10 Truths for the Parent of an Addict Child
You may find yourself reading here today because you are just at the start of that roller coaster ride, or maybe you are already deep into it, looking for answers. I don’t have the answers. But after all of it, I have learned a few hard lessons. From these lessons, I have compiled a list of truths. I wish I had read this list a few years back and taken it to heart. Maybe things could have turned out differently.
1.Your actions and parenting are not what caused your child to become an addict. Perhaps there are things that you would do differently if you had it to do over. But keep in mind, at the time you made what you thought were the right decisions. Don’t waste your energy and affect your own morale by going over and over the past and endlessly second-guessing yourself.
2.You can’t fix your child’s addiction. Only your child can find the answers to their sobriety. You may provide your child with self-help books, spend every dime you have sending them to rehab, find support groups for them within your community or much more. But none of that will get them clean and sober and on the path to recovery, until they have hit their own personal rock bottom and are ready to recover.
3.What you believe your child’s rock bottom to be and what they believe their rock bottom to be can be very different. For you, their dropping out of school or college may seem a tragedy. For them, especially when they are actively using, it may be but a blip on the radar. For you, one trip to the hospital due to an OD may seem a nightmare that you never want to endure again. For them, it may take even more severe consequences for them to reach bottom.
4.Telling a child that “if they loved you” they would get clean and sober “for you” will never, ever work. It’s not that they don’t love you, it’s that they are an addict.
5.And along those lines, don’t for a moment believe that your child, who surely does love you, is not capable of lying to you, stealing from you and more when in the grips of their addiction.
6.Bailing your child out of trouble caused by their addiction is not protecting them. It is enabling them to continue their addiction without consequences. Facing consequences for their addictive behavior early in their addictive behavior, for example, the loss of a job, an eviction, or a bad credit score, could be an effective lesson for them, and help them face that they have a problem. Yes, they eventually will have a mess to clean up. Let them learn that.
7.Bailing your child out of jail if they should be arrested is not always the right thing to do, even if every fiber of your being is in torment at the thought of them being incarcerated. Chances are very strong they will survive the experience, even if you leave them there for quite a long time, and the reality of spending days or even weeks in jail may be just the hard slap they need. Likewise, hiring expensive lawyers may or may not minimize the impact of criminal charges but it will not increase your child’s likelihood of recovering from their addiction.
8.Telling your child you love them unconditionally is always right. Telling them you don’t like and won’t condone or support their behavior when they are actively using is also right. Addicts can be more manipulative and cunning in their drug seeking behavior than you would like to believe your child capable of. It’s OK and appropriate to tell your child that they cannot use your car, take your money, or jeopardize your home, health, or well being in any way. You may even reach a point when you need to tell your addict child they are not allowed or welcome in your home any longer. Protect yourself, your health, your finances, and your assets.
9.Loving your child isn’t always enough. Your addict child will hurt themselves, harm themselves, and cause themselves more pain that you can imagine, and all the love you have for them can’t prevent it or stop it. They may lose friendships and relationships with other family members and with you and alienate everybody. They may lose everything they have and cause irreparable havoc from their drug use. You will still love them, even when they are at their worst. In their own guilt and shame they may have a hard time believing that you love them and they may push you away. Always let them know you believe they have the ability to recover.
10.There is always hope. In your child’s darkest hour, they may find what they need. Never give up on your child.