Hope for parents of drug addicts.
As a man who has lived on both sides of the fence when it comes to addicts and parents of addicts, I can easily say that being the parent is, by far, the most painful of the two. As an addict, I shielded myself from my pain through self-medication while my parents experienced the agony on a daily basis. Today. as a man whose karma has come full circle, I know that pain that a parent feels because I’ve felt it for over 20 years with my own children.
The sleepless nights, the terror of wondering if it’s going to be that dreaded call each time the phone rings, or the helpless fear of knowing that my child is spending 24/7 in harms way while not knowing where they are or who they’re with. All while being bombarded with updates from the media of more young people dying every day.
I woke up one day and realized I was addicted to a toxic relationship with my kids.
It took me years to recognize that, although I had overcome my own struggles with drugs, alcohol, and gambling, I was facing yet another manifestation of my addiction with the belief that I could somehow alter the course of my child’s personal journey. It wasn’t until I recognized that same sense of defeat that I decided to address it with the same fervor I used in my previous struggles with addiction.
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a fucking duck.
Those same feelings of anger, fear, resentment, guilt, and more were rearing their ugly heads again and I felt powerless. My intimate relationship with addiction has brought me to a deep understanding of how cunning it can be and the many faces it wears.
Addiction has been described in many different ways where each person puts their unique spin on it based on their personal experience. I’ve learned to keep it simple so I can easily recognize it when it shows up in my life wearing a new mask.
Any time I’m relying on something outside of myself for my peace of mind, I’m setting myself up for eventual disappointment and pain. If I continue with that behavior despite the pain…I’M ADDICTED.
Here are 3 of my personal truths that helped me to overcome my addictions to my children.
1. My “child” is no longer a child. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents say, “I just want my baby back” while referring to their 30 year old son or daughter. I remember all the times I looked into the eyes of my addicted daughter with anger, resentment, and fear. All I could see was that beautiful 14 year old in her cheerleader outfit and this person standing in front of me was trying to take that away. Confusing a beautiful memory from present reality caused that memory to be tarnished and prevented me from learning how to love my daughter in the way that she needed to be loved as an adult addict.
This new way of love required me to hand the baton of personal responsibility over to my adult daughter and allow her the freedom to feel the cause and effect of her actions so she could continue to grow. The same way I took the training wheels off her bike many years ago, I must now allow her to feel her pain when she falls.
2. The drug is not the enemy. I read a letter on facebook recently that was signed Yours Truly, Opioid. First of all I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the author’s name but, someone trying to animate an inanimate substance. I’ve seen many other examples of people directing their anger at the drug rather than focusing on the addict.
I’m not claiming to be wicked smaat but, I’m pretty certain that a pile of powder doesn’t really give a shit whether you pick it up and shoot it into your body or not. It’s the person in deep pain who is making that choice. If you take away all the heroin on the planet they will find another drug to fill the void. Fruitless attempts to cut off the addict’s accessibility to the one thing that’s relieving their pain will only widen the gap between you and your loved one. It requires patience and deep listening to uncover the source of that pain before you can help guide them out of it. This usually requires professional help but it starts with unconditional love.
3. If you’re suffering, it’s from your addiction not your child’s. Most parents will spend years, suffering before they come to this realization. Continuing with a behavior that causes us harm is the very definition of addiction. Relying on an outside force for our happiness is insane regardless of whether that outside force spawned from a poppy seed or our own seed. You have ZERO control over your child’s choices. You can, however, influence them by being the change you wish to see in them. It doesn’t matter how old they are, they’re still watching what you do before listening to what you say. Get help for your addiction before you tell them to get help for theirs.
As a man who spent his entire life substituting one addiction for another and over 20 years in various stages of recovery I’d love to tell you I’ve overcome addiction but I can’t. I see it as a human condition which will always be my dance partner.
My role is to always lead the dance, not follow.
I’m happy to say that drugs, alcohol, and many harmful behaviors are no longer part of my journey but, I still find myself with new challenges like sugar, work, time, and things in my environment. I like to say that my addictions used to be felonies and, thanks to recovery, they’re now misdemeanors. Today I’m grateful that my personal journey with addiction has led me to a place where I can now see it when it shows up and use the tools I learned in recovery to address it.