Substance Addiction and the Questions Parents Ask Themselves

Substance addiction leaves parents questioning themselves. Something’s happening at home but they can’t put their finger on what it is. At first little things turn up missing, a favorite collectible of his sister’s or $5 you thought you had in your wallet.  You don’t pay attention, things get lost, you forget.  Then more items go missing, this time $20 from your wallet and $50 from his sister that she had been saving.  You ask him because he’s the only other one there and the lying starts.  He shrugs it off and has no idea what you’re talking about; he even helps you look for the missing money.

You’re at a family friends house for a BBQ and you notice your daughter is not in the backyard with everyone else.  Curious, you go looking for her inside and find her in the master bathroom looking in the medicine cabinet.  You ask her what she’s doing.  She explains she had a headache, didn’t want to bother you and was looking for aspirin.  Your gut tells you something’s amiss but she gets you with the “didn’t want to bother you” comment and you deny what you’re feeling.  And on and on it goes, until the computer is missing (she took it to her dad’s house to be fixed), your jewelry (maybe we were robbed and we didn’t realize it?) and the new $200 watch you bought her for her birthday (must’ve left it at a friend’s house) and you know something is wrong but you won’t believe it.

lying2And the incense and marijuana you’ve smelled (he just wanted to try it and see what the big deal was), and the glass bowls and blackened tips of metal tools that were in the garage (a science experiment).  The vent in his bathroom that looks like it’s been taken apart (what?), the dryer sheets you found under his bed with the porn magazines and missing bottle of champagne a friend gave you (well, boys will be boys)…it’s all starting to make sense….after almost two years, countless calls into the school office, suspension and probation for having weed on campus.   That nagging feeling in your heart is tugging at you, finally getting your attention and you can no longer ignore the truth.

What began with a couple of missing things and perceived normal teenage experimentation has turned into a desperate independent hunt for money by your child in order to sustain their addiction.  The addiction takes over your child’s brain function, fueling full-time lying and manipulation as well as stealing.  Recovering drug addicts reveal that if their lips were moving, they were lying.

The majority of parents will all say they wish they had listened.  Listened to the signs, instead of searching for the answers.  Looking for answers implies that there’s one answer out there that will help you to make sense of this and “fix him.”   They wish they had learned to listen to the still voice inside that had been there all along.

As a parent we listen with our hearts.  And when he lies, that’s where we hear it.  But where addiction is concerned we have to listen with our heads too….non-emotional listening.  It’s important to separate the head and the heart with drug addicts.  Non-emotional listening involves taking our feelings about how thing should be out of the equation and separating the love we have for our son from the addiction.  Non-emotional listening is becoming educated about drug and alcohol abuse, talking to other parents of substance abusing youth and attending a support group such as Al Anon.   Finally, non-emotional listening is taking a loving action based on what we know to be true, applying firm boundaries and sticking to them.

Parents of substance abusing youth need to come to terms with the reality that there may not be one answer for addiction and that loving their child just for today is what they get.  When the smoke has cleared and they have a better picture of their sons situation and the family dysfunction that ensued, parents are saying that what they could’ve done differently was to listen without emotions…..to the signs of addiction.



verified by Psychology Today

3 Comments
  • Marissa
    Posted at 12:22h, 02 May Reply

    This article is soo true! It was the hardest thing for me to do. I wanted more than anything else for these “signs” to just merely be coincidental. It took me 4 years before i could finally admit to myself that my son was struggling with something I could NOT help him with. Looking back, I knew that something was off, it was just to emotional for me to make the first step to get him help. I blamed myself asking “What did I do wrong?” No parent wants to come to the realization that their child has a problem with drugs or alcohol. Logic is the only way to deal with a struggling loved one. Making decisions based of emotion led me around in circles for far too long! My son had this power of manipulation that I could do nothing to stop! It wasn’t until I removed myself emotionally from the situation that I had enough clarity to deal with it logically.

    • Martha
      Posted at 10:27h, 05 May Reply

      Marissa, Thanks so much for taking the time to post such honest feedback. Parents need support and that’s just what we’re trying to offer here. I’m glad you were able to identify!

  • Katherine
    Posted at 17:48h, 08 May Reply

    Thank you for posting such an insightful account. As a parent of and addict, I too wanted to avoid seeing the truth. We agreed to allow our son to find his way through the maze of adolescence and experimentation. But as a recovering alcoholic myself, I knew in my heart that he would find some sort of relief from drugs and alcohol. In today’s world that relief is so easy to come by. Drugs are marketed like cigarettes or baby wipes, to an underground society we parents know nothing about. Beginning with prescription drugs and medical marijuana, our son soon found he could get anything he wanted quickly. It didn’t take long before he reached out for help. By then he was 120 pounds at 6’2″, could not eat or sleep. Thankfully we were strong enough to require no drugs in our home, and had to ask him to leave twice before he made a commitment to sobriety. It is truly our belief that not helping him helped him the most. He saw his situation as it truly was and was finally ready to change. Letting him go with Love was our true challenge, but that is what worked.

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