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.
One of our readers commented on a previous blog post that, “Staying out of the way is a tough one. Especially for someone like me. I have spent my life rushing to be a hero. Here I am to save the day. Finally, someone reminded me that what I save, when rushing to clear the debris of a using addict, is one thing: that they survive yet another day without responsibility; leaving them free to create more chaos. If I do this long enough, they might actually die.”
Being a Super Hero is exhausting. And saving someone who needs to save themselves is futile and even potentially deadly. How can we remove ourselves from the role of rescuer and enabler? Here are some ideas:
- Instead of jumping in to solve their problems, just say “Oh” or “Hmmmm” or “I’ll have to think about that” or “I know you can figure that out.” If you are accustomed to having the answers for your child, this new approach may make you anxious. How can they possibly figure it without SuperParent assistance? The truth is they will never figure it out if you always solve it for them. Handing them the power and responsibility of managing their own lives requires both parent and child to change. This is about you, Mom and Dad, as much as your child.
- If you leap into action to stop a barrage of threats or accusations (for example, “It’s your fault if I can’t get to work!”) then pull out the S**T shield. Imagine a magical force field that protects your from incoming threats, hatred and abuse. And tell your child, “I will not tolerate that kind of language,” and let them know they have to leave if they continue to speak that way. (Reminder! You have the right to a serene and calm home.)
- Let your child know that the rules of engagement have changed. When your child accuses you– “You USED to be nice and let me crash on the sofa”– tell him or her, “I’ve changed. That’s not OK with me anymore. If you are using drugs or alcohol, then you cannot sleep in my house.”
- Finally, use difficult confrontations as reminders to take care of yourself. When your child presses you for money, go treat yourself to a coffee or flowers or new paperback. When yoru son complains that you don’t care if his back aches (which is often a result of opioid abuse), then go get yourself a massage. When your daughter complains that she needs new clothes because left her old clothes at her last crash pad, go put on something warm and cozy.
Tough Love is tough—on them, and on us. Seize your superpower to take care of yourself and give your child a reason to change.
To restore healthy boundaries, check out our “Boundaries Meeting in a Box.”
Most parents with a kid, no matter what age, who struggles with addiction, find themselves constantly investigating, thinking, consulting and planning what to do next. With every relapse or major bump in the road, you stop and take a look at what actions have been taken thus far and what you feel is the next ‘right’ thing to do.
At the beginning of the journey of my teen’s struggle with substance abuse I did not have the resources, so I discussed these things with friends and family. They had not experienced this situation with their own kids, so they had difficulty relating.
Eventually, I had an arsenal of resources: the counselors at the rehabilitation center, Al-Anon Family Support, close friends who also had kids struggling with addiction and various books and articles. I learned that it was important to draw on these resources when decisions needed to be made or when I needed insight to keep perspective on what was happening from time to time.
It is important to build these resources to have on hand. Many times when we are under duress we do not think too clearly. I remember not being at my best when I was upset and full of fear and worry about what might befall my loved one. I often would get stuck and at a loss for what to do. Once I built my support system – going to weekly Al-Anon meetings for parents, reading daily inspiration from others who had struggled through the same path, and various counselors and professionals – I had a way to get the help I needed when I needed it to do the next ‘right’ thing to help my loved one.