When I learned my son was addicted to drugs, my focus was on him and his addiction. Like many parents, I felt that his addiction was every bit of my problem as it was his. I tirelessly tried to fix his addiction but after a few years of repeated behaviors and strong reactions, no one got better.
I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.
It wasn’t until I realized that my son’s sobriety was out of my control that I began to feel better. I had much to learn about myself and how I had little to no authority over this disease.
“What have I learned?” I think this is the most important question a parent of a teen with an addiction can ask him or herself. This self-reflective question emphasizes you, the parent, and not the child with the drug problem.
In the midst of crisis and drama, it is difficult to figure out what to do to support a loved one with an addiction. A parent cannot deal successfully with the chaos this disease brings if he or she is feeling fear and anger within.
True education occurs when we can sit quietly and reflect upon the events and look critically at our own role as a loving and supportive parent. Without quiet contemplation and analysis of your own actions, a parent can fall into the same traps and reactions. After a long period of doing the same thing over and over again, you may begin questioning, “Who is the crazy one in this picture?”
Working through the layers of actions and experiences to figure out what one has learned, may or may not be a solitary exercise. Counselors, therapists, and fellow loved ones of addicts, can be brought in to help with this deliberation.
However, in the end, the decisions lie with you and how you choose to internalize the learning. Following that, you begin to realize the truism of the saying, “Nothing changes, if nothing changes.”
“What have I learned?” is a recurring theme throughout parenting a loved one with an addiction.
What have I learned through the years? A better question would be “What have I learned, unlearned and re-learned?”
This disease is not one that lends itself to a standardized treatment regimen that guarantees recovery. In fact, recovery is actually a misnomer in that there is a new normal.
To all other parents out there, there will be more learning and hardships as you go along. This is a fluid disease that changes symptoms and behaviors as it progresses. We must become more flexible in our learning and treatment if we ever hope to live a healthy lifestyle and must have a meaningful relationship with our loved one with an addiction.
Ron Grover, Parent & Advocate
Ron Grover, 55, is the father of a son who was trapped in an active addiction for seven years. In July 2010 his son again sought treatment and has been in long-term recovery since. Professionally Ron is the Director of Human Resources for a manufacturing company in the Midwest. In January of 2009 he began a blog about living with and dealing with an addicted son, it can be found at parentsofanaddict.blogspot.com.