Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.
~ Corrie Ten Boom
As a parent, one of the most frightening experiences was thinking about what was going to happen next when my kids were not making the best choices.
It filled me with sadness, fear, anxiety and stress.
Everyday, I faced the panic of that phone call that might change my life forever.
Whether you are dealing with your child’s drug or alcohol abuse, their recovery or their relapse, it can be a scary place to be as a parent.
There’s no easy answer to substance abuse.
Like many of you, I tried just about everything. Nothing works every time, because every situation is different.
Some say to detach with love. Some say to let go. Some say to stay close and interact with your child with kindness and compassion.
Finally I realized that I needed to look at all my options and choose the path that felt right for me.
Here are some ideas that helped me along the way.
Be Kind. While the urge to be angry, resentful and walk away may be understandable, kindness and compassion can make a difference in family healing. Just understanding that your child is suffering too can help get you through those times that feel stressful, scary and frustrating. I went through a number of emotions when dealing the drug use in our family.
I like the idea of being kind to my kids no matter what their situation, because my kids respond in a better way. They are able to listen and take in more of what I am saying to them. So while it is important to think about yourself during this stressful time, think too about your child’s pain and know that your calm, loving interactions can make a difference.
Build Up Your Inner Toughness. The ability to recovery quickly from the difficulties that you are facing is what will help you when you are struggling with your child’s bad habits. Having a tough inner core will allow you to bounce back more easily.
I was in denial for years before I realized the full scope of the substance use in my family, but once the situation was clear I pulled myself together and took action. While everything I tried didn’t work right away, the more I learned about addiction, the easier it was to make decisions that were helpful. So don’t let yourself get beaten down. Stand strong and find your power.
Give It Time. There are many different options when it comes to healing drug and alcohol abuse. I know for one of my kids, he just needed time to see the light. The intervention, therapy, and our continual dialog had a positive impact, but not on my time table. I realized after a period of time that he was making progress to live in a healthier way on his own terms.
So while it’s hard to watch your child make slow changes, find your patience and know that when they are headed in a better direction, time is on your side, even if it feels like it’s taking longer than you had hoped. Notice and acknowledge each milestone, no matter how small.
Reach out to Others. While it may feel easier to isolate because of the stigma and shame of your child’s substance use, know that this is not helpful. It can increase your depression, anxiety and stress. Talk to someone who has had a similar experience. They can just be an emotional boost for you. Filter their suggestions and use what feels right for your situation.
When I was struggling, I reached out to a friend who had sent her daughter to a rehab. Second I reached out to two friends who were both therapists. Finally I reached out to my larger group of friends and family. It wasn’t always easy. At times, it was embarrassing, but each time I repeated the story, I felt stronger. So don’t isolate. Reach to others who can help you feel better and heal.
Do Something For Yourself. Your child’s drug or alcohol abuse will feel overwhelming at times. When you take care of yourself it helps you as well as your child. I started walking more and even went back to running again. I took up yoga and played tennis.
Being active takes your mind away from worry. You are able to let go of the problems that you are struggling with for that moment in time. It’s healing to take a break from worry. It takes time before your child is in a better place. Take care of yourself along the way, so that you remain strong.
As a reminder, there is no perfect solution to your child’s substance use.