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.