No parent intends to raise a “drug addict,” and no child grows up wanting to be one. Unfortunately, the disease of addiction does not discriminate. Regardless if you were the most involved parent or uninvolved parent, the strictest or most permissive parent, most loving or most cold parent, most fun or most basic parent, most religious or secular parent, or most rich or poor parent, your child can still develop a substance use disorder. As a parent, your first instinct will most likely be to be to try to control the situation to get your child to stop using drugs. Please know that addiction is a disease. Even though your child may have chosen to use drugs in the beginning, he or she cannot “just stop.” Even if you understand that addiction is a disease, trying to convince your child to seek treatment is not the answer.
The answer to getting your child into addiction treatment is not about convincing him or her. Trying to convince him or her is not going to work because he or she is numb to the pain that you and his or her loved ones are feeling because they are intoxicated. The real answer is to work on yourself and take care of yourself. A saying from the Al-Anon/Nar-Anon programs says, “In family addiction, A+B=C. A is the addicted individual; B is you; and C is the situation. B cannot change A, but if B works on themselves, C will change.” When you work on yourself by learning to cope with your emotions to the situation, changing your reactions, and letting go of the need to control, your child will be more likely to go to seek treatment than you constantly trying to convince them or control the situation.
What is Enabling and Codependency and How to Get Help for it?
Enabling is any action that makes it easy for the addicted individual to stay in their active addiction. Most people do not have the resources to be an addicted by themselves. Someone (the enabler) is usually giving money, bailing them out, making excuses, paying bills, buying groceries, etc. While your natural instinct as a parent is to take care of your child, taking care of your child who is in active addiction will only make him or her sicker. The more that you try to save him or her from themselves or make it more comfortable for them to be in active addiction, the less motivated they will be to change. Unlike any other disease, the addicted individual needs to see the effects of the disease in order to be motivated to get help (hit rock bottom). Codependency is a broad term to describe a range of unhealthy relationship patterns, often characterized by obsession with an individual, desire to fix or control an individual, and a lack of boundaries. Codependency often manifests in relationships between an addicted individual and their loved one because the loved one often obsesses over the individual, tries to fix or control, and lacks boundaries. Enabling is a codependent behavior.
Help for enabling and codependency is available in:
• Support goups (e.g. Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Codependents’ Anonymous, and SMART Recovery Friends and Family)
• Self-help lectures
• Self-help books on codependency
• Workshops at your child’s rehab if he or she enters treatment
A Sick Child, Not a Bad Child
When you have a child with a substance use disorder, you may feel shame. You may worry what your family, friends, and neighbors will think of you raising a “drug addict.” Rest assured that you are not the only one with a child or a loved one with a substance use disorder. An estimated 90 percent of Americans at least know someone with a substance use disorder. There is still a stigma about addiction, but that stigma is not truth. The fact is your child is sick and needs treatment. He or she is not “bad” and did not become addicted as a result of bad parenting.
Your best bet for combating the stigma is to educate yourself, stay focused on the truth that it is a disease that could have happened to anyone’s child, and get into a community of other loved ones of those who have a substance use disorder to feel supported. Those who have never experienced addiction will not understand. Only take suggestions from those who have been there.
There are numerous addiction treatment centers located near the Jersey Shore. Contact one today at 833-762-3765 to learn more.