As parents, none of us ever imagines that we might one day be the parent of an addict. Yet, millions of mothers every year are faced with the undeniable fact that their child suffers from a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, over 24 million people in the United States are addicted to an illicit substance at any given time, and an additional 16.5 million are addicted to alcohol. Substance use disorders are so common that the SAMSHA reports that more than 1 in 10 individuals will have a substance use disorder at some point in their lifetime. While the sheer volume of these numbers should be enough to tell you that you are not alone, it doesn’t change the fact that you have, in essence, lost your child to the addiction for the time being. Substance use disorders change the person, often not for the better. Your child may lie, cheat, steal, and do anything in their power to get more money to fund their addiction. In men, addiction builds up the ego so that they often cease to care about anything so long as they can get more of their substance, and in women, it replaces the ego, so that she will often put up with anything and anyone to fund her habit. While there is nothing you can do about your child’s addiction, you can take steps to make your and their life as positive as possible.
Use these steps to help your child
1. Detach with Love – As the mother of an addict, you may feel that it is your responsibility to care for them, to help the when they need it, and to support them no matter what. Detaching with love is the concept of separating yourself from your child’s problems, so that you can live your life and be yourself, without allowing their problems to affect you. While this can be difficult, it is important to remember that a substance use disorder will fundamentally change your child, so that they no longer treat you the same way you are treating them. Until they get help and go to rehab, they will continue to take advantage of you, you cannot trust them, and they will continue to hurt you. Detaching with love is the process of stepping away, accepting that their behavior will continue until they get help, and expecting nothing or bad behavior from them until they prove that they are trying to change. However, detaching is not about ignoring them or cutting them out of your life, instead, it’s ceasing to allow them to affect you. For example, if your child is late for dinner, you should continue to eat anyway. If they’ve been kicked out of their apartment, you should help them find a new place or give them a room with strict rules but not ignore them.
2. Place Responsibility Where It Belongs – It’s easy to blame yourself for addiction, especially as a parent. “Where did I go wrong?”, “This is all my fault”, “I should have been there”, and other similar thoughts are very common. Family members, especially mothers, often feel shame and guilt because of an addiction in the family. However, it’s important to recognize that it is not your fault. Your child made their own choices, and while becoming an addict was not their intent, their steps took them down the path they are on. While it is important to recognize places where you may have gone wrong, for example if you always respond with anger, their addiction and their choices are their own.
3. Be There but Don’t Invest Money – It’s important to be there for your child, so that they can choose to get better. You can continue to help your child, ensure that they have food, a roof over their head, and opportunities to improve. You can take them to doctors, stage interventions, and talk to them about rehab. However, you should not give them money, should not pay their rent, or otherwise enable them to continue addiction behavior. Many of us fall into the role of enabler simply by trying to help. While it can be painful to watch your child lose things they have invested in, continuing to pay for their mistakes will allow them to continue their addiction.
4. Offer to Help – If your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol, he or she needs help. It is important to discuss options and offer to help your child into rehab, so that they know they have the option and full support from their mother should they choose to get better.
5. Get Help – Supporting a child with a substance use disorder is mentally and physically exhausting. No matter what your child is addicted to, their addiction directly impacts your health. Organizations and self-help groups like Al-Anon can help you to find an outlet, learn more about addiction, and meet other parents with similar experiences.
6. Remember You Can’t Save Them – If we could make choices for our children, they would lead well balanced lives, have great careers, and probably travel on a yearly basis with a healthy savings for their retirement. Unfortunately, each person makes their own choices and no matter how much you want to help, you can’t. Accepting that you are powerless to help in the face of their choices is one of the hardest things you can do as a parent, but their life is their own and you cannot save them.
7. Don’t Be Afraid of Tough Love – If all your efforts to help your child to rehab do not work, tough love is an option. Tough love is making the hard choice, turning your back on your child, and creating consequences for every action. For example, one of the first documented examples of tough love in drug addiction was published in People Magazine in 1981. Phyllis and David York chose to refuse to bail their daughter out of jail and refused to visit her until she agreed to seek out help for their addiction. When she was released from jail, they refused to allow her into their home. Eventually, she agreed to go to a rehabilitation clinic. While tough love should be used as a last resort, it can help you to show your child that they have no more chances and they have to seek out help before you will allow them back into your life. Parenting an addict can be difficult, demanding, and hard on you mentally, physically, and financially. For this reason, it is important to set boundaries, work to ensure that you can take care of yourself while taking care of them, and back away from supporting them in any way that could enable their addiction. As a parent, your goal should be to help them get into rehab, where they can get assistance, while separating yourself to ensure that you can live a happy life despite their problem. Good luck helping your son or daughter get the help they need. The Oceanfront Recovery Addiction Treatment Program can help you or your loved one through the process of recovery from addiction to any substance. Our clinicians focus on bringing the underlying causes of addiction to the surface with a modern and effective recovery program in a beautiful beachfront setting. Contact Oceanfront Recovery today for a confidential assessment, and begin the journey of recovery today.