Denial not only affects the person with the addiction problem, it also affects those around them and, especially the addict’s parents. Even when the signs become impossible to ignore, no parent wants to admit that their child is an addict. The sooner you are willing to see what’s really going on, though, the sooner you can learn ways to cope. Here are 4 hard truths only parents of addicts understand.
#1. Parents Are Enablers
As parents, you only want what’s best for your children. And all through raising them, you were their #1 fan, cheerleader, and advocate – no doubt. But, although they’re still your children, they are also addicts. This is a game-changer. You don’t want to see your child struggling to eat or afford other basic needs but, by giving them money or allowing them to live with you, you are their enabler. What this means is that you will only prolong their drug use. They may never want to get clean but, as long as you’re footing their bills, they certainly have no motivation to even consider that their life has become unmanageable and perhaps might want to do something about it. Think of it like this, when you enable your addicted child, you are actually loving them to death. This sounds harsh but, it’s true. By feeding their habit, directly or indirectly, you enable them to continue using and, with every use there is risk.
#2. Parents Can’t “Fix” Their Children
Yes, treatment can be effective but there is no “cure” for addiction. You can send them to rehab but, unless they are willing to change, treatment might not “work” the first, second, eighth time around. This can certainly be frustrating, expensive, and crushing for a parent to deal with. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but, addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disease. That means that your child might do well for a time and then might backslide. They might bounce right back or they might stay “out” for several years before trying to get clean again. There’s no guarantee for treatment and recovery.
#3. Your Child is a Liar and Maybe Even a Criminal
Another hard truth about being the parent of an addict is that your child is definitely a liar and even possibly a criminal. It doesn’t matter that you “raised ‘em right.” The bottom line is that drug addiction is a desperate and ugly disease that will have us do whatever it takes to support our habit. I come from a two-parent, middle-class household and I graduated college with two degrees. In the height of my active addiction, I had committed not only misdemeanors but also felony offenses. It certainly didn’t feel good doing those things but, I was so very desperate that I felt I had no other choice.
#4. You’re Dealing with Both a Child and an Adult
Although adults, your addicts are likely to think and act like children a lot of the time. It is said that drug use arrests the emotional maturity level of the addict at the age they began their drug use. So, for example, your addicted son or daughter might be 25 years old but, they started using drugs at 14 years old so, in many ways, they still think and act like that 14-year-old. This can be a very difficult concept to understand. Our world recognizes chronological age, not maturity level and, as the parent, you have to be able to do that, too. An addict can only operate in the “here and now” with no real reflection on the past nor any goals or dreams for the future. As the parent of an addict, you have to be able to see things in this way, too.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.