I Wish I Would Have Learned to Listen to my Addicted Son

Father Hugging Son

A while back, I received an e-mail from a concerned mother. Within it, she described her son’s addiction. The mother spoke about several experiences that were similar to my own. She told me about the different things she had tried to do to help and was scared she was going to lose her son.

She then asked me a simple question: What do you wish you had done differently?

It was a tricky question. Some may even say it was a trick question. Looking for the silver bullet has been the quest of every parent who I have ever spoken to. In fact, it was even my quest for several years.

After I read her email, the woman’s question remained in the back of my mind for days. It caused me great anxiety because I simply didn’t have an adequate answer.

What do I wish I had done differently? At first, I thought of all of the little mistakes I had made. If added up, would they would have made a difference? Maybe some of the small changes might even have prevented this nightmare…or maybe not. Yet, this response did not satisfy me. After a few weeks of deliberation, I finally discovered a better answer.

I would have learned to listen.

First, I would have learned to listen to my son. What does an addicted person really have to say that is worth listening too? All along, through his words and actions, he told me there was nothing I could do to fix him. But as a parent, it was my job to fix my son. That’s what parents do right? We fix things. I spent years trying to do so, despite the fact that he was telling me not to.

I would have also learned to listen to counselors and parents. Listening is very different than searching for answers. Getting answers to questions or “what to do” solutions assume that there is a single answer or methodology that will awaken not just you but also your addicted loved one from this nightmare.

I would have learned to listen to my own internal struggles about what I am told. What have I heard, what do I feel, and why am I scared? My emotional reactions were a result of unresolved internal struggles.

Finally, I would have learned to listen to my heart and my head. Most of the time, one or the other wins. My heart reminds me that where there is life, there is hope. It allows me to love someone that by all accounts seems to be unlovable. Yet my head reminds me of the reality of addiction. Heart verses head is not a win/lose struggle. Your heart and your head should work together. It is possible for your heart to accept that your son may die. It is also possible for your head to understand that there may not be an answer for addiction. Loving for just today is all you may get.

Listening is hard. After all, nobody will ever love your child the way you do. You fed him, changed him, raised him and provided for his every need. Listening to your child is hard when loving and caring for him has always been instinct.

What do I wish I had done differently? I wish I had learned how to listen sooner.

How to Listen

Learn how to keep the lines of communication open by knowing how to listen and when to talk.

633 Responses

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    July 23, 2017 at 10:15 AM

    Thank you Ron for your inspiring story. This is such a huge realization. Your story will be very helpful to those who suffer from same situation. This is worth sharing!

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    May 20, 2017 at 1:09 AM

    I think that any parent that does not help there kid is pure evil. Dont tell them to pray or ask god there telling you and that should be enough to find a way to help . I know a lot of people just dont know how hard it is to make it today without addiction. Add addiction and you are screwed. Im having money problems and my mother is telling me to have faith in god. She has never worked a honest day in her life. Me on the other hand have worked like a dog could not help a lay off. My brother got laid off and killed himself. She said he should have asked for help. So my turn i did ask and get ask god to help. I guess she will loose another son. What a sad thing when a parent that has the resources and can help will not. How cold can one be.

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      June 2, 2017 at 10:24 AM

      Hi George,
      It sounds like you are really struggling and not getting help from your mom. I hope you can turn to other supports to get help – social services, churches and other places in the community may be able to help you.

      Wishing you peace,

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    April 25, 2017 at 8:46 PM

    Hi Mike,
    I’m so glad you have found your way to a healthier lifestyle and are sharing your lived experiences with others. It sounds like 12-step programs have truly helped you in your recovery.

    There are so many different paths to recovery though and I wonder what it will take for your son. What we know from numerous studies is that there are ways that families can encourage a loved one to get into treatment and/or move in a healthier direction.

    Parents who skillfully use communication skills to listen, positive reinforcement to encourage healthy behaviors or those behaviors you want to see more of and natural consequences as a teacher can make a huge impact. Setting boundaries and self-care are also important aspects of addressing the situation.

    You can find more about how to help under the Get Help & Support tab above.

    Wishing you the best,

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    Michael Myers

    April 22, 2017 at 7:45 PM

    I am a 15 year recovery veteran from Alcohol and Drugs. The hardest thing my parents had to do was tell me finally after a horrible divorce, bankruptcy, and 1 litre a day vodka, that their help will no longer be available to me until I could show them I could get help for myself on my own. They needed to see that I wanted to live and not waste away in front of them using them as human shields for every mistake I made and was continually making.

    I am now faced with a Step-Son that is having similar issues I faced, and his Mother is not taking well to this news and is trying to love him out of his addiction. I simply told my Wife what I thought of the situation and what I thought that needed to be done, and that I love her and will support the tough decisions that will have to come later. Fortunately, her ex-Husband and I are able to communicate well and he knows I mean only the best for his children.

    My heart aches but my recovery comes first, and I cannot be help to my family and others I sponsor if I try to fix something that is out of my hands, and God is the only person who can help him when he is ready to surrender to his will.

    I love my recovery program and all it’s people, and I wish the best for everyone who is struggling and hurting…………..Mike M

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