It’s the revelation at which no parent ever wants to arrive, the threat that has been the subject of countless PSAs and the nightmare that invades the consciousness of every mother father at least once: “What if my child becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol.” Even after children are grown, many, if not most, parents still feel a profound sense of responsibility for their sons and daughters—we never really stop caring or worrying. When we find out our children are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, it’s like a nuclear bomb going off within our families. After the fallout that causes to completely reevaluate our lives.
Many parents on Long Island have felt this stinging agony as they’ve witnessed their children fall victim to heroin or opioid abuse or destroy their lives with alcohol. They’ve watched as their promising, bright, and vibrant progeny transition into adulthood with addiction dominating their lives, and they feel as though they’re powerless to do anything, or even that it’s their fault. Nobody is ever fully prepared to admit their child is an addict or is able to cope with everything that that involves. However, there are a few things to remember that can help us as we endeavor to confront this issue, head-on.
The first inclination of parents with addicted children is often to ask themselves what they could have done differently. All things being equal, the answer is usually the same: very little. Parents who actively contributed to their loved one’s substance abuse don’t need to ask themselves this question, nor should they be an active part of their children’s recovery. For all other parents, there will be a time for reflection and self-assessment after the immediate work that needs to be done is completed. Getting bogged down in the “blame game” distracts from being present to help our child get the help they need.
Despite what we may believe, there are things we can do to guide our children toward recovery, even after they’re grown up and out of the house. We can mobilize to organize interventions, speak openly and honestly with our children about their problem and even help them research treatment options. Rather than see ourselves as victims, it helps to look at ourselves as resources through which our children can get the help they need. This may require some force, and may not even always work, but we have to be prepared to do whatever we can, within reason, to get them help and begin their recovery.
Helping an addicted loved one takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. We often pour so much of ourselves into trying to get our children help that we’re emotionally and physically drained and not able to take care of ourselves or the rest of our family. After a while, we can even get worn down by our children’s addiction and start doing to things to enable them like giving them money or rides or going back on the terms set forth in an intervention. When we lose our vigilance, addiction starts to win, which is why we must always take good enough care of ourselves to properly help our children.
A child’s addiction can feel like the end of the world, but it doesn’t have to be. If we remain focused and maintain our emotional strength, we can take steps toward reversing addiction’s potentially deadly course and helping our children live the lives they deserve.