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.
Those in recovery often face “triggers” that test their resolve, triggers exerting a gravitational pull that jerks us back to the dark side. And no, I’m not talking about the addict’s relapse here; I’m talking about the mother of the addict’s relapse.
The cell phone, marvel of modern technology, holds a power that can make me relapse to the fear and utter despair of days gone by. When my old ring tone chimes from someone else’s purse, I jump out of my skin. Pavlov’s proof: I’ve been classically conditioned to associate an otherwise innocuous sound with the experience of terror. And even today, if my son doesn’t answer his phone right away, my busy little mind tends to dive into wild imaginations of doom and gloom. But I have made tremendous progress; in the old days, when my son’s phone went straight to voicemail, I was known to call him 30 times (or more) in one hour. I give thanks every day for recovery from my addiction to his voicemail greeting.
I’ve learned to replace the obsession in my mind with more constructive preoccupations, such as dwelling on a phrase that relaxes me or helps me feel secure. Sometimes, it’s the Serenity Prayer. Sometimes, it’s just asking the Universe to lift my burden of worry. With allies like that in my corner, I know that I am stronger than the siren song of relapse.
I was reminded today how sometimes not giving an answer or advice is the best thing to ‘not’ do. It is always so tempting to jump in with ways to solve problems and help our friends and family. And sometimes that is the right thing to do. But in some situations, sitting back and letting our loved one traverse the maze of their decisions is an opportunity for growth. My son came to me with a concern that he had. It wasn’t major, but it was troubling him. In the past I would have jumped into action with solutions, or worse, distractions so he wouldn’t feel the pain of situation. As a co-dependent, I don’t like others to feel bad. But I’ve learned that it isn’t my business to manage other people’s feelings. So when my son plopped down in the chair across from me, I just sat and listened. I asked some questions to help him think through various alternatives he could consider. But I tried my best not to tell him what to do or distract him by changing the topic. I know my place is to be there to support him and coach him, but not direct and manage him. By staying listening but not intervening I allow him to learn and grow.
I also know that in the past when my daughter would come to me in a crisis due to her struggle with addiction, I learned not to react. This was not easy in the beginning; I didn’t always realize what was taking place. But over time I realized that her problems became my problems when I jumped into action and alleviated her of the consequences. I had been given advice once that if you let 24 hours pass by, many times the loved one would either solve the issue or the crisis would diminish. This is so true! I learned to sit and be patience and trust in the capabilities of those who created the dilemma in the first place.
This is an “encore” post from My3Sunz
For a long time I did not understand how my loved one’s substance abuse was my problem. In fact, I was quick to point out that they were the ones with the problem, not me! Then I heard an analogy of the how this family disease works. If you put a frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out. If you put a frog in tepid water and slowly turn up the heat, it will cook to death because it did not recognize the change in temperature was in fact lethal. True or not, the story has been used in 12-step rooms to illustrate the family disease. Alcoholics Anonymous has recognized the family disease since inception, but oddly, there is limited research to support the family disease model. Nonetheless, professionals in the treatment community often look at substance abuse as a disease that affects the entire family. Many professionals suggest the family attend a 12-Step meeting. Another term equated with the family disease is codependency, a condition that develops in relationships where the non-addicted person enables the abuser to continue. According to Wikipedia, “Codependency describes behavior, thoughts and feelings that go beyond normal kinds of self-sacrifice or care taking.”
It took a long time for me to understand this “family disease” notion. I could not deny the similarities of other people in like-situations. Like me, their loved one’s drinking and drugging was upsetting them (to put it mildly). We seemed to share the same symptoms. Upon hearing the frog in boiling water story, it clicked. As the heat turned up, my reaction was to normalize and cope with increasingly bizarre and unacceptable behavior. There were “incidences” that were escalating, but I casually excused it – “Oh, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” As time passed, no matter how bad the chaos and insanity really was, I did not feel the temperature rise!
Eventually, with help, I realized my inability to control them (denying the temperature change) and that I was going to boil to death. My rescuing behavior created an environment that made it easier for them to continue. I was hurting not only them, but myself and others around me too. It was time to jump out of the pot!