Moms and Dads tend to deal with a child’s chemical dependency in different ways. Dads often want to fix the problem, dammit, to make the kid better, to solve all the problems he or she created along the way. For fixers, all this hard work gives rise to some serious resentment and tests even the best anger management skills. In contrast, Moms want to soothe the hurt, protect the baby, kiss the booboo away, even if that requires them to bear their pain. For us enablers, speed dialing grief counselors or Jack Kevorkian can be the order of the day.
This disconnect in parenting styles didn’t arise with addiction or alcoholism. It probably lay dormant all along, but a child’s chemical dependency throws kerosene on the flames of parental disconnect and discontent. Mars to Venus, we’ve got a problem, illuminated by the flame-out of our struggling children.
In order for the family to get healthy, it is essential to “circle” the wagons, which requires all parties to agree to take the same approach towards chemical dependency. It requires a common understanding of the disease of addiction and a shared commitment to not enabling, not fixing….simply getting out of the way of our children as they try to right their own ships. It requires us to talk with our spouses/partners when we would rather retreat or cast blame or yell or cry. Being the parent of an addict is not for sissies, but it give us a chance to hone our resiliency, character, and commitment, which are silver linings in an otherwise dark cloud.