Parents worry about their children no matter their age or their place in life. For parents with addicted children or children in recovery, their roles become infinitely complicated as they toe the line between providing healthy support and enabling for the rest of their lives. The instinct to take care of a child and solve problems for them is hard to resist, and requires a new set of lenses when they struggle with addiction. This article aims to shed some light on how parents can reorient their reality so they can help their recovering or addicted children without falling down the rabbit hole themselves.
One of the first things to do is understand your child as they are in the present. Do your best to avoid getting lost in the old memories of innocence and former daydreams of their grand potential. When it comes to loving anyone properly, you must accept them as they are. The imperfections of your child, good or bad, must also be understood as outside of your power. Questions of blame or the search for an explanation of whether or not their addiction was your “fault” is fruitless and destructive. You can do everything “right” as a parent and still have a troubled or addicted child.
Though there is evidence of genetic predispositions to addiction, the truth is, it’s symptoms of abuse, legal problems, financial issues, etc., begin with choices your child makes. For some individuals, these genetic predispositions are often hormone imbalances or problems in the brain that further compromise decision making and functioning as a result of use. The result is addiction. For others, emotional pain, injury, poor mental health, or trauma may instigate self-medicating through process addictions or substance abuse. As a parent or loved one, you must accept that there is no single answer or solution that allows you to solve their problems; the choice to stay addicted or work hard to achieve/maintain sobriety is always theirs. Furthermore, when individuals are lost in addiction, they lie, manipulate, and pretend to be sober because they know it’s easy to take advantage of their relatives, who care for them most. Once you’ve accepted that you can’t “fix” your child, you have to shift your role as caretaker and ATM, and become the ultimate sounding board. Listening and being an emotional support is the best thing you can do, as expressing praise or disappointment as a parent is the greatest power you have. If you can, keep an open door policy for your child on the condition that they are welcome home only if they are post-treatment, clean and sober, and on meds if that applies. The key is to support the good person you know them to be while “hating the addiction.”
It’s important to do your research on addiction treatment; the process is typically long and hard with a vicious of relapse and recovery. It’s paramount to detox with professionals and find the right rehabilitative programming and therapists. There is no quick-fix and recovery is a life-long pursuit. The goal of treatment is to help you child learn about themselves and their health so they can commit to recovery. Oftentimes, you can extend your role my participating in family therapy, which can heal wounds for not just the addict but those affected most—their parents and loved ones.
One of the hardest parts of parenting a child in addiction is accepting that we have no control over anyone but ourselves. Learning how to listen and being kind to yourself is difficult because it requires submitting your power. The agony of loving someone in addiction and recovery often takes a toll, and though it may go against your instinct as a parent, you have to prioritize your own health, else you fall victim to your personal vices alongside your child. By taking care of yourself physically and emotionally you are also leading by example, which is one of the best things you can do as a parent. Exercise, eat, sleep, and find a therapist or support group or a friend to help you. It is healing to share and contrary to popular belief most families are touched in some way by addiction or mental health issues. In short, it’s okay to ask for help; open up to your peers and get advice from professionals. More people know what you’re going through than you think.
7 Truths for Parents of an Addict, A Child with a Drug Addiction | INTERVENE: A Community for Parents. (n.d.). 7 Truths for Parents of an Addict, A Child with a Drug Addiction | INTERVENE: A Community for Parents.
How to LOVE Your Drug-Addicted Adult Child. (n.d.). How To Love Your Drug-Addicted Adult Child. Retrieved 2014, from http://www.adultchildaddict.com/loving-without-enabling.html