guidance, support groups, professional counselors, interventionists and friends can help you process through this turmoil and assist you in effectively helping your child. The more you can learn about and understand addiction, the better off you will be in helping your loved one. Addiction affects the entire family, not just the individual. Even with a child in recovery, parents find that they benefit from the support and guidance of others.
Are you a parent of an addict?
Are you the parent of an addict? How do these truths resonate with you? Do you have other truths in your own experience that you’d like to share? If so, please comment below. We’d love to have your participation and support in helping other parents who are on their own “rollercoaster ride.”