Whose Addiction Am I Dealing With?
As an adult child of addiction, an addict and a parent of an addict, I can easily say that being the parent is by far, the most painful. 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 the 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 constant updates from the media of another child dying from an overdose. Having the benefit of years of my own recovery, I realized addiction was knocking at my door once again in a new disguise.
I 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 own addiction and a new form of denial. This time it came with a 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 recognized it for what it was…
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a f**king 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 masks 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 disguise.
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 help me in dealing with 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 set my own personal boundaries while handing the baton of personal responsibility over to my adult daughter. By not allowing her the freedom to feel the cause and effect of her actions I was standing in the way of her growth. 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 a while ago 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. This reminded me of the times that my own anger and frustration led me to blame anything and anyone I could. I realized that this was one of the stages of grief and I was grieving the loss of my healthy, happy child.
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 I’m the one suffering, chances are, it’s my own addiction I’m suffering from. Despite spending years on my own recovery journey, addiction continues to show up in many different disguises. I must always remember that continuing with a behavior that’s causing me recurring pain is the very definition of addiction. Relying on an outside force for my happiness is insane regardless of whether that outside force spawned from a poppy seed or my own seed. I must always remind myself that I am powerless over my child’s choices and that I can only influence them by being the change I wish to see in them. It doesn’t matter how old they are, they’re still watching what I do before listening to what I say. Getting help for my addiction and showing them what’s possible for them is the best chance I have of helping them.
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 especially co-dependence. Despite the intense fear I feel every day for my children’s safety, I’m grateful that my personal journey with addiction has led me to a place where I can now see it for what it is and use the recovery tools available to me.
My hope is that this message might be heard by parents who are suffering without the benefit of their own recovery. It’s so important to recognize that the pain you are feeling is your own and you have the power to alleviate it by seeking help.
Love and gratitude,