Acceptance Doesn’t Mean Condoning a Loved One’s Addiction

    It is difficult to recognize what acceptance is in this context. I went through this with my family for the past two decades – going back and forth about what it means to accept that my child has a problem with drugs.

    The initial reaction to drug use is often resistance and disgust. Parents and teens can dance a pattern of cause, effect and reaction again and again, not realizing what they are dealing with until it is too late. In doing this, we lose opportunities for early intervention. We are too eager to believe our kid’s halfhearted contritions and resume the illusion of normalcy.

    That is the trap. It is important to notice behavior in a teen and consider drug tests in order to determine if intervention is needed. (Note: while home drug tests can be unreliable, having a doctor perform a drug test can be a helpful tool; however, be aware that your teen may take actions to pass such tests while still using substances.) If you find that intervention is needed, accept this and map out some solutions. Have a plan without feeling a need to force it. Look hard into the condition you are faced with. Be intentional, but don’t try and be God. When an opportunity arises, you will be ready to take action. And in the process, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

    Unfortunately, our communities offer too-little assistance and are quick to toss those struggling with substances into jail for their petty, drug-related crimes. Addiction in anyone’s family is a big cross to bear, and helping a loved one with addiction is not an easy path. Acceptance helps.

    Acceptance and courage are old attributes. In life, we all get a chance to test these qualities, like a farmer watching his crops flood alongside an overflowing river. His first reaction is denial! After accepting the urgency of the condition, the farmer may build sandbag levees. That is acceptance and transformation of agony into courage and action. A parent building the levees of preparation for intervention or treatment for a teen with addiction is like stepping into a vision that recovery and redemption are entirely possible. Acceptance in that context does not mean condoning substance use. A parent can be tempted to believe that their child has ruined his life, but that person still needs to be accepted and feel hope.

    Even with all the money or support in the world, it simply is not a parent’s sole responsibility to solve this problem for their child; your loved one has to choose recovery and believe they can succeed. At the end of the day, we are often left feeling powerless, but that doesn’t equal “giving up” or “being in denial”; it is a stark recognition of what one does not control. That is what acceptance feels like.

    By Bill Ford, Parent & Person in Recovery
    October 2010
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