28 Aug How Involved Should I Be in my Child’s Recovery?
A “drop-off-recovery-center” mentality does very little to support young addicts and alcoholics in achieving sobriety, in fact it is detrimental to a child’s recovery. This is when families drop off their children in treatment and expect them to be returned all fixed up with little or no involvement from the parents.
It’s the same approach as convenience stores, fast food and one-size-fits-all, it’s a short cut that doesn’t yield a healthy, sustainable outcome. Statistics show that parental involvement aids the success rate of the substance abuser.
Parents come in all shapes and sizes and there are all kinds of reasons they have for not staying connected to their child’s recovery. Parents who live close to their child’s sober living home have easier access to staying involved, although some consider themselves too busy to participate. Near or far, some parents are sick and tired of the lies, betrayals, the financial burden and the havoc their child has wreaked on the family. They want nothing to do with them until they’re sure they will stay sober for good this time. Then there are parents who have placed their son or daughter in a sober living far from home and want to be involved and stay connected; they just don’t know how to do it.
Even mothers and fathers who live far away can be helicopter parents, the sign of being a good parent is not always being all up in their child’s business 24/7. Especially where addiction is concerned, doing everything we can without enabling and taking care of our health and happiness works out best for everyone. Most people have heard the oxygen mask analogy but just in case…
…before taking off on an airplane, the attendants remind the passengers at the beginning of every flight – that in the event of a loss in oxygen, the adult should put their mask on first, and then put the child’s mask on. When we attempt to help someone without making sure we are strong and fit first, no one gets well.
For this reason, attending Al Anon, Nar Anon and CODA (Co-Dependents Anonymous) meetings will provide solutions and support for parents of addicts and alcoholics.
More ways to participate with your son or daughter’s sobriety is to read books on recovery. There is a wealth of literature available for learning how to understand addiction, supporting a loved one in treatment and beginning a recovery process in Al Anon or comparable 12-step group. There are also many books written by parents about the challenges and joys they have had with their addicted children.
Blogs are one of the best ways to stay connected. They supply an abundance of good information, tips, articles from young people who have gone through treatment and are in recovery, thought provoking pieces, statistics and trending news. Blogs are a valuable resource and a place where parents can connect, provide feedback and ask questions.
In or out of town, with some creativity out-of-state parents and those who are running from dawn ‘til dusk can still be involved. Here’s how two mothers from out-of-state stay connected and involved with their son’s recovery. They’re an inspiration to all parents, no matter where they live.
It took me nearly a year to really understand that the only way I can have a relationship with my son is if I let him go. As young parents we all have hopes and dreams for our children. As our children grow, those hopes and dreams sometimes become expectations. Through working my own 12-step recovery program, I was able to learn that detaching with love and sometimes distance, meant I was letting go of control over my child that I so desperately tried to hang on to. The control was damaging to both of us and put a strain on our relationship. He was not able to live his life and because of that, I was not able to live mine. When I first dropped him off at In Treatment rehab, I felt relieved. When I finally took him to California for sober living, I had no idea how my life would change. By attending meetings, and working my own program, I was able to learn to stop trying to control my son’s recovery. It took a long time, but with meaningful phone conversations, keeping a dialog with the house managers, and visiting my son as often as I was able, my connection and relationship with my son became real and honest. My son no longer felt responsible for neither my happiness, nor I for his. In spite of the distant miles, our own newfound happiness brought us closer than I ever thought possible. I love and admire the man he has become through the structured living at New Life House. I thank the connection, patience and brotherhood of NLH for allowing me to have a more open, honest and loving relationship with my son.
Elly R. – Illinois
It wasn’t easy living 2,500 miles and an ocean away from my son, but I felt more connected to him while he was living in New Life than when he was living on the streets or even under our roof. How each parent decides they are going to relate to their son while he is in recovery is a personal choice. What worked for me may not be the answer for anyone else. I can say this much, the more effort I put into staying connected, kept me connected. I was already a faithful member of Al-Anon and I can’t say enough about the benefits gained. Working on my own spiritual and emotional fitness was important to my ability to establish a healthy relationship with my recovering son. I didn’t need to be near him to work my own program. But, I did need to be committed to doing it.
I also found that reaching out to the other parents, especially the moms (since I’m a mom), was instrumental in guiding me through many of the House intricacies. There was so much to learn and they were my willing guides. An entire community of parents ready to embrace me, and my son! They even sent me emails of his progress and pictures they took when they visited the House.
What I did, practically on a daily basis, was read and follow the parent’s Blog. It gave me a window into what was happening at the House, and provided me with a wealth of information. There was so much I didn’t know! The pictures posted said a thousand words. More than my son could relay to me in our telephone conversations.
I also realized, after the first of many trips to the House, that nothing could replace actually visiting my son and attending the Saturday meetings. My eyes were opened! I discovered what my son was experiencing and about what the House was trying to instill in these young men. I met the parents who were corresponding with me and other young men who were now my son’s brothers. Explanations about the meeting didn’t do it justice. I had to be there. We grasped every opportunity to visit our son and attend the meetings. Yes it was costly and took time, but worth it for all of us. Being there for Thanksgiving dinner, for the Holiday Party, for my son’s belly-button and sobriety birthdays…being an actively involved parent while he lived in the House, and even now as a graduate, was possible with some effort.
Of course, if you do all of this, does it mean you will feel connected to the House and your son? Will it ensure his success? Nothing is a guarantee. But for me, it all worked. I am grateful that New Life provided me with resources to remain connected with the House and my son. It was not always rosy, and yes there were times I wished I was “there,” but there were times I was glad there was an ocean between us.
Recovery isn’t easy, nor is it for the weak and timid (and I’m talking about the parents). But it can be and it was for me, enlightening and I am enjoying the journey while I watch my son’s life unfold. Yes, from 2,500 miles away.
Debbie O. Hawaii