Know the Truths About Addiction
Imagine watching your child standing in the middle of the highway with oncoming traffic. Your child does not hear the horns of the oncoming traffic, but you do. Your initial reaction would be to push him or her off of the highway—but that means you would get hit. In the end, you would be the one lying dead while your child returns to the highway to face the same situation the next day.
It’s difficult to understand why your addicted child behaves the way he or she does, especially for a parent who is unfamiliar with the disease of addiction. Addiction is a disease that is defined by compulsive behavior in rewarding stimuli in spite of the dangerous consequences. Addicts are unable to stop consumption of substances regardless of the psychological and physical harm it causes them. These uncharacteristic behaviors the addict displays do not make him or her a bad person.
Parents will be in denial in the beginning of the journey, no matter how many people try to intervene with the truth. Mom and dad think they know their child better than that and cannot accept the reality of the situation, no matter how painful the heartache. Accepting these 5 truths about addiction will help your child through his or her addiction while simultaneously, helping you through the course.
Enabling is a big player in addiction. It is important to recognize that addiction is a very insidious disease—it is difficult to get out of the cycle of using and even more difficult for parents to watch. It is just as important to understand that no matter how much nagging, threatening and begging you do to address the addict, the desire to overcome the disease has to come from his or herself. There is only so much you can do to help, but make sure you are helping and not enabling.
It can be tough to watch addicts put themselves in dangerous positions, but it is not your job to relieve them of the consequences if you know they will just end up back in the same position in a short matter of time. This is true when your child faces charges with law enforcement—it is not your job to bail him or her out. If you are not putting a stop to your child’s destructive behavior you are not helping him or her. You are enabling. Helping your child is to help with something he or she cannot get for his or herself—this may include rides to and from work, to and from a doctor’s appointment, and food. This does not mean Uber rides, money for food or anything that can be exchanged for purchasing drugs.
Enabling your child is to help get something that he or she is fully capable of getting himself. Your child may have a job and money, but who’s paying for your child’s cellphone bill? Is your child paying for his or her own clothes or rent? Where is all your child’s money going? Is this money he or she earns going to payments that they should be or is it mysteriously disappearing to purchase drugs? Is your child contributing to your family and or just basic personal responsibilities?
If your child finds him or herself in a mess, leave the mess as is. It is not your responsibility to take it on.
2. Addicts Lie and Can Commit Crimes
Normal adults have jobs and money—they do not cheat and manipulate in convoluted efforts to get money. If you deny your addicted child has ever lied to you, you are only lying to yourself. These lies may be anywhere from white lies to avoid hurting your feelings to serious manipulation trying to extort money out of you. Your child could be lying just to tell you what you want to hear trying to mask a problem and maintain approval.
It is always difficult for a parent to witness a child struggling. The idea of your child being incarcerated can be overwhelming and difficult to swallow. You may say to yourself, “How could my child get thrown in jail? There must be a mistake.” That is a matter of perspective, everyone who is arrested was once a child. Instead, try to think “What did my child do to end up in this situation?”
Let your child face the consequences of his or her actions. Being incarcerated does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, though not ideal. This shows that you discourage the behavior.
3. Addict’s Company is (More Than Likely) Unwanted
People outside of family may not have the unconditional love for your child as you do. Your child has probably wronged many people including extended family, and it is OK for them to have their feelings about your child and the situation. You do have a choice. You can stick by your child through the chaos or choose to leave his or her life. Remember to weigh the situation and to do what is healthy for you.
4. An Addict May Need to Become Homeless
Providing your child with shelter or housing may not be helpful depending on the severity of the addiction. Your child may threaten you with his or her homelessness. In the end, consider whether your child is using under your roof and don’t be blind to it. If you are providing the roof over his or her head fully knowing that your child is using under your roof, you are giving your child a place to use. This is ultimately dangerous for your child and yourself.
Once your child loses a place to live he or she loses the ability to use comfortably. Finding a place that enables him or her to use easily is challenging, and it can be the key to turning life around. Homelessness may be necessary to stop the destructive cycle.
5. Parents cannot “Fix” Addiction
Addiction is neither the fault of parents nor the addict. It is also, not a parent’s job to try to “fix” his or her addiction— the parent will never succeed. Parents can help their children getting into treatment. Treatment is extremely helpful– it is a safe and structured environment where your child can learn about his addiction and be able to identify his behavioral patterns to prevent outbursts and relapse. Your child will be able to recognize triggers and other symptoms that may lead to use—all while in a sober environment. Using will ONLY get worse if your child continues. Treatment is the beginning of recovery and sobriety. Your child is not a bad kid when sober. Most of the problems your child has are a direct result of USING.
When parents try to end the cycle of addiction, the problems result in far more frustration and disappointment. The decision to end the destructive cycle has to come from the individual with the addiction, and no one else. Forcing someone to get help or into treatment is a very short-lived solution. Parents can, however, encourage the addict to get help and help them arrive at that decision.
Getting Professional Help
Ask the professionals for help. Our team at Heal Behavioral Health can help with every step of the process. We have professional interventionists who have experience with addiction and know how to approach an addicted family member. Helping your loved one seek treatment at an alcohol and drug rehab facility will not only help the addict, but the family as a whole. Give the gift of sobriety and begin your recovery as a family today.