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.
This is a guest post from Cathy Taughinbaugh of cathytaughinbaugh.com.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Gandhi
Has your child put you through the heartache and emotional exhaustion of their addiction? Do you find it difficult to forgive them?
We live in anguish wondering how far down our addicted child will go before they realize the life consequences of their addiction. This may affect your life and the lives of other family members in many ways. Sleepless nights, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, broken promises and commitments left unfulfilled are just some of the things we may have may experienced as we deal with our addicted child.
After a period of time, forgiveness may be something we consider, but may be difficult to really feel and carry out. We are burdened down by the addiction and what it has done to our lives.
Is there a payoff for not forgiving? One payoff may be that we can continue to feel miserable and blame our misery on our addicted child. That allows us to continue to blame others for our unhappiness and not take responsibility for our own lives. But we can learn to forgive. One way is through compassion.
Step 9 States: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
When we forgive we give the other person room to make amends and it allows us to let go of past wrongs that we feel were done to us. We may make amends to others that we have wronged, and equally important is to make amends to ourselves.
Sometimes we blame ourselves or our life circumstances for the addiction of our children.
As parents, we may look back on our parenting years, and ask ourselves, what did I do to cause this addiction? We can be filled with regret, and relive what we could have done differently. We hear that we didn’t cause the addiction, can’t control it and can’t cure it, but we may not quite believe these words because we can’t quite forgive ourselves.
When we realize our children are addicts, many parents blame themselves, and yet as time goes on regardless of the outcome, it is important to forgive not only our addicted child for the pain they have caused us, but ourselves as well for our part in the addiction.
A 2006 study from A Campaign for Forgiveness Research “shows that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. The first study to look at how forgiveness improves physical health discovered that when people think about forgiving an offender, it leads to improved functioning in their cardiovascular and nervous systems.
Another study at the University of Wisconsin found the more forgiving people were, the less they suffered from a wide range of illnesses. The less forgiving people reported a greater number of health problems.”
The research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University found that people who are taught how to forgive become less angry, feel less hurt, are more optimistic, become more forgiving in a variety of situations, and become more compassionate and self-confident. His studies show a reduction in experience of stress, physical manifestations of stress, and an increase in vitality.
We would all agree, I believe that forgiveness is included in most religions. In Buddhism, forgiveness is seen as a practice to prevent harmful thoughts from causing havoc on one’s mental well-being. Buddhism recognizes that feelings of hatred and ill-will leave a lasting effect on our mind karma.
Alcoholics and addicts feel guilt, shame, remorse and self-loathing. Knowing that they are forgiven is another step on their journey to sobriety.
Here are some additional reasons to forgive our children and ourselves.
1. Forgiveness does not mean that you condone the action.
2. Forgiveness means regaining a sense of wholeness and peace.
3. To withhold Forgiveness, means you remain the victim.
4. When you Forgive, you do it for yourself, not for the other person.
5. Forgiveness means focusing your energy on the healing, not the hurtful action.
6. Compassion leads us to Forgiveness.
7. Healthy relationships need Forgiveness.
8. To be present and available, you need to heal the hurt from the past, and Forgive.
9. Forgiveness allows you to move on with your life.
10. Forgiveness lifts anxiety and depression.
11. Forgiveness means restoring yourself to basic goodness and health.
12. Forgiveness can enhance your self-esteem and give you hope.
13. Forgiveness allows us to restore faith in yourself.
14. Forgiveness is a journey and does mean that you will forget, but you can still forgive.
15. Forgiveness means we give up resentment, revenge and obsession.
16. Forgiveness allows us the freedom to begin many new and healthy life choices.
17. Forgiveness allows us to let go of the past hurts, as well as confusion.
18. Forgiveness does not mean you must continue a relationship with someone causing you harm.
19. Forgiveness allows us to let go and detach with love.
20. Forgiveness keeps ourselves in the flow of good.
21. No one benefits more from Forgiveness that the one who Forgives.
22. Forgiveness is the key to our happiness.
23. Forgiveness helps us make peace with the past.
24. Forgiveness helps us create a new future.
25. Forgiveness is a gift that one gives another.
26. Forgiveness helps us on our path to serenity.
“…ultimately, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Bitterness and anger imprison you emotionally. Forgiveness sets you free”~ Victor Parachin
Cathy Taughinbaugh is the mother of a former crystal meth addict who has been in recovery for over 6 years. She writes on addiction, recovery and treatment at cathytaughinbaugh.com. You can also follow her on Facebook at Treatment Talk and twitter @treatmenttalk.
The Shatterproof Challenge is headed to San Jose on December 2. Shatterproof is dedicated to raising awareness and funding to advance the mission of protecting our children from addiction and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected by this disease.
What’s the Shatterproof Challenge? Check it out! (Hint: if you are afraid of heights, be sure you are sitting down). The cause is great, and limited spaces to participate are still available. For more information about the event, visit www.shatterproofchallenge.org
This is a guest post from Will Wooton, Director of Pacific Treatment Services
Most people believe that recognizing a drug problem in an adolescent during times of crisis (arrests, problems at school, defiant behavior at home, even overdose) may appear to be easy. Television dramas and reality shows make it seem ever more commonplace.
However, every day we are dealing with families that, even though they are in the midst of crisis, fail to see these behaviors and warning signs for what they are. Denial, this hugely destructive force, can hamper effective treatment at any point in the process. The denial of a parent, for teens that need help, can be the deciding factor for long term success or failure.
In the early stages of treatment (and before seeking help), it is most common to have parents wanting to believe that their child is going through a phase. They desperately want to believe their family can return to normal after some short-lived consequences. Or, that this is no different than their use as a teen and their child will “get over it.” This is a normal desire which comes from a defensive drive that has helped humans deal with extreme stress and trauma that otherwise might be debilitating. The denial reflexive defense helps give the mind the time needed to absorb a traumatic event or help cope with prolonged stress. It does serve a purpose and in some cases can be helpful in the short term.
However, in the case of adolescent substance abuse, early intervention is always better. Waiting until the crisis is so bad that it is undeniable can have catastrophic consequences, reinforcing to the teen that their behavior is “OK” often is easily implied by waiting to act. Commitment to early change is essential; the sooner a pro-active stance is taken, the sooner help is sought out, and the sooner the change can begin.
Once the initial process of change has started, and the teen is no longer using and the crisis has died down, is where it really gets tricky. This is where TV reality shows and dramas fall short of the mark. It’s easy to portray an intervention or a crisis. It makes great, entertaining, and sometimes educational television or movies. But the smoke has cleared and there are no more signs of trouble. Lulled into a false sense of confidence, many parents begin to let go of the structure and honesty that helped put out the fire in the first place.
The most common mistake we see is this lack of follow through. Much like any other disease, a lack of symptoms is not equal to a cure. The attitudes and beliefs that lead teens to use drugs and alcohol are pervasive.
In order for a family to recover, a new way of thinking and interacting must be adopted. Parenting teens with substance abuse issues is different from parenting normal teens. Seeking help from professionals and peers who understand this process is essential. They will provide not only support and education, but also a mirror.
Denial can only be addressed with a clear, honest picture of what is actually happening. The traumatic events that lead a family to help are easily forgotten or minimized in a short time. What do a few good weeks matter with a year or two of drug use and defiant behavior?
The process of recovery, for a whole family, is a long road. It is a lifestyle change. Support and honest feedback for parents is as essential as it is for the adolescent. Too often we work with families who see some positive changes and want to believe that everything will be OK from there. Unfortunately that can result in massive backsliding. Stay realistic, stay vigilant, and keep honest and knowledgeable people involved.