Rescuing Your Addicted Child

A wise man once told me that if I spent my life making only new mistakes, my life would truly be a life of learning.  I wasted a lot of time with my addicted child repeating mistakes that I had already made. Most of the time, it was the result of being stuck in “rescue mode” instead of finding alternative methods.  At the time, I didn’t recognize rescue mode as a method of parenting or a result of living with an addicted child.

Rescue mode is when you continuously work on things that will not accomplish anything. With most of us, this does not just apply to our child with an addiction; it applies to our own lives as well.

Operating in rescue mode means you will react to every emotion, crisis and incident of drama in both your and your addicted child’s life. Rescue mode will consume every ounce of your energy. It’s also self-perpetuating. The more rescuing you do, the more you will find to rescue.

Think of all of the people that make it their life’s mission and job to rescue: Firefighters, police officers, military specialists, lifeguards.  Not a single one of them attempts to rescue anyone without first understanding their boundaries.  Without clear boundaries, rescuers become those who need rescuing, too. This applies to parents of addicted children as well.

It’s a very complicated thing when you love your child with all of your heart but you hate who they have become. Their entire world is unraveling right in front of your eyes. The first step to your survival and moving beyond rescue mode is to recognize that you are failing to detach with love.

Detaching with love means understanding and buying into your own personal values and how they relate to the behavior you exhibit towards your addicted child. This requires you to create the quiet time to really analyze what you believe about addiction and your child.  It may also require you to seek outside counsel from friends, counselors and/or other groups. However, even with all of the help, this is still a deeply personal task.

Detaching with love requires a bit of selfish behavior. It also requires good boundaries. If you do not take the time to set good boundaries and understand exactly how they match your core values, you will never escape rescue mode.
Detaching with love doesn’t mean to stop loving or believing in your child. Nor does it mean walking away or washing your hands of the whole situation. Detaching with love is difficult, but necessary if you wish to rescue your child. This is something I struggle with daily, but it’s something that’s good for my son and I. As a parent, if you want to do what’s best for your child (no matter how old or how much he or she may be struggling) you will work on this every day.

You learn nothing when you waste efforts and time. It is a simple answer that becomes more complex with application. As with most things, the role these tips will play in the rescuing of your child will vary based on the family, the person addicted and the circumstances.

Intervention EBook

Answer your most pressing questions about confronting your child about his or her drinking or substance use.

intervention ebook logo

17 Responses

Leave your Response
    User Picture


    April 27, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    My wife and i have tried to rescue our to addict sons for 25 years. The result was our marriage broke apart as well. In trying to save my children, it seem like I lost everything I valued. I feel like a falure as a Father and husband. I have lost my zeal for life. I have moved away from the pain and anguish. I’m trying to learn to take care of myself. We are trying to heal the marriage. I have a fear that I could go back and try to save them again. I admit I am addicted to my children and as a result my life was out of control. Just for today I am not going to rescue.

    User Picture


    December 15, 2012 at 5:45 AM

    My son is 24 years old, we have been dealing with his drug addiction for 5 years now and I say we because it has affected the whole family except now I’m the only one left that will deal with him. He has been to 4 rehaps, a halfway house , addiction therapist , out treatment therapy, suboxone program. You name it he has tried it. Nothing has worked, so today I told my son that I am done and for him to never call me again. So tonight I sit here worrying if I have done the right thing. Please god someone one help me stop his addiction!!!

Leave a Comment

Please leave a comment below to contribute to the discussion. If you have a specific question, please contact a Parent Specialist, who will provide you with one-on-one help.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *