30 Things I Learned From Being The Mom Of A Child with Addiction
By: Sharon Lee Mandel
Sharon is a family addiction counsellor who works privately as well as volunteering for parents and family members who have loved ones in active addiction. She is empathic and has lived experience (her son spent 17 years in active addiction and has been in recovery for six years). Sharon uses humour as it goes a long way when you are dealing with all this chaos!
In no particular order:
- Most doctors don’t know very much about addiction.
- Help is extremely difficult to find.
- Enabling does not help. What it does is it removes the natural consequences of your child’s behaviour. Enabling is not allowing them to mature & figure things out for themselves. Think about that. I know you think you are “helping”.
- They lie. A lot. They are ashamed and embarrassed of what they are doing and they cannot stop by themselves. They have many secrets to hide from you.
- They manipulate.
- If you think they are stoned or drunk, you are probably right. A parent’s instincts are usually correct. Go with your gut feelings.
- They steal. If something is missing, they usually took it. Don’t think you misplaced it, or question yourself. You did have $40 in your wallet, not $10.
- Never argue or try to reason with them while they are using. You are talking to the drugs, not to the person you love. Walk away.
- If you threaten them with a punishment, make sure that you are prepared to carry it through. If you aren’t, don’t say it. They will see your weakness and play you like a fiddle. You have to be consistent. I know, it’s a tough one!
- If you are parenting with a spouse or partner, be on the same page. Always. Otherwise, they will divide and conquer. Persons in active addiction are very bad for your marriage/relationship!
- They are as mature as the day they started using. If they started using at the chronological age of 15 and they are now 25, they usually have the maturity of a 15 year old. They are emotionally stunted. So yes, they are very immature.
- NEVER GIVE THEM MONEY. Or anything that they can sell. This goes for grocery gift cards etc. (This is a biggie. It should be at the top of my list!)
- They are very resourceful. Remember this when they try to make you feel guilty. (eg. “I will have no place to live.” “I need money for whatever.” “I can’t find a job.”) You need to remember that they can always find drugs. No problem.
- If they are diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or depression etc, while they are using, it can be the drugs presenting as a mental illness. If they had problems before, they can be addressed after they are clean. Sometimes they always did have a mental health issue so they self-medicate to feel better. It is tricky to figure out what came first.
- If you see them reach sobriety, you will see the child you raised so well. You did! Stop blaming yourself!
- Detox and treatment is good but AFTER CARE is the most important part of recovery. It is easy to stop using. It is the “staying stopped” part that is so difficult. (And I was naive enough to think that my son would come out of rehab the first time and be “cured”. It usually doesn’t work that way.)
- They will hold you hostage in your own home, for years if you allow it.
- Keeping them at home or paying for an apartment will not keep them alive. They can overdose at home just as easily as on the street.
- Our healthcare system is very bad, especially when it comes to addiction and mental health. (That was an understatement.)
- Your health, physically, mentally, and emotionally might fail. Try to take care of yourself. I know that it is nearly impossible, but make an attempt.
- If you practice, and it is SO DIFFICULT, try to “detach with love”. Listen to Melody Beattie’s book “Codependent No More” on YouTube or buy the book. It is also available on tape, on iTunes or in the library. Read or listen to it a few times if necessary. It helps. Seriously. (I didn’t believe it either.)
- Addicts say that they “need to be ready” to quit. They have to be “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
- They blame you for everything. Tune it out. It is NOT true.
- You may feel depressed, embarrassed, guilty, isolated, angry, confused, depleted anxious and think that you are losing your mind. Normal.
- You need support. A family group gives you empathy, guidance, friendships and encouragement. It was my lifesaver. Exchange phone numbers. Become friends with the people in your circle. It was the single best thing that I did for myself. (It was life changing for me and it saved my son’s life because I changed. I got stronger.)
- Educate yourself. Watch YouTube videos, read, Google, Facebook. Yes, I said Facebook. There are tons of “pages to “like” on Facebook. Explore Pinterest. (Type in addiction or whatever drugs you think they are using.) Check out my Pinterest. (Sharon Lee Mandel- Addiction & Recovery) You can kill a day right there. Knowledge is power. There are thousands of educational videos online about addiction and recovery. Learn! Take a rest from worrying and study everything about your child’s disease.
- If nothing changes … nothing changes. Think about that.
- Learn the Serenity Prayer. Repeat it when necessary! Here it is:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
(You don’t have to say God. Say whatever works for you.) I am not a religious person, but I love this prayer. Read it again. These words are profound and I use it for many situations in my life. ONCE MORE WITH PASSION!
- They love their drug of choice more than they love you.
- Never give up hope.