Parents dealing with the addiction or alcoholism of their child is a tense, emotional and despairing experience. Most parents will struggle to understand just how they should approach the problem. They may have to step into roles they have not previously fulfilled with their children. This can be foreign and confusing ground. There are such fine lines between loving support and enabling and “tough love,” and abandonment. For experience, what we are seeing in the treatment industry, are parents who are making a difference in their child’s recovery by finding supportive approaches for them, as parents.
Al-Anon is a 12-Step group for individuals dealing with the alcoholism or addiction of a loved one. The message there is an emphasis on self-care and exploring an understanding of how alcoholics and addicted people operate. It is true, such material is vastly important. Parents may hear that there is a need to detach themselves from their child and allow them to hit their bottom where they can experience some pain. Interventions, ultimatums and detachment are examples of the “tough love” approach. This approach is successful in some cases. In other cases, not so much.
Many will want to know if there’s a way for them to maintain a relationship with their child without being drawn back into enabling tendencies or finding themselves being manipulated. Family counseling is valuable. So are alternative techniques. One such approach is referred to as Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). This approach is aimed at bringing addicts and alcoholics back into the family’s grace and offering them a means of getting help for their problem.
Often, addicts and alcoholics face demoralizing stigmas from society and can feel rejected by their communities. With a sense that they are unable to bond with members of a healthy community they bond instead to drugs and alcohol. They become isolated in their addiction. Reintegration into supportive communities is a key antidote for the isolation and loneliness that can fuel their addictive habits.
One method that encourages community and strength in relationships is allowing for an open and equal dialogue to discuss, without reservation, drugs, addiction, alcoholism and seeking help. Knowing that there are people on their side that care about them can be a motivating factor for an addict to get themselves into treatment. Some parents who are making a difference find ways to celebrate positive steps like looking for work or even something minor like staying in for the evening. Parents can attempt re-immersing their children into the family unit to support them in reinventing themselves before doing the opposite and cutting them off. This is one method utilized by those parents who are making a difference.
For some, “tough love,” ultimatums and detachment can be a change-prompting factor. Pain can be one of the most effective reasons for change. For example, we will only re-position ourselves in a chair we are sitting in when the position we are in becomes uncomfortable.
There is that place we know called, “rock bottom.” That’s when the pain of continuing down the path one is on overpowers the resistance arising from a fear of change. At this point addicts become willing to do whatever it takes to get clean and stay that way.
The unfortunate reality is that not everyone will survive to hit their rock bottom. Addiction may end their lives before they arrive there. There are circumstances when tactics need to be adjusted to meet addicts where they are at. What about the parents who are making a difference? As a parent, the important question to ask yourself is: Can you put your frustrations aside? Can you help your addicted child through conversation, motivation and collaboration—literally asking them if they want help, if they want to change, why they want to keep using? And ultimately, help them realize what they are blind to see before it’s too late in a way that is accessible to them? There is a saying in the recovery community, “one day, all addicts stop using. We just hope that they are alive to see it.”