The Truth About My Addict I Am Not Afraid To Tell
Laura Clark Barefoot, Ph.D.
Barefoot Chaplain Intervention Services
January 9, 2016
One of the single most difficult challenges we parents face is the acceptance of our child being an addict. For some, it can mean years before we acknowledge we are in, way in, over our heads. Looking back, roughly, 15 years ago, and some 6-7 rehabs later, and recurring incarcerations, surrender has become my friend. Personally, my friend has a name. Without Him, I have no idea where I would be. That’s a discussion for another day.
Let me be clear, the progressive disease of alcoholism and drug addiction didn’t simply happen to bless us with an easily earned awakening, we’ve struggled. Similar to “handling” grief, we, as parents, make deals. We actually try to outsmart the grim reaper, minimize the illness and the losses it has cost us, swear ourselves to silence and secrecy, and…the list goes on. Until, well, until we have had enough. We become able to hate the “dis-ease” and love our child separately from the dis-ease.
Unfortunately, there’s no set time, no perfect process or order of processing our pain. On the contrary, society expects us to process our loss and get on with life. You know the life behind the white picket fence, tulips and all.
My feelings of empathy run deep into the core of my being for those parents just beginning the horrific journey of their beloved child’s drug addiction. For those parents facing the turmoil of your own next step: rehab, incarceration, dislodging the addict from the family home, there is hope. There is support.
Following are some blatant truths, lessons we have learned along the rocky way. Keep in mind we were not exempt from the enemy, “denial.” We have argued, disagreed amongst ourselves, and with professionals, believing we knew best. After years of heartache, we have arrived and accept these truths ourselves. Knowledge is a powerful resource when living authentically, as an effective parent of an addict.
1. We, parents, are enablers. We love our children so much we would do anything for them. Take away the addiction, even pray God would displace and transfer it upon us. Forget about it! That’s simply wrong thinking. Sponsors, pastors, teachers, police officers, judges, and counselors can all step in to teach our addict the correct path. Consequences, natural consequences, without a parent disrupting are some of the best medicine your son or daughter will ever ingest.
2. Admit to yourself, your addict is a liar. One of my most sound rules of thumb for the actively using addict, “If his/her lips are moving they are lying.” Addicts will say anything to defend and hide their addiction, with the intent of masking the real problem. Do NOT rely on faith that they are not using because they said so. Actions speak louder than words.
3. Admit to yourself, “I cannot fix this.” For those of us who are peacekeepers and want to have some control, well, you don’t. Not this time anyway. The only one who can decide to actively take a step forward is the addict. Not accepting, you can’t fix the issue at hand will only result in failure and frustration.
4. “My addict is a criminal.” If the shoe fits, wear it, break it in, and become accustomed to the reality. One of this disease’s symptoms includes illicit and illegal behavior. He isn’t facing a trial, or incarcerated because the world made a mistake, he did. Step aside, don’t throw away your retirement on Lawyers. Allow the natural consequences to help heal your son or daughter’s illness.
5. Homelessness might be the path he chooses. If your son, or daughter chooses to live this way to supply his or her addiction, it will pain you terribly but, believe me, he will do so until he is ready to make a change. The key here is He will choose to make a change, or decision, not Mom or Dad. It will not help him for his parents to give him a bed in their home if he chooses to continue to live the lifestyle of an active addict. When you find yourself questioning this, refer to #1.
6. Find, and attend Alanon regularly. The network of support, and those who you will be a helpful resource to will prove themselves irreplaceable. The initial meeting is the most challenging. Don’t buy in to any excuses why you don’t attend. Don’t over think it, just go!
The afore mentioned lessons are only a handful, each one of them, have been struggled through. Even as I write this, I chose to hold back my tears because of the desire to ease another parent’s pain. I have come to accept the truth, fought with every ounce of strength I could muster. I have learned, and learned the hard way; until I admitted the truth I was unable to discover any sense of peace within myself. By helping myself, whether he realizes it or not, I am helping my son, my addict.
I don’t hate my son, nor am I angry with him for using drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex as he has put us through unfathomable pain. I hate the disease; the lying, stealing, the using. I love my son beyond mere words. It’s perfectly acceptable to separate the two, “dis-ease” and love.