As parents, we believe that we have the ability to guide and direct our children, to mold them into independent, honest, hardworking adults. We set a good example, discipline them when needed and provide access to educational, cultural , spiritual and athletic opportunities. It’s heavy stuff, this power we wield in directing our children toward a successful adulthood. We are proud of our effort and sacrifice.
So, when the addiction nightmare enters our homes, we naturally believe that we can correct our child’s behavior and get them back on track. No biggie. It’s just a blip in an otherwise stellar life plan – a misstep by a son or daughter who is otherwise a great kid with a bright future. We throw on our Super Mom (or Dad) cape and get to work.
At first, we focus on fixing them and supporting them. We pay their bills and legal fines, accept their inability to hold a job, provide food and shelter, and generally make life easier for them. We tell ourselves that doing so will help them stop using because they will not have so many life stresses. We give more and more of our love, time, money and sanity holding on to the belief that we are strong enough to tough it out and save the ones we love.
We attack the issue with an inflated sense of power, believing that our efforts will eventually win out. But that’s where we go wrong. The right approach is humility – an acceptance of the fact that we cannot fix our children.
Addiction is a disease – one that requires treatment by medical and behavioral health professionals. It usually requires detox, in-patient treatment and aftercare. It could involve medications to control cravings, and outpatient therapy.
Just as importantly, it requires that our addicted sons and daughters find guidance and support from a different kind of family: other recovering addicts found in meetings, group therapy sessions and sober living environments.
As parents, we simply do not have the needed professional qualifications or life experiences. The only power we have is in the strength of our love, and in believing there is hope. Accepting this can be humbling. But honoring that humility and letting go is the best way to help our children find a path to recovery.