The following quote was taken from a great article in Psychology Today, “When your child breaks your heart: The emotional toll of parenting a substance abuser.”
When you spend nearly two decades trying to shape your child into a decent, competent, self-reliant person, it’s tempting to believe you have much more control over your child than you actually do. While every parent has to tackle the challenges of a child’s transition to adulthood, the relationship changes are particularly hard for parents of addicts. These parents sometimes believe they can love their child into doing and being better, and when that fails, some parents resort to threats. No one can “cure” an addict but the addict himself. It’s no surprise, then, that an addiction can exact a costly toll on your relationship with your child.
Recently I received several comments regarding the manner in which I encourage parents to find the strength to focus on their recovery as a key fundamental step in the healing process in dealing with the impact of their child’s addictive behaviors. Many of these comments point to the celebratory aspect of my transformational experience as arrogance or hubris reflecting some notion that I do not completely understand the depths of the pain or loss other parents may have experienced in relation to their child’s situation. This is not the case, at all.
Finding hope, opportunity, joy or celebration dealing with the most painful parental experience is never easy, simply, or trivial. Despite the complexity or difficulty in the process of a parent’s personal recovery, there is freedom and power in releasing unnecessary parental burdens. The point of the referenced article, which is the core of much of my beliefs, is that release involves letting go of what cannot be controlled or understood.
Coming to the realization that we cannot control our child’s thoughts, actions, and deeds — no matter how insane, dangerous, or inexplicable they are — is an incredible, ongoing, and confusing struggle. It is at the point of letting go that a personal transformation can and will occur in the parent. Though we are heartbroken by our child’s choices and pained by our inability to control them to create or define a different outcome, it is when we let go that we arrive at that pivotal transformational point and discover our life can begin anew — with clarity and a redefined purpose.
While I would never encourage anyone to stop loving, give up hope, or turn their back on their child, our ability to get through this adversity is facilitated by finding hope and opportunity for our lives in the midst of the chaos. We begin this process by engaging in activities that build us up, give us positive energy, and provide clarity and confidence to get through it. Otherwise, we can get stuck in that place of our broken heart and our lives become lost, as well. In this situation, no one can be or is saved.
The challenge I created for myself in my recovery from my son’s addiction was…
“how can I create an environment where I am strong for my son when he is present and stronger for myself when he is not?”
I was devastated by his choices, I knew I needed to keep on moving forward. This is how and where I began the process. From there I found something that enabled me to focus on the opportunities in my life that offered me solutions and peace in dealing with my son’s situation. That action was the greatest gift I could have ever given to me. That my son observed this, reveled in my actions, and used it as a beacon for part of his recovery process was an incredibly wonderful added benefit!