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.
There are so many times in the day that we get the opportunity to make choices. Do I stay in my warm cozy bed early in the morning or get up to get in a work out? Do I choose the salad and soup or the less healthy hamburger and fries? The list goes on and on. These are examples that while important are certainly not done with serious angst and personal sacrifice. Yet when it comes to relationships and how we deal with conflict or controversy it can be quite stressful. We can choose character building actions that entail facing the issues that are plaguing us or we can choose the comfortable way which would be to ignore or delay a conversation. When I heard this stated as choosing character versus comfort it truly made me stop and think about when I choose comfort over character building.
With our loved ones in addiction it seems we encounter many opportunities to choose character building versus comfort. Early in the journey before I understood about the impact of enabling my daughter I made many decisions to avoid the conflict which made things more comfortable. But when you compound these types of decisions you put yourself in a compromising position to be set up for failure. For example, when my daughter would call me asking for money I had the choice to give it to her and avoid the fight, which was more comfortable, or tell her no and set boundaries. Saying no and setting boundaries is when I began to build character of strength, determination and resolve. Strength because I knew in my heart that she would not use the money for healthy choices, determination because I had to set the precedent that I was not the bank, and resolve because I had to put a stop to the endless struggle of enabling her addiction. In every case that I choose ‘character building’ it not only was the right choice for the moment but also for the long run. When I choose ‘comfort’ it just delayed the inevitable and put off the real work that needed to be done. I am determined to keep focused on character building versus comfort which will help me and those I love.
It seems that as the time goes on I am making progress on with my recovery as a co-dependent. But, yet, I get frustrated that I can’t ‘get it’ right all the time. It’s an interesting paradox to immerse yourself into learning about co-dependency, what it is, how it is negative to yourself and others, how to change these behaviors. Then you have ‘book smarts’ about it, just like any other topic or subject you decide to become proficient about. So, why can’t I turn this information from intellectual understanding to daily behavior? It occurred to me that if I thought about a sports analogy then maybe I could make a parallel that would help me be a little easier on myself.
For instance, if I bought a book on water skiing and read it and studied it and even bought videos on instruction and technique, should I expect to go out on the water and be proficient at water skiing the first, second, third and so on tries at it? Of course we would never expect this. So, why do I think I can read about a behavior and think that I can take this intellectual understanding and instantly turn it into practice in my day to day life? What I’ve found is that with every opportunity to practice, I become a little more proficient. I’ve even found when those opportunities do not come for a bit, that I also become a bit rusty. It is progress, not perfection that I strive for. As long as I am making progress I am heading in the right direction on this journey.
Many of my posts focus on the aftermath of addiction, chronicling the devastation that is inevitable due to severe drug and alcohol abuse. Today I am focusing on the hope for this generation of teenagers. While at my morning workout there was a conversation among the wonderful women in the group. The conversation was about ‘pre-testing’. ‘Hmmmm… ,’ I thought,’ I need to listen to this…’ The Mom’s in the group were talking about how they drug test their teens in order to keep them accountable and give them a reason to tell their friends they can’t try drugs and alcohol. ‘My parents drug test me and I’ll get grounded or in trouble’. This was music to my ears, a full symphony no less!
One of the ways we can help our teens is to do this act of love. While I am an activist for prevention of teen drug and alcohol addiction and I often talk about the effectiveness of randomly drug testing your kids, it isn’t always clear what parents think of this. It was truly a joy to hear the positive conversation about parent’s drug testing and telling other parents why they do it and having such a constructive conversation amongst the group. The thought of drug testing my kids never even entered my mind when they were in high school. Even when the trouble started with my daughter I didn’t consider drug testing. Thinking back now I realize it could have done several things. It would have forced me to see clearly what was going on – I was in denial and that is a dangerous place to be. It would have validated the seriousness of the drug abuse that was taking place. I would have no longer been able to hope it was nothing serious, I would have known it was very serious. All of this is hind sight, I realize, but worth sharing for others to gain insight. I applaud parents willing to drug test their teens – it is a very loving act that can possibly be the difference between a sober teen or a teen traveling down a road that can lead to eventual addiction.