This is a topic I haven’t seen addressed much. I deal with a lot of mothers being the mother of a child in recovery…trust me when I say this needs to be discussed!
We live in a society that frankly puts insurmountable amounts of pressure on mothers in particular. In New England, where I’m from, I’ve heard it referred to as “competitive parenting” and I couldn’t describe it better. It’s when every parent is attempting to “one up” the other. Who’s kid does more activities, who has the newest iPhone, who’s child is better dressed, who has the all organic hand packed lunch with a little smiley face note. I see it every day, at the grocery store; that panic stricken mother racing through the natural foods aisle with her 2 kids who are behaving like fucking animals while she tiredly says “Zachery, I said no chips.” *insert Zachery arguing and whining for about 1.2 seconds * “Okay fine!” because she doesn’t want to be ‘that mom’ disciplining her child in public *gasp*
I see it at school functions, the abundance of makeup and fake smiles painted on while talking about how many sports their little angels play, and how after tonight they still have soccer and piano, and blah blah (this is about where I start tuning out, I’m not going to lie. I’ll just say it. I HATE SCHOOL FUNCTIONS).
In this society setting when this type of parenting it the “Gold Standard”, and giving your child everything they want and doing everything for them equals being a good parent, where does addiction fit into this equation? It doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t skip over the families doing “everything right”.
Zachery starts taking Ritalin from the old prescription your daughter tried 2 years ago and never finished, because he’s exhausted much like yourself, and falling behind in everything. There’s been no time between the rush of soccer and school functions for any communication other than “hurry up and get your cleats, we’re running late” or “eat your non-GMO handmade vegan burger faster, we’re late again”. All the while mommy is slugging wine from her special “mommy cup” just to get through the day until she can get in bed and cry herself to sleep because IT’S NEVER GOOD ENOUGH!
This goes on for a few more years and before we know it Zachery is a full-blown addict. He’s graduated to crack and dope and whatever else he can get with his hefty allowance. He doesn’t work, you’re paying his gas, car payment, and whatever else will make you a “good mom”.
So, after denying and keeping your eyes tightly shut for a while, you finally get that call no parent ever wants to get “Zachery is in the ER, he has overdosed but he’s stable.” Now it can’t just be ignored.
MOM’S WHO SET THE BAR TOO HIGH FOR YOURSELVES, LISTEN. I’m talking to you, so listen and HEAR me! First, it’s not your fault! I feel like some mothers impede their child’s likelihood for successfully surviving addition because they can’t believe this happened to them despite doing everything Dr. Spock said. They relive everything they did or didn’t do, and believe this happened because of them.
All you did was what you thought you should! Your very fucking best! No one can possibly do all that some parents push themselves to do. The standard is impossible! We simply cannot successfully work full time, run around like a maniac to all the activities, do their homework, keep an immaculate house, try to cling to our crumbling relationships and raise our kids properly. We set all these unattainable goals and expect shit won’t hit the fan at some point.
Back to Zachery; now your own guilt and feelings of failure perpetuate a cycle. What do guilty feeling parents usually do? Give their kids what they want to ease that uncomfortable feeling, right? I know when I feel bad about some actual or perceived shortcoming in my parenting, that gut instinct is to fix it by making them feel better. Well, drugs are what makes Zachery feel better…so now what?
I know parents who know their kids are actively using addicts and still hand them cash, the car, allow them to stay in their homes while using and all, in my observations, to ease their own guilt or pretend there isn’t a problem. They think, and are told, by social media and their family and “friends” that their child being an addict is a reflection of poor parenting.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. WE ALL FUCK UP PARENTING AT SOME POINT! You didn’t birth an 8lb 7oz bouncy baby boy and a 35lb manual. I sure as hell didn’t! The sooner you forgive yourself, the sooner you can help Zachery.
What does Zachery need now? First, acknowledgement of the problem without judgement of him or you. It’s not okay to sweep this under the spotless Persian rug. Don’t second guess yourself when you KNOW there’s a fucking problem, and if you are doing that, there’s an easy solution. Go to the pharmacy. Get a drug test, and when he comes home after being out all weekend on a binge, you sneak attack his ass with it the second he walks in the door with his bloodshot pinned eyes. Physically watch him piss in that cup, because addicts are sneaky. I know some that hide clean pee in every bathroom in their large, spotless home.
He failed the test (or refused it, same thing). What’s next? Decide, what do you want more, Zachery to like you or live? Parenting an addict goes against every mothering instinct you have. It’s tough. You have to be tough. Because that is the reality of addiction, and don’t make the mistake of thinking for a second you’re immune. YOU AREN’T. HE’S NOT. If you’d like, I can guide you to some of the thousands of grieving parents who thought “This will never happen to me.” Just let that resonate a minute.
The chances of him having an epiphany immediately after he’s just failed 4 of the 6 things on the drug test, wrapping his arms around you saying “Mommy, I need help” then going to his fancy 30-day rehab and returning “all better” are I’d guess between .002%-0%.
This is where you need to test and push yourself. You thought working until 5, cooking a healthy meal, getting that reading log done (hate those fucking things) and getting to soccer on time was a challenge? Well buckle up buttercup, you haven’t seen ANYTHING yet!
The more likely scenario is Zachery’s going to get defensive and pissed, and storm off hating your guts. Fine. That’s fine! If he hates you, you are probably getting it right.
This next part is controversial, and I don’t care. My opinion is if Zachery is going to steal your grandmother’s diamond pendant for drugs, (because your allowance isn’t going to support his growing habit forever), cause chaos in your home, hurt you and your family and doesn’t want help, he shouldn’t be allowed to do it under your roof! Force him to make a choice; detox and treatment or OUT! Not to Gramma’s for more cash and some cookies, the family needs to unite to save him. OUT! No money, no car, (I would never say no food) but get OUT!
This doesn’t mean you aren’t supporting your child. You can still love and support them while setting firm boundaries. I gave my daughter that choice. She left. She barely spoke to me for a long time. I kept connected through a phone when she had one or social media private messages simply saying “I love you, I hope you are safe. I miss you.” We would make plans together. Sometimes she would show up, usually she wouldn’t. The stealing got so bad I couldn’t allow her in my house even to visit. It upset her younger siblings to see her high and stealing from all of us, and you must think of the WHOLE family.
You know what? Her life got shittier and shittier and she finally was forced by circumstances to ask for help. You know what else? It took over a year from the time she said “Mom, I have a problem, I need help” for her to get the now 13 months clean time she now has.
This is a long process, so seriously, get a support system whether it be family, friends, an online support group or meetings and try not to puke while on the rollercoaster. I don’t know of a worse feeling than being a parent of a sick child, because they are sick, and having absolutely no control anymore. None.
Once they ask for help, this is my best advice. Praise every single little victory no matter how small it seems to you or how disappointed you feel on the inside that it didn’t lead to instant success. “You went to detox? Great!”. “You left after 2 days, disappeared for 2 more and want to try again? Good job for not giving up Zachery, let’s try again”. Now unless you know personally what it feels like to have drug withdrawal, you have no idea what a huge step trying is, because to say dope sick sucks could quite possibly be the understatement of the year. While they are trying, you stay right there and encourage every step of the way. Early recovery can be just as difficult so be prepared.
There was a time I wasn’t sure my daughter would be one of the lucky ones to make it out alive. Everyone told me “She’ll hit rock bottom and then get better”. Well, turns out that she doesn’t have one. Every time she got arrested, or ended up homeless with no phone or money or job I remember thinking “Well this has to be it this time”. Then the overdose. “Well this must be it now”. Nope.
She finally had to realize her own self-worth and hate the drug more than she loved it, because what you must understand is while they are in active addiction, the drugs are their entire LIFE. Every thought is how to get the next fix and not get sick, and unfortunately the ways they need to make that happen is likely going to make your child’s behaviors SUCK. That’s not your kid right now. I had to think of mine as 2 separate people to cope with the actions; the one being held hostage by dope that had turned her into a zombie, and my daughter. My daughter would never do the things she did if she wasn’t a slave to this disease.
Stop blaming yourself and think about Zachery and what he is going through. Now is not the time to be selfish. Educate yourself on addiction to better help him. Former addicts are your new BFF’s. Help Zachery survive, not in a way that simply makes you feel better and appeases that “Mommy guilt”, but in a way that’s going to hurt you and save him.
No addict is the same. No addiction is the same. No recovery is either. Ask for help! Plenty of people, myself included, will be happy to use our knowledge and resources to guide you to be a parent who isn’t enabling because ENABLING KILLS and we don’t want to see one more person die of this disease!
You can’t let that feeling that you lost the “parenting competition” hurt you and especially Zachery. Please, I am begging you! I have so many mothers say to me “What do I do?” so I advise and they do the complete opposite because they can’t overcome these feelings. Addiction is a family disease. Science says it’s a disease, so chances are it’s not your fault. You didn’t pick and choose their DNA and personality.
You must be stronger than you ever thought you could be, and help them in a way that may break your heart before Zachery can break free. So stop being ashamed of their addiction and speak out. That is “winning” the “competition”.