One of the toughest things about being a parent to an addict and alcoholic is knowing when and how to let go. Parents may know intellectually that they cannot “save” their child or love them back to health, but it’s very hard to put this into practice. Ignoring your child’s call, refusing to give them money, or letting them sleep through their alarm can feel very heartless. Parents want to help. They want to make things better. In the process, they often make things worse.
Letting go does not mean that you do not love your child. Letting go does not mean giving up. It simply means that you love them too much to continue to support their self-destructive behavior.
Mom (Dad) It’s Okay to Let Go: Tips
Here are some helpful tips to remember when you have a child struggling with addiction:
1. Covering up an addiction is not the way to deal with it: Ignoring your child’s drug use, covering for them when they miss work or school, or making excuses for them with friends and family does absolutely nothing to help your child.
2. You must allow your child to find recovery on their terms: Sometimes finding recovery means dealing with intense negative consequences in an already chaotic life. Some addicts may have to lose their jobs, homes, or freedom before they commit to a change.
3. You cannot do it for them: Dragging your child to an NA or AA meeting is futile if they do not want to go. They have to want recovery as badly as they wanted drugs and alcohol and take the action to get it without your help.
4. Don’t love your child to death: Giving your child money or letting him or her move back into your house may seem like a loving choice. In the end though, enabling will just deter potential recovery.
Mom (Dad) It’s Okay to Let Go: Practicing loving detachment
Here’s a little story that may help you understand loving detachment vs. ignoring a situation
You are driving down the street in your car and you see two men fighting on the street. If you were to ignore the problem and kept on driving and did nothing, you would be turning away and pretending you saw nothing. Of course it would not be smart or helpful to jump into the middle of the fight, get hurt yourself, so that no one else got hurt. You could call the police or someone who could break up the fight – That is the smart thing to do.
Letting go comes after we have already done all we could to try to help. We have seen there is a problem and we offer help. We let our loved one know we will be there if they want to get help. Letting go is not ignoring the problem, it is realizing that there is nothing more we can do. Once an addict or alcoholic wants help, we will be there for them, but until that time, the most loving thing we can do is to detach.
If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.