No parent wants to believe that his or her child is an addict, even when all the signs of addiction are glaring. After all, this is the child they have raised, taught to the best of their ability, and loved unconditionally. How could that child become an addict?
The fact is that addiction happens, and it can happen to anybody who makes these dangerous choices, regardless of how much they were loved, given, and taught. It is important for the parents of an addict to get out of denial regarding their child and the disease of addiction, and to take care of themselves first.
Denial is a characteristic of addiction – not just for the addict, but for the people addiction affects. When parents find out that their child is abusing drugs, many don’t want to believe it, or will overlook signs: missing money, changed personality, rapid weight changes, etc. Even once parents have accepted that their child is an addict, it can be difficult for them to fully understand and accept what that means.
There are a few things that are true for almost every addict and their parents – one being that addicts lie. They will deny their behaviors even in the presence of overwhelming evidence. Additionally, many addicts will resort to criminal behavior to sustain their addictions, or make choices that lead them to incarceration or homelessness.
However, these are just the physically apparent facts.
It is also true that parents, because they do love their children unconditionally, unintentionally become enablers for their child’s addiction, from giving money to trying to do things for their child that their child refuses to do for themselves. Along these lines, it is important for parents of an addict to realize that they cannot fix this problem, nor can they force others to accept their child and their choices. When someone is an addict, that person’s life will never be the same, even if he or she gets sober. And that means that life for their loved ones will never be the same either (7 Truths About My Addict That Took Me 5 Years To Learn).
During this time, it is important that parents of an addict take care of themselves. Their child – their addict – is making his own choices. Know that it is important for parents to do the same. The fact is that addiction is a deadly disease, and that there is a chance that their child will be incarcerated, homeless, or die from it. However, their child can also get clean and sober.
The journey with an addict is never an easy one, especially for parents, but there are options to lessen the emotional burden and loneliness. There are groups like Al-Anon or FA (Families Anonymous) that exist to support the ones who love an addict. The cornerstone of many of these groups is teaching parents, loved ones, and friends to take care of themselves first. These people can always love and support an addict, but that does not mean that they have to support everything this person does – they don’t have to bail them out, they don’t have to give them a place to stay, they don’t have to give them money, they don’t have to lie for them. However, it is also important that loved ones don’t become too morbid. As one article concerning parents and addiction notes, “dark colored glasses are no better than rose-colored ones for seeing the truth” (Thesenga).
Everyone in life has to make choices, and parents of an addict are faced with many difficult choices and many difficult truths. Addicts will lie, cheat, and steal to support their addiction. They may recover, and they may not. Unfortunately, that is out of the hands of the people who love them most. Parents can offer emotional support and love while refusing to support their child’s criminal or self-destructive behavior. It’s not easy, but there are counselors, support groups, and resources available to help them take care of themselves once they have removed the veil of denial.
It is a hard road for everyone involved to travel down, and being in denial will not help – the only thing that anyone in this situation can do is make the best choices possible at the time, and pray that “their addict” will be alright.
“7 Truths About My Addict That Took Me 5 Years To Learn.” 6 November 2009. DrugFree.org. Web. 6 August 2013.
Thesenga, Susan. “Advice to Parents: What to do when your child is abusing drugs or alcohol.” n.d. Love Unbroken. Web. 6 August 2013.