The other day I was thinking about the advice I would offer parents who are first coming into the experience of a child dealing with an addiction. I remember as though it were yesterday the shock I felt knowing one of my children was battling a heroin addiction. I also remember how I went into Dad mode to fix the problem, to save and rescue my kid, and the painful, confusing journey that followed. With the benefit of hindsight and eight years of this journey, I have learned a great deal. It is from this reflection, that I share these thoughts…
- Go into a steep learning curve: Before doing anything, the best thing parents can do is to actively gather information from as many resources as possible to understand what they are dealing with and what their options are. Addiction is a complex and complicated problem. Despite your fears, concerns, and emotions of guilt and shame, please go through the very open, public process of asking for help and gathering information before rushing into action. If you found out your child had an illness like cancer, would you keep it a secret and try to figure out a course of action quietly and on your own?
- Do not expect or seek out a quick solution or an easy result. Addiction is a disease. As you do your research, you will learn that treatment and recovery is a process. The process is more complex than simply arranging a 30-day stint at a rehab facility or encouraging your child to become part of a 12-step program. Addiction and recovery is a life altering process. Expecting or seeking out a quick result that returns your child’s life and your family to the old normal is an unrealistic expectation. Anyone promoting a recovering program that includes this vision is not being entirely genuine or helpful with you. Learn to understand what is involved in a comprehensive treatment and recovery program; manage your actions and expectations accordingly.
- Commit yourself and your family to the recovery process. Addiction is a family disease. Even though one child may be dealing with an addiction, the entire family is affected. Too many parents think all they need to do is send their child to a treatment program and everything will be okay. If it were only that simple. The best course of action is for the entire family to engage in the treatment process, as well. This helps everyone better understand the issue, bring enlightenment to their own behaviors, and better prepares them to be a constructive partner in the recovery process. While the person battling their addiction is responsible for their recovery, it is most beneficial when the rest of the family better understands what addiction and recovery is all about, as well.
- Actively practice self-care and maintain healthy routines: While your life will be dramatically altered through this process and experience, it doesn’t have to completely disrupt your life. Most importantly, it doesn’t mean you stop taking care of yourself. Whatever routines you have in place for your mental, physical, or spiritual health need to be maintained. Allowing addiction to alter your life into a place of personal imbalance is unhealthy and unwise. You need time for yourself to meditate, reflect, or recharge. Changing healthy routines because you feel you need to focus on your child’s recovery is unhealthy and can eventually be toxic for both you and your child.
- Remember, this their battle, not yours: The biggest trap most parents fall into is their belief that they need to help manage their child’s recovery. This is a mistake. When a parent begins to assume responsibility for managing their child’s recovery it sends two messages to the child: they aren’t capable of managing their own recovery and they don’t have to be responsible for their recovery. Parents need to recognize who is responsible for their recovery and empower their child to own it. Otherwise, they will struggle to embrace the role and accountability for the outcomes associated with it.
I know how difficult it is to not get emotionally wrapped up into the addiction situation from the onset. You may feel like you need to do something now. You are correct. However, taking an intellectual approach in response to the situation is critically important. A little more deliberate approach now will likely benefit you down the road.
Are you trapped on the emotional rollercoaster of addiction? Has the addiction of a loved one disrupted and taken over your life. Dave Cooke can help. He’s an internationally recognized speaker who has made it his commitment to minister to parents struggling with addiction in their families. His powerfully insightful, faith based approach to the challenges of addiction have inspired and educated thousands across the country.
Contact Dave today to book him to speak at your church, parent’s group, business organization, or neighborhood association. Go to http://www.100pedals.com/speaker-dave-cooke/ for more information or email dave@100Pedals.com.
Dave is riding his bicycle across the country this summer? Cycling for Recovery is a 3600 mile, nine-week trip from LA to NY. He could be passing through your town. Dave welcomes the opportunity to speak at your organization, church, or bike shop while on this trip. To learn more about the schedule and route go to http://cyclingforrecovery.com.