It is absolutely paralyzing to learn that your child has substance abuse issues. Where do you turn for help? How do you know what steps to take? What is addiction, anyway? There are endless questions and no consolidation source of answers or support. In addition, the stigma of having an addicted child causes many parents to retract and withdraw rather than seek help. In truth, many families struggle with substance abuse issues, and the support, wisdom and guidance they need are not easily found.Parent Pathway was created for parents, by parents, to provide a place to find peace of mind at a time when their world feels like it is falling apart.
When I follow the years of progression of the disease of addiction with my son, I sometimes see 10+ years having gone down the drain. Now, for a 50 odd year old, one year flies by at the speed of light and a whole lot can be accomplished! For a 20 year old, 10 years seems a lifetime. It’s a matter of perspective. However it feels, it’s still 10 years and sometimes I’m overtaken with despair.
I now realize that the 10+ years past is what it’s supposed to be; I don’t have any right to judge the usefulness of it. I sometimes question, when will he choose recovery? Will he ever? How can there be hope when over and over the same thing happens and it’s never good. This is the time I find myself going to a 12-Step Recovery Program, open to the public: AA or NA , where I can listen to others in recovery. It’s a good way to get re-energized. I’ve even found recordings on the internet to download of recovered persons who share their story. There is so much hope in their stories. By listening to them, I learn about the disease and it gives me another perspective to understand that recovery happens for each person differently, and on different time lines. Rarely do I hear someone speak on the help they got from their mom or dad. Sometimes there is an honorable mention to Al-Anon, where friends and family learned to stop enabling. The true source of help is inevitably something bigger than me or someone else – the unknown source, a Power, Greater than I – something I’ve come to welcome. I observe that some find recovery early, some get it years and years later. Sadly, some never get it. For the latter possibility, I’m reminded to be thankful each moment that I’m afforded an opportunity to see, hear or be in some sort of communication with my adult children. Years can fly by or the opposite. Sometimes days, and even hours can drag out for an eternity. Either way, if I stay in the presence of a Power, greater than myself, I can find serenity in the knowledge that when and if they ever decide, someone will be there to offer a new way to do life, with their own hope for the future. I can let go of my need to be overly involved and learn how to be a loving parent, unconditionally, when opportunities present themselves.
Ricki Townsend, Family Counselor and Board Certified Interventionist.
Many of my clients fear the idea of their child’s relapse and wonder about the warning signs. Here are some possible “symptoms” of relapse, with the first three being the ones I see most often in the first year of recovery:
- Not attending Recovery meetings
- Hanging with old friends who were users
- Not working with a sponsor
- Making major changes in the first year, such as moving to a new town or starting a new relationship
As we look at our loved ones in recovery, we also need to take a good look at ourselves because family members can relapse, too. The following are the most common symptoms for those of us who deeply love our addicted/alcoholic children:
- Focusing on the loved to the point that it puts our own health at risk.
- Refusing to believe that our loved ones have a problem with drugs or alcohol. (also known s denial)
- Covering up the messes and keeping secrets.
- Worrying, feeling constantly stressed and walking on eggshells.
- Having a hard time defining where “they” end and “I” begin.
- Yelling and making empty threats about boundaries that we cannot or will not enforce.
Relapse is often described as a part of alcoholism and addiction, as if it were inevitable. That is not always the case. And while you cannot control your child’s relapse, you can control your own. A critical first step in parental relapse prevention is learning about enabling so that you don’t fall into the trap of “If they are happy and safe, then I will be happy and safe.” Find a good family counselor, learn how to create agreements and keep boundaries, and you will be in much better shape to prevent relapse –yours or your child’s — or deal with it constructively if it does occur.