As a parent, you’ve done everything for your child: Wiped runny noses, cleaned up vomit from the carpet, changed many, many dirty diapers, washed soiled clothes, and stayed up all night to comfort them after bad dreams. There probably isn’t much you haven’t done for your child throughout the course of his or her life. You’ve also given your child a loving home, the best education and life opportunities possible: paid for ballet shoes, soccer practice, piano lessons, math tutoring. You’ve always wanted to give him or her all the love and support possible. But drug and alcohol addictions don’t discriminate. No matter background, upbringing economic status, race, religion – anything – anyone and everyone can be susceptible to addiction. So when a parent discovers that his or her adult child is actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, the first questions our treatment specialists often hear, “What did I do to cause this?” and “How can I stop it?”
“What Did I Do To Cause This Addiction?”
Last night I was in the grocery store when a young toddler in my aisle had an absolute meltdown. His bright red face and streaming tears were coupled with shouts that could be heard across the entire store. Eyes peered from around the corner – other parents looking to see what parent would let their child act that way in public. I could see the toddler’s mother’s face turn almost as red as her son’s. I felt embarrassed for her – not because of the child’s tantrum, but because of the judgment of other parents. We live in a society where we are quick to judge parents for the actions of their children – regardless of their age, and especially when those actions involve substances. Even though you may feel the judgment of other people – especially other parents, addiction isn’t anyone’s fault. No more than cancer, multiple sclerosis, or childhood diabetes. You didn’t say something that made him become addicted to Xanax, or do something for her to start drinking alcoholically, shooting heroin or smoking meth. You didn’t “ruin” your son or daughter. You didn’t cause the addiction. If you are feeling any guilt about the type of environment you may have provided growing up, or any access he or she may have had alcohol or drugs growing up – know that you can’t “re-parent” your way out of guilt. Know that anything productive that can be done to help the situation won’t stem from dwelling on the past. If you truly feel you have a part in your son or daughter’s addiction, you must also hold him or her accountable for ongoing decisions to continue to choose drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
“How Can I Stop The Addiction?”
As a mom or dad, it’s always been your job to help your son or daughter. You’ve always been on the front lines of any problem, helping them navigate through it. You love your son or daughter – and when they’re in need, you’ll do anything to remove their pain. The problem with substance addiction is that until they are treated, they’ll always be in pain and need. One of the key components of addiction that makes it different from other chronic and debilitating diseases is that behavioral patterns like lying, cheating, manipulating and denial – are symptoms of addiction. People with drug or alcohol addictions aren’t immoral because they behave this way, it’s simply part of the disease of addiction. Not because you raised them to steal, lie and manipulate. You raised your child the best way you knew how to do so. If he or she is lying or stealing or breaking the laws in order to feed his or her addiction – it’s because of the decisions they’ve made to continue down the path of addiction. If your adult child is in active addiction, the only thing you can do is provide them the opportunities to make different decisions. For you, that may mean contacting an addiction treatment center to prepare the path once your son or daughter comes to you for help. It may also mean calling the police if he breaks into your home or steals your jewelry. The ongoing stance to provide your son or daughter opportunities to seek a better life may be one of the most difficult things you have to do. That’s why, at times, sponsors, therapists, police or probation officers, counselors, treatment specialists or others in recovery may do a better job of showing your child the path to better choices and decisions. No one loves your child the way that you do – which is why it is so difficult for you to do what they need when they need it. As a parent, you are allowed to hate the addiction. You can hate the drug. You can hate all the things that your child does: Lying, stealing, using. You can hate the disease, but still love your child by separating the two. Your child is not defined by the addiction. As a parent, you didn’t cause the addiction – and you can’t stop it on your own. Taking the steps to get yourself help, and learning how to provide the opportunities to make better decisions are the best ways to be there for you child.