Seeing a friend or relative struggle with alcohol or drug addiction is more difficult than difficult, even more so if this relative is your child. But where do you turn and what do you do?
There are important things that you can do to help you and your spouse cope and, in turn, help your child to turn his or her life around.
Realize that you can’t make them better
Pay special attention to the emphasis on the “you,” because this is in no way meant to imply that addicts can’t recover or that you can’t help. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that you can help them realize they need help and support them through the acceptance and treatment process, but seeking professional help is the best way to address this seemingly insurmountable challenge, especially since there are emotions involved. You might be asking, “Why?” In a world with so many pressures, access to information and the substances that led to this could be the cause, but you can be there to help them get back on the right track.
Stop blaming yourself
All of us have things that we wish we would have done differently in our lives, especially when it comes to the decisions that we make about our children. But you can’t let yourself drown in what-ifs about your parenting in regards to their addiction. Even if you could change certain things, there’s no guarantee that your child wouldn’t have found his or her way to their substance of choice in some other way. Focus on the solution and helping him or her seek the best treatment.
Understand that addicts may lie, steal, cheat, and more
The first time that your addicted child lies to you about something important or you discover that money or personal belongings are disappearing, it can be devastating. How could your little boy or girl do these things? It may be cold comfort to know this, but stealing, cheating, and lying are common in many addicts. If it helps, think of it as the addiction doing those things to you, not the child you knew before.
Learn as much as you can
One of the most debilitating things about having an addicted child is constantly wondering what’s going on, why this is happening to them, and what you can possibly do to help. You can answer many of these questions and empower yourself by reading all the information you can find about addiction and speaking with professionals about the situation. In the end, you still may not be able to do anything, but often just having a better understanding of how he or she is feeling and what to expect from treatment programs alleviates some of the fear and confusion.
There is strength in community and togetherness. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other parents and friends who are also trying to cope with someone close to them who is struggling with addiction. If you don’t know anyone personally or prefer to keep it private among your social circles, look for local organizations where people meet to talk about their struggles with addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and other groups that tend to be thought of as for addicts are also happy to welcome friends and family members dealing with the pain of their loved one’s addiction. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to find groups specifically for friends and family members of addicts.
Show support no matter what. This does not mean that you should bail your addicted children out of trouble or try to protect them so they don’t have to face consequences. But they should know that you love them no matter what and that you will always be there to support their recovery – even if that means having to deal with treatment and relapse multiple times.
Maintain your other relationships
If you’re married, try not to fight and blame your spouse for your child’s addiction. Instead, draw strength from the bond that you have and do whatever you can to provide support to one other and your child – together. Unmarried parents may find this connection with a close friend or another relative.
Sources: Intervene Oprah
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