I was asked the question the other day about my hands-off, love and acceptance approach for engaging my son as he walks his life path. The focus of the conversation was whether my behaviors projected approval or was enabling (I dislike this word). Finally, the question was asked, “when can I confront [interesting word choice] them with their drug use?” The need to do something, even though we know we have no control, drives us crazy. Our mindset says, we cannot stand by and allow their behaviors to continue. There must be something we can do. When is the right time to intervene and tell them what they need to do about their substance abuse?
There isn’t an appropriate time to tell them what you want them to do, unless it is solicited. It is not your problem, it is their journey, their life. Unless you have made it your problem and you are living an obsessed out of balance life, this is their journey and your quest to make them navigate a different path really isn’t going to change anything.
Do you really believe they don’t know their life is out of control?
Do you really think they don’t know what they need to do to change it?
Do you honestly think that your harping on them is going to suddenly open their eyes and make them change their behaviors?
You are reminding them of your frustrations with their choices, their substance abuse, and their addiction. This serves one purpose and one purpose only – it makes you feel like you did something, because you can’t stand the thought of not being able to do anything.
I feel you. I couldn’t stand the path my son was on. The more he was on it, the greater my frustration and the more obsessed I became about doing something about it. It was only until I realized how toxic this was for me, my son, and our relationship did I stop doing it.
Imagine, for a moment, your child’s feelings during your verbal assault about what they need to do to fix their broken life. What do they hear? What do they feel? What does it do to how they feel about themselves?
Think about what you are projecting to them as you remind them of their problems, their failures, and the things they need to do to fix their broken life. How would you feel if someone reminded you on a regular basis that you are:
- looking fat and need to lose weight
- your smoking or drinking is unhealthy, gross and problematic
- your appearance, your look needs improvement
- you have got to start exercising and taking care of yourself, maybe get to the gym.
Chances are some of these things you already say to yourself. We all are pretty good at beating ourselves up for the things we know we would love to improve or change.
What if you are already frustrated with how you look, how you feel, or a bad habit you just can’t break.
What if someone started picking on you about the same issues you already have with yourself?
Would it make you feel better or worse about the problem?
What it you really couldn’t find the path to break it?
Wouldn’t it make you feel worse and less confident, instead of motivated and inspired?
In this context, think about what you are trying to say to your child and how it is actually being received by them.
Love and acceptance are critically important behaviors. It allows you to love your child where they are, for who they are. Regardless their journey, you can do one thing – love them and let them experience that love without criticism, judgement or condemnation.
Imagine the feeling which comes from being loved and accepted despite our flaws and failings, even to the point where someone looks completely beyond it as though they don’t exist.
Why did I stop getting involved in my son’s addiction/recovery journey? He didn’t need me reminding me of all the things he needed to do to be a better, healthier, happier, more fulfilled person. He was already feeling that burden from within. I was doing nothing to help him feel better; I was only helping him feel worse.
What he needed was someone who would allow him to experience the power of unconditional love, without shame or guilt. My role as his father was less about what he needed to do for his life and more about showing him what love looked like in his life. I chose to trust my love for him would have to be enough for the both of us.
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