Some Hard Truths for Parents of Addicts

I have never been the parent of an addict myself.  I haven’t had to feel the immense and real pain that comes with seeing one of your children struggle in every way because some behavior or substance is controlling them.  I have lived as a family member of someone with addiction and I have talked to and learned from many parents with children in addiction.  I wanted to share some tough truths about this situation in the hopes that they ultimately will help in dealing with the pain and finding peace.

  1. Parents Can Be Enablers – We love our children. We will do anything to remove their pain, to remove the addiction, to smooth the road they are traveling. We would give our own lives in the protection of their own. A father of an addict once related that he used to view his child as standing on railroad tracks with a train barreling toward him.  As his father, he felt it was his duty to knock him out of the way and take the hit himself.  He learned later that it was not the right thing to do.  It would lead to him hurt from the hit and his son on a new set of tracks the next day.Many parents who are trying to help take care of their children by providing them with a source of money or a place to stay end up providing them money for their next fix and a place to use it.  It is a tough position to want to help but know that what you are providing is being used to fuel the addiction.
  1. You Cannot Fix This – Most parents are fixers. A parent has spent the duration of their child’s life providing and helping to fix when there is a problem.  With an addict there is often nothing a parent can do to create a fix.  The addict is the only person who can make the decision to change and follow through with it.  As a parent you may want to forcefully intervene, try to discipline, or try to bribe your child.  It has worked many times, I am sure, but it won’t work with addiction.
  1. Your Addict Is A Liar – Addicts will say whatever they have to in order to hide their addiction and take any action to disguise the problem. They will tell you what they think you want to hear. The truth is that someone in addiction will have no problem lying to stay in their addiction.  Lying to you about it will probably happen.  Don’t take their word alone, but look for the fruits of what they are doing.
  1. Your Addict May Be a Criminal – Illegal behavior is often a side effect of addiction. A side effect of illegal behavior can, and often is, being incarcerated. It does no good to try to blame the police, the lawyer, or the judge.  When an addict breaks the law, they owe a debt to society and they may have to pay it.  As parents we try to teach our children that their actions have consequences and this is a difficult example of it, but it is the truth.
  1. Others May Not Want Them Around – They have probably hurt and wronged many people. As parents you will have unconditional love for your child, but it is not wrong for friends, brothers, sisters, grandparents, or relatives to have their own feelings and pain about the situation. Having a child in your home who is actively engaged in their addiction can be very harmful to the rest of your family. They may get a front row seat to things you don’t want them to have to process and deal with.  They may feel how different their life and home is and they may want it to change, even if it means not having their addicted family member there.
  1. Life Will Not Be The Same – Your life and the life of your child will not be the same again. This doesn’t have to mean that it won’t one day be fantastic, but right now you should accept that it is different and that it is going to be harder.  Making this realization can help in understanding the sacrifices that you may need to make in order to pick up the pieces in your own life.

These are some tough things to swallow, but they are unfortunately all too common.  Please know that you will need help with your child and you will need help for yourself as well.  As much as you know them and love them, you are not the person who is going to be able to help them.  Seek out help for them and do anything you can to help them make the decision to accept professional help.  Never give up if they constantly turn help away, you never know when they might have a change of heart and be able to accept help.  Even if they don’t, you can find professionals to help you and the rest of your family in dealing with the pain and challenge of having a loved one with an addiction.

My heart goes out to you and I sincerely hope that you are not braving the storm on your own.  Help is out there if you seek it.

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