I had set some time aside yesterday to write a couple of articles but feeling a little tired and unmotivated I found myself instead scrolling through facebook tryng to avoid the inevitable task of knuckling down to the keyboard. Suddenly I came across a poem written by Canadian author Lorielie Rozzano. www.jaggedlittleedges.com.
It was titled ‘I need to get high ‘ and in graphic detail outlined how a child’s (whatever age) addiction can consume the lives of parents. It ends with these words …
‘Your world revolves around one thing… ME
But will your love ever become greater than the fear? Would you be strong enough to reach out for help? Will you learn to say No? Will you allow me to experience the consequences of my actions? Will you love me enough to feel your guilt ridden discomfort and stop enabling my addiction?’
Reading it resonated so loudly with me that it lead me to read some more poems by her. Her work closely reflects the work that i am carrying out with parents in the Hale and Altrincham area of South Manchester.
I receive phone calls daily from family members that are desperate for me to help them get their children to stop using. They tell me that if only this child of theirs would stop taking drugs all would be well in their world. As much as I understand this way of thinking my experience throughout my years of being a therapist informs me that you can not change anyone else but yourself. This is a particularly painful experience for parents as they believe that they should be able to make everything ok for this child of theirs.
When I gently start explaining to them that in fact every-time they try to make things better for their child what they actually do is take responsibility for them. What needs to happen is the grown up child needs to start taking responsibility for themselves if there is any chance of them facing their addiction. This process of handing over responsibility to the child helps them accept that only they can make that decision to start getting better. Sometimes things can seem to get worse before they get better. It is the job of the parent during this painful time to seek help through therapy and support groups and learn to remain strong during this period of their child’s addiction and continue to practice tough love.
Parents often feel extremely guilty about not stepping in to bail their child out every time there is a crisis. It takes a lot of work with a therapist to help them understand that allowing their children to feel the privilege of their rock bottom is what is most likely to get their child to seek help. Experiencing a painfull rock bottom is what motivates change. Why change if everything is kept comfortable for you by your parents and their inability to ‘let go’ of your addiction by sorting out every unpaid bill, drug dealer debts, car dramas etc….
I get questioned if this is not the parent abstaining their parental responsibility. NO ITS NOT. Often it is harder initially to not help than it is to help. What often happens though is the more the parent focuses on their child the more emotionally and sometimes physically unwell they become. Helping their child’s addiction becomes their obsession or in other words it becomes their addiction. Letting go of this and stepping back from enabling the child’s behaviour allows the parent to start getting emotionally better themselves. This in turn allows them to engage with the rest of the family in a more functional way. In time they are able to let go of the guilt and recognise how small their world had become and how this had not helped their child at all. In fact it had the opposite effect by preventing the child feeling enough pain that they might in fact want to make changes whilst at the same time making the parent very unwell by isolating them, causing stress, anxiety and depression.
If your son or daughters addiction is consuming your life and making you emotionally and/or physically unwell please contact me at Victoria Abadi Therapies for a free telephone consultation.