Often we are faced with decisions that we need to make on whether we will help our loved one in addiction. When we first start dealing with the wreckage of a loved one’s addiction we are often uninformed and ill equipped about what to do, I know I was. It seemed whatever I did just made things worse and I became more resentful. For example many addicts go from rehab to a sober living house. Although many times there is an agreement that if they relapse they need to figure out where they will go and not give them an option to come home. Yet when the dreaded relapse occurs, we are faced with this heart wrenching decision – do we leave them out in the cold or take them in?
I’m not for one decision or the other – both have consequences which can be very unpleasant or it could have a good outcome. In my experience we did what we felt in our heart when faced with difficult decisions. And sometimes the outcome was not good for my daughter and actually enabled her to keep going down a dark road. The bottom line is that there is no ‘right’ answer. Many people will have opinions on what to do – very strong opinions. But in the end it’s your child and you have to make the decision that is best for you and your situation. We need to look at each decision and think about whether it will help or whether it will hinder the health and well-being of the people involved. With each decision and outcome we learn, we adjust, and keep moving forward. Each family has to work together and make the next ‘right’ decision for their circumstance.
Quick–take this quiz! Your two boys are young adults, one with a solid recovery under his belt (still an addict, always an addict, albeit an addict in recovery); and one a “Normie” who has never struggled with the disease of addiction. They both have an urgent need to get their cars repaired so they can drive to work, and they are both strapped for cash. You decide to:
A) Lend both of them money.
B) Don’t lend money to either one.
C) Lend money to one and not to the other.
If you answered “C” you’ve just encountered a dilemma often faced by parents of chemically-dependent kids. When stuff like this happens, questions race through my Rubik’s Cube of a brain: if I help my addict child, am I enabling? If I don’t help my addict child, does it convey my lack of confidence and trust? Or if I help my addict child, am I telegraphing to him/her that he/she is incompetent and needs my assistance? If I help my non-addict child, am I sending the same message? Would I assist my addict child if he or she were a Normie?
The bottom line is that when your child is an addict, the rules of the game change. I can’t causally slip him $20 as a gift without wondering how it will be spent, which really isn’t any of my business, and I can’t control his spending, but still….The Pandora’s box of suspicion and innuendo is ever-present: “You aren’t lending me the money because you think I’ll blow it on drugs?” “No, I’m not lending you the money because I need it for groceries.””But you lent my brother money!” ”Yes, I had spare cash to lend at that time but I don’t today!”
It’s never easy, and it’s seldom clear, which brings me to some lessons I continue to work on: setting boundaries, trusting my gut, and trusting my chemically-dependent child.