I don’t know what it is like to be a parent. The closest thing I have come to raising anything or anyone is having two younger siblings and a dog these past three years. I can get an idea of the immense amount of love a parent has for a kid, but I am sure that it doesn’t quite compare. Regardless of all that though I do have some words of wisdom or advice for parents when it comes to their kids being addicts. And I feel I can give this information because I am an addict myself. This is something that I have said to my parents many times, this is what my parents did and DIDN’T do for me, and what works and what doesn’t.
First. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
Underneath all that anger, sadness, frustration and confusion we are aware that you think you caused this. And even if you know you didn’t cause this you wonder what you could of done different to help us avoid this kind of pain and destruction in our lives. All you want for us is to be happy and we aren’t. You’re lost, confused, angry, frustrated, and maybe in some ways feel guilty. I am here to tell you, whether or not your child has figured it out yet, that an addiction has nothing to do with you and what you did or didn’t do while raising us.
Our addiction and/or alcoholism is our own. We must own it. You didn’t cause it. But guess what that means you also can’t cure it. You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, the only thing you can TRY to do is learn to accept it. Then take the next steps to first, take care of your self, and then take care of us. Either way though I felt it was important for you as parents to know that this is not your fault.
DO WHAT FEELS RIGHT IN YOUR HEART AND SOUL, YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO FOLLOW THE BOOK.
There is a lot of advice out there that tells you how to handle the addict in your life. Some are strictly tough love, some are close to or are enabling tactics. Whatever the suggestions are, I say this instead, do what feels right in your heart. You know when you are doing something for your child that probably isn’t helping them in the long run and you know when tough love is too much.
A perfect example of this came when my parents were told that to leave me alone until I was ready to get clean. They didn’t wait around even though that’s what the book and addiction experts said. They went with their heart, had me involuntarily committed and actually ended up saving my life.
There are some basic guidelines that tell you how to handle addicts and alcoholics but in any given situation there are exceptions to these guidelines if you will and if it feels right—if you are compelled to go against that advice then I say do it. You are parents, you know. Just make sure that you recognize what enabling behaviors are and when tough love is too tough. Get knowledgeable about your child’s condition, what to expect, and how to keep yourself well. If you are well you will be better equipped to do what is right.
Parents Of Addicts – DON’T ENABLE, DON’T BE TOO TOUGH
Enabling means you are doing things for your child that they could or should be doing for themselves. Imagine if your child didn’t have an addiction, what things are things you would expect them to be taking care of on their own? Those are things you don’t need to do for them. Doing those things for them is enabling.
As for tough love? Is your child showing signs of doing the right thing and yet you are still leaving them out to dry? Find a nice balance of not enabling but also being helpful and supportive where you can. Figure out what your boundaries are and stick with those. This is unique to each situation and to your child. The main thing is not to be fooled into thinking that your child needs the help when they actually don’t. That is the right kind of tough love. But if your child is FOR REAL putting in the work to get sober—it is okay to soften a touch. In my opinion.
THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO DO THIS AND IT REALLY ISN’T UP TO YOU ANYWAYS
Just like we said you causing the addiction is false. The same goes for you causing recovery. You had nothing to do with the addiction and you will have little to nothing to do with the recovery. An addict’s recovery has little to do with outside circumstances and everything to do with them being ready to receive it. It doesn’t matter if you enable or are as straight as an arrow—if the addict in your life isn’t ready to get sober than they won’t get sober. This is an inner journey for your child. If they want it bad enough, regardless of what you do, they will achieve it.
I hope this helped even a little. To all the parents out there: thank you for your undying and unconditional love that you show to us, even when all we are doing is hurting you. You have no idea how much you standing next to us, behind us, up for us and never giving up for us has made a difference in our lives. Without you, without your love we would not be the people we are today. While we may not have seen it in our active addiction you are, are biggest role models, and our most massive supports.
Thank you, we love you.