Woman crying into tissue

Internationally recognized author Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health

As a recovering addict and drug and alcohol counselor, it’s been an honour to work closely with the addicted population. It is immensely rewarding to watch people who have given up on life, recover hope and make life-saving changes in a very short period of time. As the addicted person becomes well, it’s important to look at their family history. Returning to a safe, support environment is crucial when recovering from addiction.

Because addiction is a family disease, everyone will need help. Family programs are available in some treatment centers. Facts suggest when addicted individuals families are educated and in recovery too, their chance of success is greater.

Every week a new group of family members will enter treatment to attend supportive, informative, educational programs. All though their faces change, their stories are similar. Some attending are spouses and siblings. A few are Dads. But for the most part the common thread in families struggling with addiction, is Mom.

Mom you made the calls to rehab.

Mom you cleaned up the mess.

Mom you paid the bills.

Mom you kept secrets.

Mom you protected them.

Mom you put your life on hold.

Mom you tried so hard to be good. Now it’s time to stop beating yourself up.

Mom, you did not fail.

One day in group a Mom got real and gave voice to her pain. Her son’s addiction had taken a huge toll on her. She was exhausted. Mom had tried everything she could think of to put her son back together. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get him clean and sober. She stated when her son was small she had been able to fix his scraped knee with a Band-Aid and kiss. She had helped him with his homework. She could fix a hungry stomach or soothe a feverish brow. She had changed his diapers and wiped his runny nose. But fixing his addiction was beyond her capability. Mom threw up her hands in group and cried. “I have failed my son.” There was a moment of silence after her declaration and then heads began to nod. Mothers around the room agreed. Logical or not, these woman felt like they had failed as Moms.

It doesn’t matter who Mom is, she will struggle with guilt. Mom wonders; was her child’s addiction her fault?

Mom you ask;

What did I do wrong?

Didn’t I do enough?

Did I do too much?

The answer is simple.

Mom, you did not fail.

As a Mom your head and your heart are constantly playing tug-of-war. What you’re seeing and what you’re hearing don’t add up. You want to believe your child, but your instincts are telling you different. To make matters worse, when you confront your child, they only get mad at you and shut you out of their life. To stay close you give in to their demands and say yes, when no is the right answer.

After time you realize that helping them, isn’t helping. You acknowledge feelings of guilt and shame. You realize in hindsight the guilt you carried, not being able to fix your child, led you to do too much for them. Which in turn only enabled their addiction.

Mom you did the best you could considering you didn’t have all the facts. When someone struggles with addiction they don’t tell you the truth. They tell you what you want to hear. You can’t make informative choices when you don’t know what’s going on.

Mom, you did not fail.

It’s natural to want to trust your child. Your nature is to nurture and take care of them. If only love could fix this. But it cannot. A hug will not make this go away. Addiction is an ugly disease. It is manipulative, dishonest and delusional. To help your child you will require a support system and strong boundaries.

At first, setting healthy boundaries will feel wrong, cruel and unloving. Saying no and setting boundaries allows your child to experience the consequences of their actions. It’s these consequences that will motivate them to choose recovery. However, by doing the right thing for them, don’t expect a thank you. Most addicted persons will not appreciate you saying no. They may even become verbally abusive and revert to emotional extortion.

You may hear things like; you’re a terrible Mom. An uncaring Mom. A selfish Mom. As you hold your boundaries their behavior may continue to escalate. Addicted persons behave badly because it works. Stay the course. Talk with your support circle. You will feel guilty. You will second guess yourself. Your head will tell you, you’re the worst Mom ever. But you’re not. You’re a loving Mom doing a hard thing – the right thing.

Mom, you did not fail.

Addiction is a progressive illness. It gets worse, not better, over time. Just like cancer, its best treated when caught in the beginning stages. Early intervention is key. Please know you didn’t cause their illness. You can’t cure it and you can’t control it. But you can influence the outcome. Someone has to make the hard choices. Don’t wait for the impaired thinker to do it. Identify what role you play. Reach outside your family circle for help. Involve professionals. It’s important you learn how to love them, without enabling their illness. Lead by example. If they refuse help, start with you. Be prepared to do the things, you wish they would do. There is hope. Addiction is a very treatable illness. To start your new life, call the number below.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1888-614-2379.



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