"Letting Go" is not neglect
It is often stated, as parents we must hand our children’s recovery back to our children. That single concept is one that is discussed in every forum, book, or support group I have ever encountered. Yet “letting go”, for most parents, it is the hardest recovery concept to embrace. Handing an actively using child such an important task can seem “parentally neglectful”. We love our children and want to cure their addiction with every fiber of our soul. We are told by others that you “Can’t Cure It“ yet as newcomers to the battle, we struggle to fix our child. The adages such as the “Three C’s of Addiction” and “Detach with Love“ have been used for years for a reason. As a newcomer to addiction, these and other concepts will ask you to change your entire parenting style. This can be frightening for a generation of parents that have been labeled as “helicopter parents”. For my son to return, I had to “let him go” and risk his death. To me he was “dying on the needle” and I wanted to take my best shot at helping him get healthy again. If he could not get healthy, he would not take my family down with him. I learned “letting go” was one of the few chances I would have to help him save himself.
I had a cousin fall victim to the disease of addiction. She was taken hostage by drugs when we were young adults. At a time when very few people my age were dabbling in opiates my beautiful cousin struggled. I watched from the sidelines and saw my uncle try to love his daughter out of her issues. Every mistake he made I noted, as there were no internet blogs on what to do with an addicted child back then. My loving uncle was sailing his ship blindly in a sea of addiction few had experienced at that time in middle class America. Tremendous amounts of money were thrown at my cousin’s problem to no avail. She eventually died from the wounds of her disease, just as my son began the battle with his addiction. I vowed to learn from the mistakes of my Uncle. This is not a condemnation of his parenting style. He loved his daughter very much and still mourns her loss every day well into his 80′s. However, from his experience, I learned you can not love your child clean or buy them out of the captivity. It was the first lesson I learned about addiction before I ever entered the halls of any support group.
Parents often times think death to addiction can be avoided by keeping their “baby” safe at home. The number of children that die in their bedrooms with a heroin needle hanging from their arm is staggering. Allowing your child to use at home does not equate to safety. Home is often used to fuel the addiction as our children sell every item that is not nailed down to feed their demon. The other members of your family deserve a safe haven, one free of the drama and chaos that is always associated with addiction.
The following are a few concepts that I have embraced and truly help me as the parent of an addicted child:
* We must not put a Band-Aid on this life injury called drug abuse. Covering this issue up does not cure it. Deal in the reality of their addiction and learn how to fight back by using the experiences of others that have struggled before you.
* We must allow our children to find recovery on their terms, even though the journey may bring dire consequences to an addict’s life that is already lived in chaos.
* We must not work their recovery harder than they do. Dragging your child to either NA/ AA meetings is futile if they truly do not wish to attend. They have to “want it” and chase the sobriety as hard as they chased the drugging life.
* We must learn to break free of the drama that is symptomatic of addiction. It is a viable option not to take a cell phone call from your distraught child at 3 a.m. and let the child work out the drama at hand.
* We must learn not to love our addicted child to death. Again love alone did not cure my child. Enabling and codependency will deter potential recovery.
I often was told, “Where there is life there is hope” but for me, “There was no hope if I continued to enable my son.”
I remember a call I received on a fall Saturday morning. My son, age 20 at that time, was panicked after being arrested for shooting up in a local park with his friends. He blurted into the phone “Dad it was not my stuff and the cops have me in back of a cruiser. I am telling you it was not my shit…It was my friends! It is not my stuff. “Perhaps not my shining moment as a parent but I responded with sarcasm,“Who is this? “ At that point I had already detached with love from my son. He had been cautioned that death or jail would be the final outcome of this addiction. He was going to face the consequences brought to his life by his heroin addiction. I had learned I would not save him…I could not save him! I did not know the person in the back of the cruiser. His drug addiction had swallowed him completely. It was my son’s body yet his spirit and being had been swallowed by his addiction. There was, however, a way back..
Waiting for our children to find their way back is the single most difficult experience a parent will face when dealing with a child’s addiction. Losing my soulmate to cancer did not inflict a pain close to the pain I felt when my son was in the throws of his addiction. Not knowing where your child “resides” after you have opted to remove them from your home in your effort to enforce tough love is an excruciating emotional pain.
I couldn’t breath, I was hyperventilating as I was suddenly awakened from a sleep that was “lousy” at best. My son was on the streets, homeless due to his choice to use heroin. My son was under the control of a drug, that if left unchallenged, would kill him. I would awaken and try to calm myself by reciting the “Serenity Prayer”. I prayed to my Higher Power with all my soul to have “The courage to change the things I can”…yet I could not change him. I had to begin to “Let go and let God”.
The need to detach with love from your child’s addiction is just one challenge parents will ever face in the parent-child interaction surrounding drug addiction.
At the start of my recovery I struggled with the thought had I done things differently my child would not become addicted. Perhaps one more game of “21” in the backyard or one more Barbie dress up session and our children would not have become trapped into the addiction lifestyle. There is nothing further from the truth.
Good kids from good families are being swept up in an epidemic of addiction that is gripping the entire country. With their underdeveloped decision-making teen brains they are “fair game” for the deluge of pharmaceuticals prescribed in this country every day. The beer drinking, pot smoking parties are now jumped up to the umpteenth degree as kids snort drugs through a straw. One dance with a crushed Oxycontin and their life will never be the same.
My son told me that like many kids, he began his teen drinking and pot smoking at seventeen years old. The day he snorted his first pharmaceutical he professed his “love” for being high. I can not understand what it is like to be blind, and I can not understand what is is like to be addicted. As a non-addict I would naively ask, “Why did you jump from the more mainstream choices such as pot up to heroin?” Without blinking an eye, he replied, “Why take the stairs when you can use the elevator?” Pot and beers no longer would suffice; there was a new love in his life. Oxycontin, and then, its poor mans sister, Heroin, quickly became his masters. Beyond the drugs, nothing else mattered. Family, friends, education, girls, self-esteem, all fell by the wayside, as his entire life became enslaved to his new love.
Categorised as: Relationships