As a parent of an addicted person, life may be difficult and scary, right from the moment you first realized your adult child had a problem. Many parents, uninvolved in their offspring’s day-to-day life, find out about the addiction in an upsetting way. Maybe you found out your child had an alcohol problem when they called from jail after their first DUI. You may have found out by just cleaning up their stuff, and finding evidence of drug use such as crushed pills or paraphernalia.
Being the parent of an addicted adult can make you feel helpless; after all, your daughter or son is past the age you can force them into anything. But you may have the sense that they need you now, more than ever. How exactly can you help them without enabling them?
Letting Go is Hard to Do
As hard as it is to accept, there’s no way to force an adult into treatment. Recovery is a choice that belongs to the addicted person alone. While they may try to get clean and sober, relapse is often a part of recovery. Locking them in a basement, trying to “parent” them as if they are a teenager, or giving them a living space with rules and restrictions won’t stop them from using if they’re addicted.
You can offer support, but you can’t “fix” this. Offering monetary help is dangerous in many cases, but you can provide unconditional love. Unconditional love is what a person with a substance use disorder often needs most.
Letting go of your adult child to let them make decisions is essential. Because you can’t control them, you may find yourself frustrated, scared and feeling alone.
This means it’s time to take care of yourself so that you can be at your best when your child needs help. Try visiting Al-Anon meetings or Codependents Anonymous to learn more about how other people who have been through similar situations cope. You’re not alone, and you’re not able to control your loved one. But building your own support network will help you cope with the feelings you have when your loved one is clean or if they’re using.
Things You CAN Offer to Help Your Loved One
While a lot of the things you can do for somebody you love would be considered enabling, there are a few things you can always offer if your adult child needs help. Set boundaries and let them know these are the only things you will offer right now.
- Give rides to 12-step meetings. You can offer to attend the first one or two with them, but this a journey they need to make alone.
- Rides to the doctor and help with paying copays or doctor visits. (Go with them and pay the office directly.)
- Help with paperwork. Your child may need help completing paperwork for insurance.
- Keep Narcan on hand. While many people worry that this opioid-antagonist encourages people to use drugs, just one relapse can cause an overdose. It’s better to save a life and help a person recover later. Keep two for yourself and give two to the person who is addicted.
- Treatment center research. There are a ton of treatment centers out there, and while most offer the same basic services, not all are set up for other needs such as treatment for mental health disorders.
- A shoulder to cry on. Let your adult child know when they can call you.
- Keep their cell phone on. A cell phone is not a luxury anymore; it’s a lifeline. If you can afford to help by paying the bill every month, you’re providing your child with a “way out” of any dangerous situations.
Recovery is a Journey
Everyone’s journey is different, and many people with years clean and sober will tell you that multiple treatment centers and relapses were a part of their trip. It’s time to let go of expectations and trust that recovery will pave a path you’re your child has stopped using.
Remember, recovery is THEIR journey, not yours. You don’t get to make decisions for them or steer them the way you want to. You may have expectations for their career or other life choices. Those expectations should be null and void when your child decides to enter recovery. It’s their life, and they get to choose what comes next, at their own pace. Staying clean and sober is the primary goal for them, and they decide the next steps with the help of their support network.
Are you or somebody you love still struggling with addiction? Get the help you need and learn more about treatment options by calling us at 1-800-970-8774.