I had a great conversation with my son this past weekend. We talked a great deal about 100Pedals’ philosophy on parenting and addiction: meeting your child where they are, for who they are; and, being the parent they need you to be instead of the parent you think you need to be.
I always appreciate his insights. Because of the work each of us has done on our independent recovery activities, we have gotten much better at open, authentic dialogue around life’s issues. We are healing, slowly. I know he doesn’t trust me with everything, but I always appreciate it when he is comfortable sharing a reflective truth based on his past experiences.
Our conversation centered around how, in his phases between active addiction and recovery, we, his mom and dad, made life difficult for him as we obsessed over every behavioral shift as though it was an indication of some change, usually for the worst. Using his words, “I couldn’t win, and it was very frustrating.”
When I was still trying to figure out how to be the Dad I thought I needed to be, I carefully monitored his every behavior or activity for a sign of relapse or recovery. Whether he slept in, got up early, worked out, or stopped working out, it triggered a response from me towards him about something changing. I was always in his business in an attempt to be in the know about what was going on. Any change in behavior elicited some response from me.
As my son shared, “I know it came from fear, concern and experience; but, I couldn’t win. Everything I did caused a reaction, even when the change often didn’t mean anything.”
Today, I do not monitor or attend to every shift in his behavior as I used to. Even so, our conversation served as a great reminder about the importance of distancing myself from my son’s business. Everyone experiences mood swings or adjustments or changes in behaviors and activities. These changes don’t always indicate anything for the normal person other than an altering of a habit. When a child dealing with a substance abuse related issue alters their behaviors, we are all over it trying to figure out what this means, what it indicates, or anticipate what’s next.
Why do we obsessively engage in monitoring our children’s behaviors like this? What do we hope to accomplish? It is an unhealthy obsession.
I am certain there are a litany of reasons why we believe it is so important. It doesn’t matter why as we can justify any behavior if we want to. It does not mean it is healthy, because it isn’t.
I have discovered I have very little control on whether my son uses or not. I have very little influence or ability to interrupt his behaviors if he begins to relapse. I could freak out when he does, but that will change nothing. I can race him to a detox facility when he does; except, unless he wants to be there, he will leave soon after I do. My obsessiveness sends a variety of unhealthy messages: I don’t trust him, I have no confidence in him, and I believe he cannot do this without my involvements. We are getting into areas which contribute very little to the recovery process and adversely impacts healing broken relationships (note, every relationship experiences breakage when substance abuse and addiction are involved.)
Get out of their way: You have no control over your child’s substance abuse activities or their recovery. You can monitor the crap out of it, you still have no control.
Learn to live in these truths:
- My child will always have to work hard for their recovery, they don’t need me to do the work or help lighten the load.
- I will always have to work hard for my recovery. If I haven’t been working on it, this is where my focus needs to be.
- Our two recovery programs are not related, connected, or interdependent.
- My recovery is dependent upon me learning:
- What addiction is
- How addiction and substance abuse affects and influences my child
- How to be the parent my child needs me to be wherever they are on their addiction journey.
- The better I get at facilitating a healthy distance from my child’s addiction and recovery, the more equipped and prepared I will be to love, support, encourage, and engage him on his journey regardless of where he is on it.
When my son reminded me of the confusion and frustration I caused when I injected myself into his recovery/addiction journey, it served to underscore the importance of me working on my recovery and staying on my trail. I can’t help, in fact I am hurting him, when I bring my junk – fear, guilt, shame – into his life’s struggles.
As I said last week, we expect our children to do the work on their recovery, but we are reluctant to do the work on our own recovery. Ironically, we love to get involved in theirs. This is toxic, unhealthy, and unproductive. If you are looking for something to control, focus on controlling what you have some control over – you and your recovery. It will help a lot more than you believe.
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I would love to hear from you.
What issues are you confronting today? Where are you currently experiencing fear and shame relating to the struggles in your life? I have some pretty cool tools to guide you and would love to help. Please let me know if you need more: dave@100Pedals.com.