November 7, 2017

Three behaviors worth committing to

In a recent parent coaching session, we were examining ways to interrupt the current triggering exchanges between the parent and addicted child. We were having this discussion because the parent had come to recognize the patterns in their exchanges and the toxic impact they were having on both.

In last week’s blog and podcast, I talked about breaking habits in our responses to the behaviors and choices of our addicted child. Often, we get caught in a trap of repeated responses to the frustrating, challenging and difficult choices our addicted children make and lose our own perspective on the adverse reactions our responses can have. Instead of helping or healing, we can actually make things worse, even if that seems implausible.

Altering or interrupting our patterns or habits of responding, requires the willingness to adapt, change or adjust our responses to these confounding choices. Last week’s content was more about the critical importance in our willingness to change and transform ourselves in the face of adversity.  This week, I am offering three behaviors to focus on committing to which will help interrupt the unhealthy patterns in our exchanges and interactions with our addiction children:

  1. Eliminate criticism, judgement and condemnation from your dialogue: I have shared perspectives on this in a previous blog. This commitment is essential for healthy dialogue and healing. Even in the most chaotic of situations, our children need to experience our love, our unconditional love more than anything else. Sometimes giving our best is difficult, if not impossible. It doesn’t mean, in our anger or frustration, they need to experience our worst. Listening, accepting, encouraging, and supporting are powerful, loving behaviors. When they share the news of a bad decision, it is best to not challenge, criticize, or express frustration in that action. Instead, you could offer a word of appreciation (“thanks for letting me know”), a word of encouragement (“I am confident you know what you are doing”), and an offer to support (“If you need my help, let me know”).  Many of you are looking at this example and going, what?  Remember, this is about interrupting our behaviors with new ones, changing the dialogue, and bringing healing and love to a broken, strained relationship.
  2. Focus on only on what I have authority over and responsibility for: It took me a long time to recognize the extent to which I would try to manage and influence behaviors which were beyond my authority. Even when I thought I had extricated myself from my son’s addiction/recovery, I realized I shifted away from much of it, though not all of it. Everything really changed in my life when where he is living, what he is doing to manage his recovery, legal obligations, finances, job, relationships, or his other ongoing recovery or addiction habits were not my responsibility or under my authority. Anything I did to help or assist him in managing his life, is me attempting to control what is not mine to control. Instead, I choose to exert a healthier influence on my health, my habits, my relationships, my communications and interactions with him, and in my life. Me being in a healthier, more balanced lifestyle, better equips me to love him and encourage him when he needs or asks me to.  Anything else is non-constructive meddling, which is simply another form of attempting to control.
  3. I will not engage in behaviors or activities which hurt me: There are “favors” my addicted son has asked of me which I knew were not a good idea. Each time they went against my instincts and caused me a great deal of personal, internal distress when I did them. In the end, my instincts proved to be correct, the supportive action was B.S. and I ended up hurt, frustrated, or disappointed in the process. Today, I pay very close attention to my safe meter: gut instinct, the wisdom of experience, and common sense. Unconditional love is not demonstrated by engaging in an activity which is instinctively off. Only in active addiction did my son ask of me things that didn’t seem right or ended up being hurtful.  In active recovery, he has demonstrated his independence from his parents and his interactions are devoid of strange and uniquely abnormal requests. Making a commitment to honor our warning signs may not be popular with your addicted child; but, they go a long way in protecting you from additional pain while helping you maintain the healthy boundaries you have worked so hard to establish for yourself.

There are many other behavioral commitments I would love to encourage you to focus on. Through my experiences on my journey, these were the most critical and proved to be the most influential and beneficial.  I will share more about these three on my upcoming podcast.  Hope you will subscribe to the podcast or come back to this blog on Thursday, November 9 to download the episode.


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About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.