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Detaching With Love: How I Learned to Separate My Son and His Addiction

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

My son Alex shoplifted to support his addiction. Needless to say he got caught several times. The first few times, when he was a minor, we’d get a call to come pick him up, and he’d get a ticket, and we’d pay a big fine and take him to court services for his probation and take him to a psychologist. This went on for a couple years.

When he turned 18, he was no longer a minor, and with his record they’d take him to jail. He’d make that phone call from jail, “Please come and bail me out. I’m never going to do this again.” Off we’d go. After a while, this was getting expensive. And my wife Darlene and I were not learning our lesson—and, by the way, neither was our son. We were doing the same thing over and over, and our son was doing the same thing over and over. Nothing was changing. He’d make the same promises, we’d take the same action, and we couldn’t understand why he kept using!

This is where the idea of “detaching” and setting boundaries started with us. We decided we weren’t going to pay bail next time.

But it wasn’t easy. As a mom and dad it is very hard to think of your child sitting in jail. In Jackson County, MO, jail he witnessed a person getting stabbed. The food is universally bad at jails, and without money on your books, you can’t even get a toothbrush to brush your teeth. He had food stolen from him and at times had to fight to keep it. He spent two days in solitary confinement for defending himself against an inmate who attacked him. Some jails put the mentally ill in with criminals such as rapists and murderers, and then put them all in together with the drug addicts. It makes no sense to me.

It’s hard to think of yourself as a loving parent when you know that for just a few hundred dollars you could get your child out of those situations. You wonder: if I don’t pay the bail, am I really a loving parent? But eventually, the day comes when you don’t pay. We once let our son sit in the “Johnson County, KS, Resort” for 11 days because we wouldn’t post a $50 bond. Sounds mean doesn’t it?

This is about detaching with love and not enabling. Your boundaries must match your values. It works for us this way. Overriding all is the value that we love our son. When you sit down to think about and discuss boundaries, this goes at the top of the page. Every single boundary is tested against that value.

Another value we hold close and taught our kids is that stealing is wrong. Stealing carries consequences, and it should. Bailing him out removes or minimizes the consequences. Contrary to our values, we were bailing him out. We hated what he was exposed to in jail; however, we had established a pattern: he got caught, he called, we jumped with cash in hand.

Darlene and I sat down and determined where we would go and where we would no longer go. This began to help us establish our boundaries. You can’t cover all of the possible situations; you just cover what you can and know that once you learn how to judge behaviors and fight the instinct to enable by rescuing, the exercise becomes easier and more natural.

Once boundaries are determined, you must sit down with your child, an addict that may or may not be high at the time, and explain where you will no longer go with him. In fact you can even start each sentence with, “Because we love you…” and then, for instance, “we can no longer bail you out of jail. All of your life we taught you that stealing was wrong and you know that in your heart, so we cannot support your actions by bailing you out of jail when you do something you have been taught all your life is wrong. I hope you understand this and can accept our decision.”

For each boundary we had discussed, the conversation went like that. Our son hated it when we turned off the TV and asked him to sit down at the table to talk. This satisfied our need to tell him of our expectations, and it told him what to expect from us. Yes, he still called, begged, pleaded and cried from jail, but what we had been doing in the past didn’t work and was bad for us and him. We had to change the rules, but that didn’t mean we loved him less. It meant we loved him more because it hurt us terribly to let him sit in jail.

Even with his begging and pleading we were still able to sleep at night and have a moment of down time. He was in jail and we knew jail was safer than being on the street scoring and shooting more heroin. We then began to see jail as “protective custody.”

We detached from Alex’s crimes and actions; we did not detach from him. We still loved him, took some of the $10-for-10-minute collect calls from jail. On those calls we always ended by saying that we loved him and asking him to please help himself. We were doing all we could and all we knew to do. Detach from the actions, crimes, drug use, lying and every other terrible thing a drug addict does to himself and others. Love and support the person inside, not the addiction controlling the life.

Today, Alex is two-and-a-half years sober.

Posted by  |  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Codependency, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Enabling, Family members, parenting, Patience, Substance Abuse, tough love, Uncategorized



49 Comments on “Detaching With Love: How I Learned to Separate My Son and His Addiction”

George says:
December 20th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Thanks you for this timely blog post. I have been aware of the behavior of enabling for some time, but until recently was not aware of the behaviour of detachment. Last week I read my first book on the detachment subject and in it the book used stories of individuals to teach the concept. The book’s author was a strong proponent of Alanon groups. I am planning on checking out the local group after the holidays. I don’t know if that will help, but I guess it can’t hurt.

My 16 year old son, soon to be 17, is living on “his own” with the help of government social assistance, and has been doing so for about a year now. He chose this path for a number of reasons – no house rules/responsibilities (he is a poster child for oppositional defiance disorder), free money provided to him on a regular basis, no requirement for school (real school), etc. In my mind, social assistance here in Canada is a great enabler. Essentially in the case of my son, the government might as well buy and supply the pot/coke/heroin/etc. directly and cut out the dealer … the welfare money, along with proceeds from theft finance my son’s addiction.

I am struggling with the concept of detachment. I beat myself up regularly – I use the “I’m not a loving parent” stick to whip myself daily; the idea that I can’t/won’t help my son and don’t interact with him regularly is eating me up inside. I have 2 other boys who I see on weekends. It seems so unfair that I can feed, cloth and have a normal father-son relationship with them and I can’t with my oldest son. I constantly feel guilty for all the things I do with and for my 2 youngest boys because I can’t do those with my oldest son – it would be enabling his addiction … I think. I’m not sure.

I rationalize that helping him with things like finding an apartment, buying his groceries and clothes are wrong actions to take because they are enabling actions. I still don’t know for sure. Different people I talk to have different levels of understanding of enabling. It all gets so confusing. I attended a meeting of parents of addicts to try and find some help with my struggle. In that meeting most of the parents related stories that,I know from reading articles like this one, are clear acts of enabling. Obviously those parents didn’t see their actions as enabling. My conclusion was that this group of parents consisted of parents at different points along the path of understanding enabling and detaching. Or, I am just out to lunch on the whole subject of enabling and detachment. I’m not sure.

On the few occasions we speak, I try to promote the idea of addiction counselling and rehabilitation to my son. Several weeks ago things had gotten so bad for him with regard to unstable living conditions, lack of groceries, being cut off from social assistance, etc., he made the decision to attend rehab. I saw this as the “hitting bottom” moment I have been waiting for for so long. My ex-wife and I were actively involved in the in-take procedure and drove him to the rehab location, sat with him and made sure he was all set up with what he needed for the 90 day stay. He lasted 10 hours and then was asked to leave because he brought pot with him and pushed a counselor who was dealing with him at the time. I later found out that he had learned just prior to leaving for rehab, that his social assistance support was back on and he had money waiting for him and the prospect of a paid-for apartment.

Within days the apartment promise evaporated and he was homeless again. Welfare and local agencies provided him with a motel room, but I think that ran out within a week or two. During that time he “begged” to stay with me and begged to stay with his mother and his brothers. I declined to provide him with shelter since I thought it was an enabling action and I could not provide the constant supervision he required. I reinforced the idea of returning to rehab. My ex-wife graciously offered shelter and made sure I felt like crap about my decision. Did I do the right thing ? I’m not sure.

After 3 days he was back on the street; his mother changed her mind about the situation. My son was back on the streets homeless and without food. He regularly calls me and his mother asking for groceries and supplies. I decline again and again to enable him and try to remind him that I am available to help if/when he chooses to go back to rehab. I have talked to the counselor at the original rehab facility and they will take him back when he is ready. Now, on the rare occasions we talk, I make sure he is aware of his options. I also explain to him about the struggle I have with providing him with a means to conduct his current lifestyle.

He no longer calls me … at all. He stays in contact with his mother and when she deems it appropriate, she shares information about him with me. Am I a mean person – a monster for the actions I have taken ? Am I taking this enabling concept to an extreme, or is it an extreme behavior by definition ? Should I provide groceries, shelter and other supplies to my addict son? I’m not sure anymore.

It’s Christmas time now. Do I invite him to Christmas dinner ? Do I provide shelter to him ? Do I put my other 2 sons at risk from the drugs he will bring with him ? If I do open my door to him, I can set a no drug rule, but those rules never meant anything to him in the past; will he abide by them now ?

I’m not sure.

To those readers who have gone through a similar situation and came out the other end successfully – what can you suggest to me ?



Liz says:
December 20th, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Ron,

Thank you so much for sharing this. It helps me tremendously and gives me the strengh and reassurance to do the same thing with regards to my daughter. It’s so hard for me to not rescue her when bad things happen, because it goes against every single grain of motherly instincts.

I know you are absolutley right and this truely helps. Thank you.



Susan Mayberry says:
December 20th, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Thank you for be so open and honest with yourselves during what was your nightmare. My prayers continuing to flow towards you, Darlene, and your kids.



Tammy says:
December 21st, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I too am wondering if I am a bad mother. It is the first real snowstorm of the year and my son is out there and I won’t go get him. I am fairly new to this way of helping my son, rescuing him was easier on my heart, but was not helping him. My x-mas present to him was reconnecting his phone so I could feel better knowing he could call 911 if he needed to. Gonna be a tough christmas for us here…..
Thanks for sharing, nice to know I’m not alone.



VJ says:
December 22nd, 2012 at 3:49 am

George,

Every addicted child must have help for them to continue in their addiction.

Each and every time my son asked me for help I would ask myself if the help I was providing was supporting his addiciton or was it supporting his recovery. If the answer was yes to supporting his addiction then I choose not to be a part of his request.

I was able to do this because I kept in contact with my alcohol/drug counselor and my sponsor from a parent 12 step support group. In addition, I read every book suggested to me about addiction.

It took me years to get to the point where I both understood the disease and was strong enough not to enable my child. Recovery is hard work for everyone, not just the addicted child.

Be kind to yourself, be patient and seek understanding.

This is a very difficult time for parents of addicted children.

When I pray for my child I also pray for your child.



Louise says:
December 22nd, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Ron,
Thank you for sharing your story. It helps to hear from other parents that are going through similar situations.
I have two sons that are addicted. One that lives away from home and works but is still addicted and needs help but won’t seek it. My other son lives at home and it is a daily struggle for me to set boundaries and keep sane. I found out five months ago about their addiction and was hopeful that once I knew what was going on, WE could change it. For months I have been reading one book after another, trying to understand what I need to do to help them. I talk to them both, encouraging rehab (demanding it at times), listening to their promises for recovery, hearing their heartbreak and feeling their pain. I work full time and the feelings of anger, pain, shock and depression over them just not getting over the drugs don’t leave me. I’ve been reading a book lately (Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children) that is helping me to understand the disease of addiction and that they have to do it on their own and us parents have to take care of ourselves, first and foremost. I know the road ahead is going to be rough but I also know that, like you, I must set more boundaries and stick with them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on boundaries, I think they are what helps to maintain sanity. Right now, I feel like I am just waiting for the next issue to arise due to their addiction when all I really want is to relax and enjoy my home again. I will continue to read my self help books and have a list of local al-anon meetings that I will also continue to attend. I came to this website this morning, looking for other parents of addicts stories and was so thankful for your and Liz’s notes. Thank you for also mentioning the holidays too, I’ve been struggling with guilt over how I can what to enjoy the season with my sons dealing with their disease and the forthcoming consequences of their actions. I wish you peace this holiday season. Thanks again for sharing!



Ron Grover says:
December 27th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Dear George,

Right up front I want to say one thing very clearly. YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING.

You have established boundaries and you are healthier for doing that. It is your sons decision to accept help, you can’t fix him. Nor can you or his mother negotiate away his addiction. The more you and her can talk openly about this the better it is for your son. And you will not always agree and that is OK. My wife and I decided up front between ourselves how we needed to handle issues in which we didn’t agree, what was our fall back position with fighting. We were able to do that together but seek help or a counselor if you aren’t able to work that issue alone. It is very important.

To your questions at the end of your e-mail. There are no hard fast answers. It all comes down to your boundaries. How are you able to interact with your son based upon your values and your boundaries? That’s the real question and when you are able to answer that one the other answers become easier. I know this probably sounds like a great non-answer but that’s really how it works if you want to help yourself and your son.

Good Luck and feel free to write any time. If you want to read more about how we dealt with our son feel free to read our personal blog: http://www.parentsofanaddict.blogspot.com Our son has been clear and sober for over 2.5 years but if you want to read what it was like during his active addiction go back in the archives to July 2010 and prior.

I also highly recommend you seek out a Nar-Anon or Al-Anon meeting. Seek out help. Speak to other parents of addicts, a counselor or call The Partnership Helpline 1-855-DRUGFREE. You do not have to do this alone. There are many others you can use for help,

Sincerely,
Ron Grover



Ron Grover says:
December 27th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Dear Tammy,

You are a good mother. You are doing what you must do to take care of yourself and your son. It is tough and I know from personal experience how you feel and know where you are right now. Feel free to write any time.

I want to give you a couple of links. The first is what I wrote about the term “tough love”, what you are doing is “real love”. http://intervene.drugfree.org/2011/10/the-language-of-drug-addiction-is-often-negative/

Also feel free to visit our personal blog. It is more of a day to day account of parenting an addict. Today our son is over 2.5 years clear and sober but you can read about his active addiction by going back in the archives to July 2010 and prior. http://www.parentsofanaddict.blogspot.com

Good Luck and feel free to write any time.

Sincerely,
Ron Grover



Sober Living says:
December 31st, 2012 at 10:28 am

I must say it was a very tough decision for you to be like that to your son. I am sure you loved and cared your kid and wanted his good well being and sobreity more than anything for his own good.

But the act you did was really brave, not all parents can be that strong and may fall for their kids demands and won’t be able to teach any valuable lesson to them.

I am sure he must be full of gratitude and now he is adult enough to understand that love was behind the harsh decisions taken for him.

- Anupam



Ray says:
January 3rd, 2013 at 3:12 am

There is a point where you cannot go any further with an addict. It varies from situation to situation because no two circumstances are the same. I know this because I found out the hard way. I lost my sister to alcoholism back in 2001. Back then the thinking was “Tough Love” all the way…no if’s and’s or but’s !! I know now that there was a point where we could have offered more to her as far as love, encouragement,and emotional support but we had learned to detach and don’t look back ideology. Looking back this was too severe. I know today that it was her decisions that caused Janie’s untimely death but I also know I could have done more like I said above. I have to live with that and some days are better than others. I am also a former addict so I have been on both sides of this thing. I commend the gentleman who wrote the above article and his story is proof that what he did will work out in the long run. But he had to find those important boundaries and decide where they would draw the line. That line has to be drawn…it has to be drawn or both you and the addict will become a part of a descending, progressive, and fatal affliction. It’s predictable!



Marie Rottschaefer says:
January 5th, 2013 at 1:30 am

I do not have an alcohol or drug problem. Bur when i was an R.N. I became interested in cognitive behavioral education or therapy (pick your choice of words). I worked briefly with a psychologist who had that training. I wanted to combine health promotion with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Quite separate from that venture I realized that I had an addiction to a pill swallowing phobia. The pills were legitimate prescriptions. It was the fear that I was addicted to meaning fear of choking. I tried this therapy on myself. I threw the book at myself. It worked! I tried multiple techniques. It took persistence and considerable time because one has to retrain one’s thinking and practice practice practice. Another important point. We can overcome an addiction but we must remember that we are very vulnerable to recidivism. Therefore we have to stay in practice! Thanks.



caren says:
January 6th, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Thank you, to all of you, for your wise, timely words. We are in the process of being truly commited to detaching with love. Our son knows we are here to support his recovery and that is all. He also knows we expect him to take the first step independent of us. We have lived this addiction for the last 8 years. It has progressed from alcohol to shooting heroin. Many times we rescued our son and it has taken our own insanity and risk of our own health to say…No more. My Higher Power, Hazelden readings, and Alanon teachings have provided me with the strength I need to get healthy and truly help my son. Get out of their way. They can amaze you. Prays to all parents struggling and to the addicts they love.



Susan says:
January 18th, 2013 at 9:38 pm

To George I took feel like a bad mother because I have set boundaries with my 19 year old daughter and she has let me know that she hates me because of it. She lives with her father who has consistently enabled her (the reason I left). He feels that he needs to help her by giving her money, allowing her to continue having a driving her car. She has reluctantly accepted rehab (I don’t think she’ll make it – her father believes her). She’s an addict & lies. I mostly feel selfish because I refuse to give up my life, money that I don’t have & have set boundaries. In fact, a “friend” who has a daughter who’s an addict with a child thinks that I am just such a selfish person because I refuse to see my daughter when she’s high or to help her in any possible way. I cannot stand to see her as she is now it hurts way too much. The only support that I have given her is going to therapy with her & paying for it & occasionnally have spent the day with her thinking she was not high (later realizing that she was). She just needed to know that I was there I suppose & initiated these outings. Always telling me that she was doing good using the Suboxone that had been prescribed. I found out 2 days ago that the longest she went without her drug of choice was 3 days. Again lies.
I have spent the last week crying on the spur of the moment & I’m stuck meaning I haven’t been able to leave my house. This a nightmare!
I think your doing the right thing for sure! I see my husband enabling her & nothing changes for her. She has a warm house to live in, doesn’t work (does drugs all day)goes out at night (every night) goes home or not. He doesn’t know what she’s doing & seems to not care & she thinks he loves her & I don’t. So be it! Nothing I can do about it. Maybe when & if she goes into rehab and relapses he’ll get it. I don’t even have hope at this point.



Sharon says:
January 24th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Susan, I’m so sorry for your pain. My husband has been my children’s enabler all along, not just with drugs. I think we have to treat the enabler the same as the addict. You can invite him to al-anon meetings or recommend books like others have mentioned here. The “Don’t let your kids kill you” title got my attention. Even, if I had known about that earlier, I doubt my husband would have gone or read anything, anyway. As the addict, he may not want help. The more you don’t enable, the more he will have the consequences of enabling. The more you can remove resources, the better. For example, put your money in a seperate account and decide exactly what you will pay for. I understand why you may have had to leave. You may find that if he didn’t enable, you may be under more stress when the addict is suffering. But, at least it is suffering for a purpose – to bring about change.
I have thought many times about “disappearing”, but there are grandchildren. My husband passed away, so the pressure will hit me. My son doesn’t know what I won’t do now that his father is out of the picture. I did get him an e-cig and he seems to be using it with few returns to cigarettes. But pot is still in the picture. I give him gas, not money, for going to job interviews with the promise he will pay me back when the tax returns come. If he doesn’t pay me back, that will be hard for both of us. I will have to set a new boundary.
Even if the addict gets sober, you cannot be sure what the future holds. You have to try not to get whipped around by hope. I think this is where the detachment approach is important. It seems, you have to maintain it for ever and maybe with everyone. I have to learn about that. I’m really just getting started. The problem with al-anon meetings is it seems like it takes for ever to figure out what is going on and what “work it” means. I need a class and a text book.
I have thought it would be good if there could be a community with walls around it for the addicts to be in a safe sober environment, but now I’m thinking it would be good if there were such a safe environment for us…physical detachment and no misguided pressure. I will never forget the doctor telling my son, at 16, that drugs could ruin his life and his parents lives and his saying, “I don’t care.” I wish the doctor told us to go to as many al-anon meetings as possible, right away, and stick with it for 6 months before forming an opinion about its usefulness. One thing I did do is make sure my husband was the one who went to the doctor with him after that so I didn’t buffer him from the consequences.
It may sound like I’m just giving advice, but I’m looking forward to what I can learn from other people who comment.



Barbara says:
March 10th, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I ALSO HAVE A SON WHO IS ON DRUGS, SINCE HE WAS 13 HE IS NOW 44 AND IS STILL ON THEM, I HAVE DONE EVERYTHING I KNOW, I JUST LOVE HIM SO MUCH I AM NOW LOOKING FOR HELP READING ALL THIS HAS HELPED ME SEE I AM NOT ALONE, SOMETIMES I ASK GOD FOR HELP BUT I KNOW IT IS UP TO ME, I DONT EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START, I DONT KNOW HOW TO SAY NO TO HIM. I AM LOOKING FOR MEETINGS BUT VERY HARD TO FIND, I LIVE IN MILWAUKEE WI. EVERY THING I READ HERE I NEED TO PUT IN MY ONE LIFE. THANK YOU PEOPLE VERY MUCH



Lilliana says:
March 15th, 2013 at 4:37 pm

All, we are not alone. The admission that there is a problem, there is nothing you can do to stop it, and detachment are, I think, key to lessening/stopping the enabling. I keep my sanity by attending Alanon. At Alanon you will meet people like us. Alanon is not an automatic cure, you have to gradually pick up tools that you chose to use–take what you like and leave the rest. It helped me with my emotional health. Read as much as you can. As far as the addict, I think that the sobering up is just as scary for the addict–life without their quick escape drug is probably scary. My daughter told me once that she wanted to stop so bad, but couldn’t get off the merry-go-round. It wasn’t till I literally cut her off that she stopped–first used methodone (she got tired of it) and suboxone finally weaned her off heroin. She felled so deep that it frustrated her to crawl out of that deep hole. I keep encouraging her that it will all be worth it that a clean life is better that keeping her dealer in his Navigator SUV. I pray every single day–sometimes several times a day that she will remain in recovery. God bless all you parents and spouses and the addicts that we love so much.



Mary says:
March 17th, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Barbara,

My heart aches for you, and all the parents reading this blog. I have concluded that the best thing I can do for you or any other parent facing this problem is to let you know that others share your pain, that others face the same problem, and to support you in making the hard decisions that are unfortunately necessary. Ceasing to enable an addict child does not feel good, and does not feel like what a loving parent should do. Unfortunately it is an essential step in addressing your child’s addiction.

My husband and I have been dealing with our 27 year old son’s drug addiction for the past 10 years. Other parents and counselors tried to tell me that I was part of the problem and that my enabling would only prolong the course of the disease, but I couldn’t accept it. Like my son, I had to learn by hard experience. I participated in a support group for parents of children with co-occurring disorders, and was horrified to see parents in their 60s, 70s, and 80s still struggling with their own tendency to enable, and their own feelings of failure and sorrow and pain at their child’s struggle. I finally “got it” when I read Ron Grover’s 7 Truths About My Drug Addict That Took 5 Years to Learn (on this site). I was on the brink of losing my marriage as well as my child and this article helped me to accept that there is no “fix” and that I had to change my behavior. The changes were hard (refusing to bail our son out of jail, refusing to hire a lawyer to defend him, and seeing him sent to prison for 5 years) but they were necessary. I had to face the fear that my son would kill himself and accept that it is his choice, not mine. As long as your son thinks he can manipulate you he will continue to do so–to his detriment and yours.

I encourage you to keep reading this blog and to seek out support from other parents who have dealt with their child’s drug addiction. My experience has been that only those who have struggled with this issue truly understand.



Patti Herndon says:
March 20th, 2013 at 4:35 pm

As parents of a son/daughter with a substance use disorder, we often carry with us unmanaged/untreated anger, fear and resentment about our son/daughters substance use disorder/co occurring disorder. Though our feelings about our circumstances are, absolutely, understandable; these feelings also serve as barriers to recovery -And, unfortunately, make responding effectively/appropriately, to our son/our daughter’s chronic condition of addiction, much less likely.

Some of the traditional ‘detachment strategies’ under the heading ‘tough love’ will tend to exacerbate an addiction and increase risk, as well as pile on further contention, distance and stress, to the relationship/relational dynamic between parent(s)and their substance use disordered son/daughter, -especially when the parent is overwhelmed and implementing these tough love techniques while under the influence of their own sense of anger/fear/resentments (anxiety).

Actions/decisions/responses, in regard to addiction, that are associated with ‘tough love’, inacted under the influence of anxiety, generally serve very little….least of all the person who needs/deserves help ‘the most’ -That being the individual with the chronic condition of addiction.

There is greatly diminished probability of an addicted individual engaging/achieving sustainable recovery when their family member’s decision making/interactions are limited by their unacknowledged and/or unmanaged and/or untreated anxiety about their extremely difficult circumstances -the circumstances of parenting a child with a chronic condition.

It isnt surprising to hear folks sharing the all too common stories about parents having attended peer support groups, (for decades, even)… yet, after all that intensive commitment/attendance, and after following all those automatic advisements of ‘detach’, ‘you’re an enabler’, ‘take care of yourself, ‘don’t support them/help them, because you’re only making it worse because you’re just in denial about ‘your addict’, ‘let them suffer the consequences of their choices’, and on, this common list, goes; very often their son or daughter has made little to, perhaps, even, no progress in engaging recovery.

‘Tough love’ applications are subjective, at best. If we are considering following advisements of a peer/peers; we need to consider that just because these parent peers ‘have been there’, it doesn’t mean that their advisements are appropriate, or even safe, when applied to ‘our’ particular circumstances, our particular son/daughter.

We need to be mindful about allowing influence by others/peers (well intended though they might be)that would have us viewing/seeing our son/daughter -who is challenged with a substance(s) use disorder/co occurring, (chronic condition/disease)- as a ‘liar’, a ‘thief’, and/or any other of these stigma/stereotype-generating characterizations…on the premise that seeing them in this way will ‘somehow’ protect us from being ‘manipulated’ by ‘our addict’.

These kinds of advisements are not ‘actual’ support. Predominantly, these kinds of advisements promote a sense of hopelessness about our circumstances, increasing worry and doubt, (anxiety) about our son/daughters ability to engage their own recovery process. These kinds of narratives about our sons/daughters, with a substance use disorder/co occurring disorder, won’t facilitate the necessary spirit required for productive recovery-purposed communications and actions.

These so called advisements, mostly, just tend to make everyone involved feel worse/less hopeful about their circumstances, promote more distance, contention and dysfunction in the relational dynamic between parent/addicted son/daughter….which, can, serve to trigger increase in the use of substances for coping by the addicted individual, thereby increasing the risks associated.

As a result of current, intensive studies in behavioral science, family systems studies, and neurological science/brain science – there is compelling evidence that shows that implementations of ‘tough love’ can decrease the odds for recovery, making the road much more treacherous and hopeless for individuals with a substance use disorder/co occurring disorder, as well as it adding stress for parents/family members (CSOs). Stress decreases hope and sense of self efficacy. Hope and sense of self efficacy is a clinical component in recovery. There will be no recovery in absence of these.
When we are hope-depleted in the journey of addiction, we are also much more inclined to exist in a chronic state of chronic anger, fear, frustration and resentment about our challenge. And this can be the case, despite those many support group meetings we attend. Not only will these negative feelings/narratives infiltrate/dominate every interaction we have with our son/daughter – who is struggling to engage their own sense of self efficacy about their challenge- but, that state of our unresolved anxiety (fear, anger, resentment, negative narratives/perspectives about our son/daughter) will, in turn, have us making decisions about how to respond to the challenges of addiction with less discernment. Less discernment = more risk.

Parents please read this Drugfree.org Intervene Community blog from 2011, written by an expert in the addictions field, Dr Pantalone, on the CURRENT and well regarded communication-serving, recovery-serving, family systems serving approach known as Motivational Interviewing. Pay particular attention to his instruction on the ‘spirit of approach’ regarding talking to/communicating with your son/daughter about their substances use.
http://intervene.drugfree.org/2011/08/teens-only-listen-to-one-personthemselves-how-a-childs-own-reasons-for-change-lead-to-the-most-success/

In addition, in reference to another Drugfree.org Intervene blog on the dangers of ‘boot camps’ (i.e tough love approaches/treatment), http://intervene.drugfree.org/2013/01/be-cautious-of-boot-camps-and-wilderness-programs-for-your-addicted-teen/- which featured the work/perspectives of the highly regarded neuroscientist/journalist/recovered person, Maia Salavitz- Here is a quote from her on ‘tough love’: “There is no lack of proof that the result of tough love is often harm rather than help”. Her work/books can be easily googled.

We are dedicated to helping our child with a substance use disorder/co occurring disorder. That’s as it should be. We love our children. That is undeniable fact. But, it’s critical that we, as parents, ensure that we are investing our precious energies in seeking out the kinds of helps/tools/support resources that encourage ‘our’ sense of hope and self efficacy, our belief that our son/daughter can absolutely arrive at sustainable recovery, little by little. Because in interacting without that sense, we are contributing to our child’s ‘stall’ in engaging recovery well over and above any ‘enabling’ or any ‘denial’ we might be influenced/inclined to accuse ourselves of. Enabling and denial are subjective concepts…But, a relational dynamic, with our addicted son/daughter, that is consistently tuned to suspicion, anger/resentment/fear is not subjective. It’s most certainly counterproductive.

Recovery is a process -A change process. Very often that change process/recovery process is a much longer process than we might imagine. That’s why it’s crucial that we learn to recognize sources/people that, inadvertently, encourage us to ‘always be in a guarded state…practicing/ruminating in fear, worry, angst about what ‘our addict’ might do ‘to us’ because, certainly, we are ‘enablers’ and we are ‘in denial’.

We need a BALANCE OF PERSPECTIVE. This comes by way of us engaging our efforts in education/supports that are rooted in current and multiple, evidence-based sources. Having a menu of options is important to us as parents. It’s also important for our addicted loved one. This increases our sense of empowerment and hope. This is how we up our sense of self efficacy and encourage the same in our son/daughter. This is how we navigate, best, in our goal of appropriate, effective responses to our addiction-challenged child, on behalf of our individual circumstances.

Please check out Self Management and Recovery Training, Friends and Family Support (Smart Recovery). This no cost, effective, easily accessible peer support resource is based on the current, and evidence-based spirit of approach of Motivational Interviewing and CRAFT (community reinforcement and family training).

Also read the book: “Get your loved one sober: Alternatives to nagging, pleading, begging”.

Godspeed to all us parents dedicated to the recovery of our deserving children. We are all deserving of health, and better lived moments.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.



Jerry Otero says:
March 20th, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Dear Patti,

I am really happy to hear that you like Maia Szalavitz’ writing. Please look for my Q&A with Ms. Szalavitz, a 4-part weekly series, coming soon.



Freida glass says:
April 6th, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I am having a really hard time, my 34 year old son is a pain pill addict… He recently stole something very precious to me, lied and even helped me look for it, he has been living with me, I can’t stand it, I told him may first you are out… How could I throw my son to the street? He recently went to jail, I thought there is my out I don’t have to toss him out i just don’t have to let him back in…easier said than done, got a call today he’s gettimg out of jail tomorrow,not sure what to do, he has no money no place to stay…how do Ileave him on the street with a blanket and a bag of clothes?



Teresa says:
April 22nd, 2013 at 6:05 pm

You wrote about the jails sometimes not even having a toothbrush available and it reminded me of how odd and crazy this whole situation is. My daughter is injecting heroin. At the same time I am still worrying about what will happen to her teeth, when in fact because of what she is doing she could die at any moment. Forever a parent is what I am.

Having a child who has become an addict is a crazy, horrible situation that I would not wish on anyone.



Patti Herndon says:
April 25th, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Susan: Based on what you share, your daughter has chosen to/has been responsible in making a decision to enter into treatment.

Most parents would consider that a reason to be ‘more’ hopeful, not less. Yet, your demonstrated, shared response to the commitment your daughter has made is (again, based on what you share) is quote,”I don’t think she’ll make it”". You also write, “She’s an addict & lies”. “Again, lies”. “I don’t even have hope at this point.”

See the pattern, Susan? “Power of the pattern”.

Susan, while I understand how difficult your circumstances are, and most parents in this community can empathize with the challenges you share;its pretty clear that your resentments/anger/blame, and what equates to some level of an unintended ‘rejection’ of your daughter is contributing to some degree (probably more than you might imagine)in the dysfunction you describe.

Your feelings are understandible. It’s hard. It’s hard for her too. Her feeling rejected/not supported by you is a valid feeling, whether you agree with her reasons for feeling that way or not. There are ways you can encourage better relational dynamic with her.

YOur a good mom, you love her…helping her to discover her reasons to make healthy change should be your goal. When we have that as our goal, it helps us move the anxiety/resentment/fear that stall momentum in recovery, out of way. This takes practice. It takes conscious awareness and consistency, as to our chosen energy/spirit we are ‘putting out there’, modeling to our loved one with a substances use disorder. It takes time…patience…and belief in self (self efficacy) that we (all of us in the family)can achieve better lived moments, little by little. As parents of children with a substance use disorder, this is a calling…

When we bind ourself to rigid, inflexible rules, we lose our ability to authentically support and encourage a loved one to and through recovery. When we are tuned to suspicion at every turn, about our child with a substance use disorder, in the name of “On no. Not me. I WILL NOT be fooled or manipulated by her”; we are contributing to their stall/their lack of recovery. When we verbalize/write or develop a thought pattern such as “I don’t have any hope in their ability to change”, or ‘My addict’ (stigma language) lies”, or, “They love drugs more than me”, or “My ‘addict’ (again stigma language) will NEVER stop using drugs, and I don’t have any hope anymore”…(The list goes on and on);We are increasing the odds that our son/daughter will not gain recovery, will not be successful in making healthy change.

Do we desire to be right/righteous (subjective) more than we want to genuinely encourage our child to toward their own reasons for change?

Healthy boundaries are those that are appropriate for our ‘individual’ circumstances, based on our individual son/daughters needs/strengths (she has both) and the health of the family system.

If your goal is to help/encourage your daughter toward engaging her own reasons for making healthy change/engaging recovery…(And that should be the goal. In addition, ‘her’ reasons are the only one’s that will get her to sustainable recovery, little by little); then, it becomes rather difficult to ignore the importance of recognizing how unresolved/unmanaged anger/blame etc. is contributing, not only to the dysfunction and contention in your relationship, but also to your daughter lack of momentum in recovery.

The blame game serves no one, least of all your daughter. She loves you. She doesnt hate you. As a good mom, you know that to be the truth. She’s having a difficult time with processing/managing her own feelings about her EXTREMELY difficult circumstances. You describe a ‘party girl’. I get that. Your angry. But, it’s more likely that that image you project of her is, at least, some ‘off’, as it does reflect the likely reality that she is scared, stressed and confused about how to problem solve her way through -even if she doesnt communicate those feelings about her challenge with you. And, the reality is, that she won’t likely choose to share in an open spirit with you under the circumstances/environment you frame above.And, that’s understandible. It’s too risky for her to make herself vulnerable to someone significant, as her mom, who demonstrates, verbalizes a lack of hope and faith in her ability to make healthy change, little by little.

She’s entered into, or is going to be entering into treatment -you should support her in that. And that means ‘you’ are responsible for the spirit in which you will interact with her.

Recovery is not only possible, it’s likely. Most people recover from their substance use disorder, in some amount of time. The average number of relapses is 7 or 8 before an individual with a substance use disorder gains sustainable recovery.

More people recover from their substance disorder than do not. When we interact in a way that communicates a lack of hope and faith to a son/daughter, (mostly ’cause you refuse to be manipulated by a ‘lying addict’, and you absolutely will not spend time around them if they are ‘high’ (good luck with being a 100% accurate on determining when that is and isnt 100% of the time -again, the poing being that existing in a frequency of suspicion, all the time, will act as a barrier to recovery; we are serving the opposite of recovery.

Demonstrating ‘genuine’ empathy to someone who has a substance use disorder is a must. Note that empathy is not enabling, it is not ‘weakness’. It’s empathy. It’s a requirement in any healthy relationship.

We are all good, loving parents. We need to remind ourselves of that. But, we can be good loving parents who also benefit in increasing our ability to encourage/support our son/daughter, ever more effectively, by recognizing the ways our chosen narrative/our spirit about our son/daughters challenge impacts ‘their’ sense of belief in themselves. We owe them every ounce of belief we can cultivate. “Belief in their ability” is not to equated with ‘denial’, either. No. A demonstrated belief in their ability to recover is just ‘belief’ -which serves hope which serves ‘productive’ recovery purposed thoughts and actions. And, it’s important. It’s critical.

I wish all us parents enlightenments, peace and Godspeed.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination



Jessica says:
May 14th, 2013 at 10:00 pm

How did you turn it off?

I am convinced that detaching is the appropriate response BUT my heart wont stop nurturing!

Are their mental activities I can engage in to decrease the ache in my heart?

Disciplining my child by saying no was uncomfortable but totally doable– this is sometimes dehibilitating.

Please help



Terry says:
May 21st, 2013 at 10:28 am

Thank you to all taking the time to write of experiences and to those offering advise. My sweet, 22 year old son died on fathers day in our home in 2010 due to an overdose. He mixed prescription drugs with alcohol and cocaine. He was recovering but relapsed by taking amounts he was used to taking. He was our youngest of five.
Our oldest son is in prison for alcohol related offenses, and now my middle son who just graduated from college was arrested for a cocaine charge. I am barely holding on to thin strains of sanity. How is it that my children have substance abuse problems in a home where there was no smoking nor drinking allowed?
I am amazed how easy it is for people to get Prescription drugs such as suboxin, Xanax , sleep depressants and anti-depressants practically in bulk not only for their use but to trade and/or sell it. I think there should be dispensaries to administer these type of drugs for people who need it and not be so readily available to those who abuse it.



Amber says:
June 20th, 2013 at 2:28 am

I need help.
My son is jail he went to another state he was pulled over for speeding, he was given only a warning. Another officer pulled up and ran all the guys ids Peter (one of the guys in the car) had a warrant out for his arrest.

In the mean time the officer that gave my son a warning said he could leave, my son asked if he could wait for Peter in case he needed a ride, that officer said he could wait and he left.

The officer that had Peter in the car walked up and searched the car he found one ADHD pill (it belonged to Peter). He arrested my son for possession of a controlled substance.

He will be in jail until court, I don’t understand how they can hold him if it wasn’t his pill and Peter said it was his and he has a prescription for it???

My son has been in court for under age drinking, jail 7 days for dui and now this. Before he had his ankle bracelet I feared he would be killed in a car accident and or partying, he was drinking sooooo much. Now with the ankle bracelet he can not drink but he gets high every day.

Now with this new issue our son he keeps telling us he hasn’t done anything wrong. He has been in jail for one week, we went to get his car from the impound and we were able to visit him, I asked how can they keep him after he had told me what had happened.

My son said “I will be out next week it just takes time to do the paper work mom” he assured me.

Today I get a call saying that he has to go to court and he would like us to bail him out. He has a $15,000.00 bond but he told me I could pay just the 10% $1,500.00. He assured me it would be like a loan, I would get it back when he goes to his court date.

He said I don’t want to miss work, I again asked how can they hold you??? I need a court appointed lawyer mom to do the paperwork.

Long Story short I need help!!!! Please!!!!!! When he called I told him I would need to talk to his Dad. We don’t know what to do, we really don’t have many facts to know what’s truly going on.

Please help Us! First I would like to know ALL the details of the arrest, why are they holding him??? Is there some where I can find out?????

Also as for bonding him out what do you suggest????

Loving our Son, But Confused, Thus far we have over done for our son in his life always rescuing him..

Thanks for your Help



liz barnes says:
June 23rd, 2013 at 1:23 am

I’m a terrible mother and enable my child’s drug addiction. His father gives tough love but I give him money n make excuses. Please help



Patti Herndon says:
July 1st, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Liz: My heart goes out to you. You are in my prayers

Sometimes it’s just automatic. Maybe we have not developed a sense of autonomy/self efficacy that would have us questioning the logic (rather, the lack of) that would have us labeling ourselves and others negatively…and, then, certainly refusing stigmatic labeling such as ‘enabler’ parent…or ‘addict’ son/daughter. And, that’s really sad.

But, it does speak to how we, as a collective of parents of kids with substance use disorder, are influenced/brainwashed to assert that ‘we must ‘all’ be enablers’.

These kinds of assertions are due to prevalent dogma and social cueing regarding addiction -that has been around a long while. Approaches to recovery are improving as we learn more and more about how a person makes healthy, sustainable change. Thank God!

Negative narratives are destructive. And, labels are for jars. People are people FIRST. We are not labels. We are not ‘addict’, or ‘enabler’, or ‘junky’ or ‘drunk’, or ‘liar’, or some other stereotype, etc. We are individuals. And, we need to begin by respecting ourselves and others -without using marginalizing labels.

Unfortunately this negative labeling is pretty common. This perception about addiction and those who are challenged by an addiction, and the parents/family of those who are challenged by addiction, goes a long way to ensure that we stay ‘stuck’ within a social role that allows society/our culture to use this population as a ‘scapegoat’ for ‘all our societal ills/our lack of moral anchoring, etc.

We’ve all been exposed to this negative influence posing as ‘support and encouragement’. It looks something like this: “All parents are enablers”. “All ‘addicts’ are liars and thieves”… And on the destructive, stigma-making blanket assertions roll.

Tip 1: When you see or hear this kind of blanket statement -verbalized or written- from a source or a person who is supposed to be ‘supporting you’, ‘encouraging you’, ‘counseling you’…’someone you’ve engaged help from because they are supposed to be coming from a place of wisdom/that whole ‘been there done that’ premise; Please consider that this perspective/this negative narrative is the mark of someone who, likely, is not/has not dealt with their own issues of anger/resentment/fear (anxiety) about their own circumstances…This leads to them ‘projecting’ their woes onto others. And, they may not even be consciously aware that they are stuck in this negative pattern.

Tip #2 Wish your recovery support source (individual/or group) well, but, quickly move to find another more qualified source of support. Do your research. Just because a parent advocate/or even licensed clinician is investing in helping others in meeting settings and/or other environments such as online blogs- does not mean they are equipped to ‘genuinely’ help you discover those approaches that will fit ‘your’ specific circumstances. This is especially true if the friend, parent advocate/advocate group or clinician, you have engaged for help/advice, is only familiar with one approach/philosophy regarding addiction/recovery.

We need a ‘menu of options’ rather that a philosophy that asserts that ‘one size fits all’ in order to discover the best strategies that will support recovery in our individual circumstances. We need sources of support that empower us and help us discover and utilize our innate strength in overcoming challenge. And we all have that ability.

As parents of a son/daughter with a substance use disorder, we often carry with us unmanaged/untreated anger, fear and resentment about our son/daughters substance use disorder/co occurring disorder. Though our feelings about our circumstances are, absolutely, understandable; these feelings also serve as barriers to recovery -And, unfortunately, make responding effectively/appropriately, to our son/our daughter’s chronic condition of addiction, much less likely.

Some of the traditional ‘detachment strategies’ under the heading ‘tough love’ will tend to exacerbate an addiction and increase risk, as well as pile on further contention, distance and stress, to the relationship/relational dynamic between parent(s) and their substance use disordered son/daughter, -especially when the parent is overwhelmed and implementing these tough love techniques while under the influence of their own sense of anger/fear/resentments (anxiety).

Actions/decisions/responses, in regard to addiction, that are associated with ‘tough love’, enacted under the influence of anxiety, generally serve very little….least of all the person who needs/deserves help ‘the most’ -That being the individual with the chronic condition of addiction.

There is greatly diminished probability of an addicted individual engaging/achieving sustainable recovery when their family member’s decision making/interactions are limited by their unacknowledged and/or unmanaged and/or untreated anxiety about their extremely difficult circumstances -the circumstances of parenting a child with a chronic condition.

It isn’t surprising to hear folks sharing the all too common stories about parents having attended peer support groups, (for decades, even)… yet, after all that intensive commitment/attendance, and after following all those automatic advisements of ‘detach’, ‘you’re an enabler’, ‘take care of yourself, ‘don’t support them/help them, because you’re only making it worse because you’re just in denial about ‘your addict’, ‘let them suffer the consequences of their choices’, and on, this common list, goes; very often their son or daughter has made little to, perhaps, even, no progress in engaging recovery.

‘Tough love’ applications are subjective, at best. If we are considering following advisements of a peer/peers; we need to consider that just because these parent peers ‘have been there’, it doesn’t mean that their advisements are appropriate or even safe when applied to ‘our’ particular circumstances, our particular son/daughter.

We need to be mindful about allowing influence by others/peers (well intended though they might be)that would have us viewing/seeing our son/daughter -who is challenged with a substance(s) use disorder/co occurring, (chronic condition/disease)- as a ‘liar’, a ‘thief’, and/or any other of these stigma/stereotype-generating characterizations…on the premise that seeing them in this way will ‘somehow’ protect us from being ‘manipulated’ by ‘our addict’.

These kinds of advisements are not ‘actual’ support. Predominantly, these kinds of advisements promote a sense of hopelessness about our circumstances, increasing worry and doubt, (anxiety) about our son/daughters ability to engage their own recovery process. These kinds of narratives about our sons/daughters, with a substance use disorder/co occurring disorder, won’t facilitate the necessary spirit required for productive recovery-purposed communications and actions.

These so called advisements, mostly, just tend to make everyone involved feel worse/less hopeful about their circumstances, promote more distance, contention and dysfunction in the relational dynamic between parent/addicted son/daughter…which can serve to trigger, increase in the use of substances for coping by the addicted individual, thereby increasing the risks associated.

As a result of current, intensive studies in behavioral science, family systems studies, and neurological science/brain science – there is compelling evidence that shows that implementations of ‘tough love’ can decrease the odds for recovery, making the road much more treacherous and hopeless for individuals with a substance use disorder/co occurring disorder, as well as it adding stress for parents/family members (CSOs). Stress decreases hope and sense of self efficacy. Hope and sense of self efficacy is a clinical component in recovery. There will be no recovery in absence of these.
When we are hope-depleted in the journey of addiction, we are also much more inclined to exist in a chronic state of chronic anger, fear, frustration and resentment about our challenge. And this can be the case, despite those many support group meetings we attend. Not only will these negative feelings/narratives infiltrate/dominate every interaction we have with our son/daughter – who is struggling to engage their own sense of self efficacy about their challenge- but, that state of our unresolved anxiety (fear, anger, resentment, negative narratives/perspectives about our son/daughter) will, in turn, have us making decisions about how to respond to the challenges of addiction with less discernment. Less discernment = more risk.

Parents please read this Drugfree.org Intervene Community blog from 2011, written by an expert in the addictions field, Dr Pantalone, on the CURRENT and well regarded communication-serving, recovery-serving, family systems serving approach known as Motivational Interviewing. Pay particular attention to his instruction on the ‘spirit of approach’ regarding talking to/communicating with your son/daughter about their substances use.
http://intervene.drugfree.org/2011/08/teens-only-listen-to-one-personthemselves-how-a-childs-own-reasons-for-change-lead-to-the-most-success/

In addition, in reference to another Drugfree.org Intervene blog on the dangers of ‘boot camps’ (i.e tough love approaches/treatment), http://intervene.drugfree.org/2013/01/be-cautious-of-boot-camps-and-wilderness-programs-for-your-addicted-teen/- which featured the work/perspectives of the highly regarded neuroscience journalist/recovered person, Maia Salavitz- Here is a quote from her on ‘tough love’: “There is no lack of proof that the result of tough love is often harm rather than help”. Her work/books can be easily googled.

We are dedicated to helping our child with a substance use disorder/co occurring disorder. That’s as it should be. We love our children. That is undeniable fact. But, it’s critical that we, as parents, ensure that we are investing our precious energies in seeking out the kinds of helps/tools/support resources that encourage ‘our’ sense of hope and self efficacy, our belief that our son/daughter can absolutely arrive at sustainable recovery, little by little. Because in interacting without that sense, we are contributing to our child’s ‘stall’ in engaging recovery well over and above any ‘enabling’ or any ‘denial’ we might be influenced/inclined to accuse ourselves of. Enabling and denial are subjective concepts…But, a relational dynamic, with our addicted son/daughter that is consistently tuned to suspicion, anger/resentment/fear is not subjective. It’s most certainly counterproductive.

Recovery is a process -A change process. Very often that change process/recovery process is a much longer process than we might imagine. That’s why it’s crucial that we learn to recognize sources/people that, inadvertently, encourage us to ‘always be in a guarded state…practicing/ruminating in fear, worry, angst about what ‘our addict’ might do ‘to us’ because, certainly, we are ‘enablers’ and we are ‘in denial’.

We need a BALANCE OF PERSPECTIVE. This comes by way of us engaging our efforts in education/supports that are rooted in current and multiple, evidence-based sources. Having a menu of options is important to us as parents. It’s also important for our addicted loved one. This increases our sense of empowerment and hope. This is how we up our sense of self efficacy and encourage the same in our son/daughter. This is how we navigate, best, in our goal of appropriate, effective responses to our addiction-challenged child, on behalf of our individual circumstances.

Please check out Self Management and Recovery Training, Friends and Family Support (Smart Recovery). This no cost, effective, easily accessible peer support resource is based on the current and evidence-based spirit of approach of Motivational Interviewing and CRAFT (community reinforcement and family training).

Also read the book: “Get your loved one sober: Alternatives to nagging, pleading, threatening”.

Godspeed to all us parents dedicated to the recovery of our deserving children. We are all deserving of health, and better lived moments.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.



Nancy Toth says:
July 10th, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I sit here heart broken reading everyone’s horror show of dealing with an addicted child. My adult son (now 29) was caught using pills 3 years ago. My husband and I found out he had been taking or snorting Oxy. We flew him to another state to get him some help. We had him evaluated at a hospital that has inpatient and outpatient therapy. They evaluated him and felt he did not need inpatient or outpatient therapy that he was not using much so would benefit from regular counseling. I found a guy who would take him immediately and was told my son was not addicted but had bad coping skills. He was supposed to find a counselor when we returned to our home state but did not. he never showed any signs of withdrawal other than a bit of moodiness and we knew he was not taking anything because we checked everything before we flew out. We were with him 24/7 and he had no access to a vehicle nor knew where anything was. This past March his girlfriend told us he was using drugs again. Again, we went to him crying asking why and told him he needed help. We called another drug facility here and he was referred to a woman counselor. He never made the appointment. He is now using methadone we are told. He and a co-worker lost their jobs (not due to drugs) and his girlfriend just had a miscarriage. She says he is worse than ever. His car just broke down, his unemployment was messed up because of a wrong routing number and now he has no money. He lives with his GF and her friend and has not paid rent. I told her to throw him out but she feels bad. We allowed him to work for us part time. Now my husband went to see him and told him no more working for us, no coming to visit while he decides to do drugs. We are done. He acted like he didn’t care and is now angry with us. We are completely at a loss why he has decided to do drugs and not get help. He comes from a very loving, caring home. We have told him this repeatedly. I don’t know where to turn. I am afraid my son will be found dead one morning. He has no job, no car, no insurance. How can he ever get help if he does decide to get it? I think to myself I do not want to live to see my son die. This is the worst pain a parent can feel besides the death of their child. I wish i knew what to do except sit and wait and pray that he is uncomfortable enough to change. Ron, this has helped me to read your story and does give me a bit of hope. I pray every day God intervenes but I have seen too many cases where he does not. The incredible part if my 21 nephew died in January from a drug overdose and my son still doesn’t get it because “he doesn’t have a problem.” Does anyone have any advice on anything more we can do?



Patti Herndon says:
July 11th, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Nancy,

Please google SMART Recovery Friends and Family (Self Management and Recovery Training).

And, also, please get the book, I mention above, by Robert Myers and Brenda Wolf:“Get your loved one sober -Alternatives to nagging, pleading, threatening”. Find some time to do some reading on the SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training) website when you have some uninterrupted time and are in a rested state.

I know how hard it is to find those moments when worry isn’t dominating your thoughts. That’s something I remember well. But, as best you can, ensure that you’re taking in the Self Management and Recovery Training information in an environment, and in a state of mind, that is as free from distraction as is possible.

SMART recovery is a support resource, a recovery tool, the ‘something more’ that you and your husband can do that utilizes proven, current, evidence based practices (Motivational Interviewing and CRAFT Community Reinforcement and Family Training)to help parents and other loved ones productively support their addicted loved one in engaging recovery.

The process will teach you, among many other things, how to manage the emotions associated the difficult circumstances you experienced so that you can learn better effective ways to interact with your son that will serve to help strengthen communications, and help move his anger/stress (everyone’s anger/stress)out of the way -so that the focus of energy is purposed toward him making healthy change, rather than the focus being on everyone’s emotions.

SMART helps parents (and other loved ones) establish healthy, appropriate expectations based on their individual circumstances, needs, and strengths associated with their son/daughter/their particular family system.

It’s critical to begin to remove the barriers that all our negative emotions, negative narratives (our anxiety) bring to bear on recovery. When the communications with our son/daughter improves -gets healthier, less dysfunctional- stress lessens, for all. When stress lessens for all… there is energy for productive use toward recovery.

When communications are not overburdened by everyone’s collective fear, anger, blame, shame, quilt, disappointment, resentment, suspicion, etc.; Your son is much more likely to begin discovering and acknowledging the reasons he has to make healthy change. Once this acknowledging of his own reasons occurs, your son begins to take action toward that healthy change he desires, the life he wants to live.

It’s a process that occurs little by little. That’s the way sustainable recovery occurs -little by little. So, its critical that everyone in the family begins to build healthy patience, sense of perseverance and commitment to practicing communication strategies that support healthy change…RECOVERY. The principles/strategies of SMART Recovery will help you achieve this.

Negative, anxiety-dominated emotions hold recovery captive, Nancy. All the arguing and fighting and ruminating about all the stuff that he has done, or why he has done them, and all the stuff his problems have cost you and your husband, and all the stuff his choices have cost himself become a drain on your energy/his energy, if it is not shifted into productive use.

I wasted so much time and energy (that I will never get back)…years…on wondering and ruminating on ‘how this could happen in my loving home’, ‘he wasn’t raised that way’ and ‘why won’t he admit he’s ‘AN ADDICT’ ….on and on and on and on and on and on my anxiety dominated -Until I said, “No more of this”. I had systematically, single-handedly worn ‘myself’ out. And, that certainly didn’t help my son gain recovery…and that state of emotional exhaustion certainly wasn’t doing anything to strengthen the relational dynamic among my family members.

Addiction happens. It can happen to anyone, any family. And, it is beyond difficult. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t invest our energy in strategies that facilitate healthy change and sustainable recovery. We need never think that our only recourse is to ‘do nothing’ or, ‘nothing but pray’. Prayer certainly helped support my spirit while I was trying to figure out ‘what was the next best thing I could do to support my son in his recovery journey’. But, I never chose to believe that ‘doing nothing’ was anywhere near an appropriate response for my particular son, my individual family circumstances. I’m glad I listened to those intelligent instincts. I don’t think my son would be/we would be where we are now, if I’d allowed myself to just ‘disconnect’.

If what we have been doing, what we have been investing our time and energy in, in terms of support resources, hasn’t seen our son/daughter gain ‘some’ amount/some kind of healthy momentum in their choices regarding their substance use in a reasonable amount of time …then, logic (and love) dictates that it’s time to try ‘something else’.

You’re in my prayers, Nancy…Wishing you increasing peace and Godspeed in your journey.

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

SMART has a messageboard that has extensive posts on various addiction related material. As well as a tools and worksheets page where you find various materials used during meetings or for yourself. There are our on-line voice and text chats where you keep in touch and receive from peers. The online community provides resources for learning, online meetings, and addiction recovery support.

Cannot Make it to a SMART Meeting?

No worries. Whether you are too far away or not well to go out you can participate online. SMART online has many meetings available everyday. All you need to do is register, and with a click of a mouse, you can listen in and have open discussions with other participants. You can meet others from all over the globe who participate in SMART online and face to face meetings.



Debbie Sandhurst says:
August 16th, 2013 at 6:57 am

I discovered SMART Recovery 4 weeks ago and we started attending meetings 3 weeks ago. We are fortunate that a nearby Kaiser Hospital has a SMART Recovery program. I like the meetings because they are facilitated and cross talking is permitted. Our son is 29 years old and has a severe drinking problem. I have been to a lot of Al-Anon meetings, but SMART Recovery is a better fit for me and my husband.



Patti Herndon says:
August 22nd, 2013 at 2:24 am

Thank you, Debbie, for your positive endorsement of SMART Recovery.

I’m not surprised you and your husband find SMART Recovery to be a better fit than Al Anon. I hear that a lot.

Actually, Al Anon and SMART Recovery can be used together very effectively. My family is an example of that. We invested in 12 Step support early on in the journey. Personally, I know, now, 15 years later -with a son in long term recovery- that the tools I/We learned that are SMART Recovery based very clearly increased my son’s momentum in recovery. But, that is ‘our individual experience’. But, that is not to say that I regret the early years of Al Anon…And my son doesn’t necessarily regret his early years of AA. He just is very quick to say that the SMART approach to Recovery is what helped him ‘the most’. And, he would know what worked for him more than me or anyone else…because he’s the one walking in his own shoes:-) It was definitely a ‘better fit’, just as you describe.

Sometimes we just avoid the new kid on the block, arbitrarily. We don’t cotton to the idea of ‘change’. We humans have a tough time with that.

Honestly, I’ve been disappointed in how defensive some folks have been even at the mere mention of the name of other support resources that are not AA or Al Anon. Or… the ‘silence’ in response, or the old ‘change the subject tactic’ I have run into when I suggest to some parents/fellow advocates that they would gain momentum in their goal of helping others by checking into and providing a list of support options to families, in addition to Al Anon. And, why this reaction? It’s an important question…but it’s the answer which is critical.

As parents, we need a quantity and quality of options in addiction support in order to problem solve for ourselves, in order to build a sense of self efficacy and to sustain a sense of hope and empowerment about our challenge. The more options we have to choose from, in terms of good, effective support resources, the better. People need to figure out for themselves what resource or combination of resources serves their individual needs ‘best’.

We need to be encouraging families and individuals challenged by addiction to research and try multiple resources. Period.

There are helpful websites, easily accessed, that include web addresses/contact information regarding many kinds of support resources, including SMART Recovery, AA/Al Anon/ 12-step based resources, Women for Sobriety, LifeRing Recovery…to name a few. There are more resources.

The more we engage learning about ‘all’ the options we have, the more options we open up for ourselves…the more creative problem solving energy and hope we generate in supporting ourselves and our addicted loved one in the journey to recovery.

Wishing you increasing well being and peace as you journey, Sandhurst family…

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.



Jen says:
September 30th, 2013 at 5:21 am

We just took our 27 yr old son to rehab for the last time. We have also decided that we must detach and let our son experience the full consequences of his drug addiction in order to save OURSELVES. He has been a drug addict for 7 years and just as we were told, his disease would progress and indeed it has. We have lost our home and gone through thousands of dollars in trying to “help” him so we now live in a small apartment. We have taken him to rehab more times than I care to remember, all because of our failure to recognize how we were as sick as our addict son. We have been enabling him for far too long and it really is time to let go and start a new life where we value what happens to US.



kim says:
October 1st, 2013 at 2:09 pm

my son is 25. He is dependant on opiates.
He threatens suicide and criminals acts when he does not have money. I gave him money. I felt his pain. I thought.. if I help him to get drugs it will ease his pain.
The he will not do anything which will end him up in jail where there is no counselling, no anger management, no help. He is on a waiting list for rehab. He started a methadone maintenance program 1 week ago, 30mg is not enough.. I am his enabler. I am his Mom.
I have used my resources up, I have no more money for him..Im struggling to pay my bills now. I feel like I am also an addict….. of rescuing my son…It seems that I am involved in an assisted suicide…
I am so sad for him but I feel that as his enabler I have made things worse. I wish I would have said NO sooner because the real reason that I no longer want to enable is not because I’m out of money but because I love him.
Today Im beginning to understand if he kills himself that’s his decision and its also his decision to get help.
He also knows I will support every effort by him to get his life turned around.
Today I read here somewhere that “addiction is the journey..recovery the destination”, I liked that.

I smiled when a mom said she was worried about her daughters teeth..I thought the same thing

I will tell him that when he begins his phone calls to me today. I have been warning him for the last while that it was coming to an end.. that the money was running out..but as some of you already know, “mom I need help, Ill kill my self it’ll be your fault, I need insurance for car to get a job, I got ripped off, I need a phone,just until the methadone dose increases, I’ll steal from someone and go to jail” It justs goes on and on…
today I will tell him that its not about the money but about the fact that I love him.
Its weird,Its as if telling him I’m out of money was easier and was a better reason than just saying no. Maybe being out of money has made me realize, maybe stumbling across this page today has made me feel less alone..thanks to you all

I feel a lot of responsibility for where he is…but I also feel that I cant waste time feeling guilty and responsible. I did the best that I could…Then I feel a lot of responsibility and guilt again.



Jerry Otero says:
October 2nd, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Dear Kim,

You don’t need me to tell you that there are no easy answers or quick fix solutions to the problems that you decribe in your blog post comment. Have you considered calling the Parent Helpline 1-855-378-4373?

By doing so, you will be able to speak to a trained professional who might be able to offer suggestions for to try that will help you get better at sidestepping the interpersonal dynamics that you describe and also get your son the help he needs.

The call is free and confidential 1-855-378-4373. Ask for me directly.

Jerry Otero MA
Parent Support Specialist
The Partnership at Drugfree.org



Marilyn Baker says:
October 4th, 2013 at 4:12 am

Detach?? – Tuff Love??
How about love them unconditionally, there are extreme situations with addiction or anger problems that do need a third party to help the FAMILY, I believe it is a family problem not just the child’s. I still think detaching or using a “tuff love” discipline is not the answer. A good kid, one bad decision can lead to another and so on if parents are not making them their first and only priority!
I am only sharing my experience, what I believe through my life experiences, the choice we made and why.
My son who was an outstanding high school athlete popular, an amazing individual to know and who had been the best child you could ask for made a bad choice, at the age of 17. That’s when his behavior started to change. New friends he was not as open as usual it seemed practically overnight he was not the person we knew, he got into trouble over and over, drugs were a part but not extreme addiction. My believing that the coaches or the school or others that hold themselves out as a role model to our kids would notice and contact parents, but this is seems is not always the case.
My husband and I did all we could for him financially and was there every call court date until it was out of our hands, we took all calls, bailed him out stood up for him at all costs.
I heard other of his friends say after being kicked out that their mom must not have loved them enough. Some of his friend’s parents just give up on their kids, first sight of trouble they would; kick them out or let the “system” handle it by using tuff love as their excuse. I believe some were embarrassed.
What do you do?
Detach?? – Use tuff love??
They are our children and if we don’t stand by them who will?
Our choice (right or wrong) we believed we had shown him unconditional love and support since birth and deep down those values were still there just lost for a minute and given time would be the strength he needed to find his way back. I could have been reacting to my childhood experiences which were the exact opposite, my mom would have through me out if I did a 10th of what he did. BUT I was not giving up on the one thing in my life I could not live without. MY SON So we stood behind him all the way.
“Love him through it” advise I heard from a child advocate who said we as parents teach our children by example, keeping open dialog, letting them know how important they are and they are our first priority in life. By the tween years you lose most chances to impart values due to outside influences ie: life, friends, and bad experiences with other adults that should be a role let them down. I feel all teens can be exposed to a moment that one choice can lead them down the wrong path as parents we need to do all we can for them after every time because they are not disposable after all they are ours.
For me I feel as a parent I knew he had been given a good foundation growing up instilling values, keeping an open dialog and showing him he would be supported and loved no matter what, even when things go wrong hoping this would give him a good foundation for change the other choice would be “screw it”!
It was the hardest thing we have ever been through, we lost a lot personally; our home my job from stress, my extended family starting with mom – but I wasn’t detaching or washing my hands of the one and only true thing in life I could not live without! MY SON
Today he has graduated from Vatterot got married and is a productive person. I could not be more proud.
He has told us thank you for not giving up on him and our relationship could not be any closer.



Patti Herndon says:
October 19th, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Way to go, Marilyn! You, your family are inspiring to so many…Keep on keepin’ on. Continued blessings to you and your son and family.

Please come back and share more, here, on Intervene. We need to hear these kinds of stories of hope and recovery. It helps us all gain an expanding perspective about the potential of the road ahead:-)

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.



Louise Anderson says:
November 25th, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Our almost 30-year-old son has been in jail for about 2 and a half months. He broke into our house and stole electronics, jewelry and a gun to support his drug addiction. He confessed to three felonies. As parents and victims we are confused as to what is the correct thing to do. Every (limited) communication between us has centered on him asking for money for his account in jail. As a victim, I told him I couldn’t do that. It didn’t make any sense. He has not called or sent a letter in six weeks. I’ve sent him a few letters in which I explained there would be new boundaries and any communication could not be about money. I realize now I was a codependent as he always came to me wanting to borrow $20 or $40, almost daily. I know he is scheduled to be sentenced in mid-December. My conflict now is what to do about the holidays and should I go to the sentencing. Any advice is appreciated.



Juliek says:
November 26th, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Louise, I’m so sorry to hear about your son. It seems to me that the boundaries you have set are healthy ones and very necessary. The good news is that he is in fact in jail and he will have a place to sleep and a meal there and sometimes that is more comforting to know that he is there rather than out on the streets. I am including some links to other blogs that were written about the holidays – hopefully you can find some guidance there. Also, please call our helpline here at the partnership for drugfree.org. Our counselors speak to mothers like you every single day. The call is free of charge 1-855-DRUGFREE

http://intervene.drugfree.org/2009/12/ghosts-of-christmas-past/#more-333

http://intervene.drugfree.org/2010/12/make-your-holidays-happier-establish-boundaries-with-your-addicted-child/

http://intervene.drugfree.org/2009/12/surviving-and-thriving-during-the-holidays-with-an-addicted-child/

Pernilla
Community Mgr
http://timetogethelp.drugfree.org



Louise Anderson says:
November 26th, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Thanks so much for the links. It helpful to know that we are not alone.



Brenda says:
January 5th, 2014 at 5:47 am

Hello all So glad I can read all of these I sure need it now. Been on and off for years now with my drug addicted son. Rehab half way home and now in his own apartment. Lost his job. Thousands of dollars over the years helping him. Enabling him too. Now I am so tired of it. He called me after a two day stay out of town saying he got into trouble said he got a drug dropped in his drink and don’t remember the last few days. I believe he just got high on a bender and don’t want to admit he is drugging again. I can not believe anything he says. Been through so many jobs I’ve lost track. I was over seeing him at his apartment to give him a bus pass and I knew he was still high. His rage was so bad screaming and yelling at me why wont I hug him, why don’t I believe him?? I said you need to deal with this yourself and turned around and walked away. The text the horrible text wouldn’t stop. I had to turn my phone off. He said it would be my fault if he died. But he said why would I care I don’t love him. Such horrible talk. But you know today I can say it hurt me bad, it hurt my heart bad, But I had to walk away and turn my phone off. His father committed suicide at 12 so I took him to see doctors to talk it out. But So many times I got him into dr for help and he would walk out so many times we would give him money no more I am done. I have said I am done before but I really need to be done now. I told him I love him very much and I will always love him but I need to break away from him, time to be away from him to deal with my own health. I also read that book Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children [Charles Rubin] Great book it helped a lot!!. I will pray for all of you please say prayers for my son. Thanks… Brenda -



coral guindon says:
January 15th, 2014 at 2:21 am

I’m struggling with my soon to be 19 yr old daughter that’s been in jail for 5 months has Meth charges…she doesn’t want to see me because I’m stressing her because I wrote her a letter and told her that her dad and I have loved her since the day she was born but I can no longer let her decisions affect my life.I will stand by what decisions she makes to accept a plea or not to…it is her adult life and her adult choices that will affect her life…and I love her,love has nothing to do with her decision making and she is the only one that can help herself.I will not tell her what I would like her to do…cuz it doesn’t work.I asked her lawyer what is going on with her case…now she is mad…even though her dad n I are the ones paying him.Her dad always seems to be the good guy..and I’m the bad guy….we are not a couple…but he’s always her buddy while I try to to be her tough love mom…she keeps getting into trouble while she’s in jail…n he just keeps giving to her where I backed off on giving her money n don’t go see her when she gets in trouble behind bars..now she doesn’t want to see me…do you think I shouldn’t have wrote her that letter or contacted her attorney? Her dad is the one that told her I contacted her attorney was giving him ideas and he may not want to continue to be her attorney because of the idea I was giving him…reality. I asked him what her guidelines were and is she gonna get the highest Meth charges n what about the other 2 charges she has gotten since she’s been in jail (which he was well aware of) her dad n I definately don’t see eye to eye on this…he thinks she’s no longer an addict since she’s been in jail so long,he wants her to come live with him and everything will be just fine…its not her decision making or judgement that could be a problem…she no longer has an addiction to Meth…since she’s all dried out now…drives me nuts his way of thinking….thanks for letting me vent…don’t know what to do anymore



Diane says:
January 20th, 2014 at 5:51 pm

My 35 year old daughter is bipolar and addicted. She is currently at a state hospital under involuntary committment which I filed. This is her 6th time in rehab. In the past when she was in rehab I stayed in contact with her and the counselors through phone calls, visits, and mail. I encouraged her through her recover. Her letters always gave me hope that she recovering and turning her life around. I believed her. I welcomed her back each time into my home. And then the demands and manipulation for money, car, etc would begin. I am retired and now in debt as a result of caving in to her constant and daily demands. Tired, harassed, intimidated, and beset with daily screaming arguments when she did not get what she asked for has impacted my physical and mental health. I have come to the realization that no matter what I do or how much I love my daughter I cannot fix her problems nor heal her addictions. Detaching is the only thing left to do but thoughts of her welfare after she is released from treatment fill me with dread and anxiety. I am desperately trying to find some peace in all this. Now, to make my anxiety even worse, I’m reading here that my detaching strategy is “old-fashioned” and not helpful to either of us! My daughter is very intelligent, creative, and cunningly manipulative. Any chink in my “don’t communicate/don’t assist” armor will be used by her and will result, ultimately, to reverting back to our old co-dependent format. I am beside myself with anxiety for her and for me. I dare not let her back into my life but at the same time, dare I let her go completely and face the world alone?



Ron Grover says:
January 21st, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Dear Diane,

Detaching with love involves you. How much of the path of addiction do you want to walk. It’s about setting boundaries that allow you to be healthy despite the actions of your daughter.

Our addicted children are indeed master manipulators. It is the disease speaking. You must realize it is possible to say NO and still show love. The act of setting good boundaries does not mean you do not love them, despite what they may say.

When your daughter is released from rehab there are more than two choices. It isn’t as she may present, your home or the street. There are alternatives. I would suggest you speak to your daughter while in rehab and her counselor. Inform them that coming back to your home has never worked in the past and it is time to investigate other options such as clean living environments, maybe an Oxford House or something like that.

The truth is as a mother nobody loves your daughter like you do but there are times that you can’t do and provide what they need.

Feel free to check out my personal blog too. It is about parenting an addict. Today my son is clear and sober but if you want to read about while he was using go back in the archives prior to July 2010. http://www.parentsofanaddict.blogspot.com

Good Luck,
Ron Grover



Patti Herndon says:
February 2nd, 2014 at 1:11 am

Some of the traditional detachment strategies under the heading ‘tough love’ will tend to exacerbate an addiction and increase risk, as well as pile on further contention, distance and stress to the relationship/relational dynamic between parent(s) and their substance use disordered son/daughter -especially when the parent is overwhelmed and implementing these tough love techniques while under the influence of their own sense of anger/fear/resentments/shame (anxiety).

Too often the actions/decisions/responses that are associated with tough love are enacted under the influence of parental anxiety. Though these emotions are absolutely valid and understandable, under the beyond difficult challenges that run tandem with substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder; ‘Tough love’ strategies implemented in this spirit, generally, serve very little, least of all the person who needs/deserves help the most -That being the individual with the chronic condition of addiction.

There is greatly diminished probability of an addicted individual engaging/achieving sustainable recovery when their family member’s decision making/interactions are limited by their unacknowledged and/or unmanaged and/or untreated anxiety about their extremely difficult circumstances -the circumstances of parenting a child with a chronic condition.

It isn’t surprising to hear folks sharing the all too common stories about parents having attended peer support groups, (for decades, even)… yet, after all that intensive commitment/attendance, and after following all those automatic advisements of ‘detach’, ‘you’re an enabler’, ‘take care of yourself, ‘don’t support them/help them, because you’re only making it worse because you’re just in denial about ‘your addict’, ‘let them suffer the consequences of their choices’, -and on this common list goes- still, often, the son or daughter has made little or, perhaps, no progress in engaging recovery.

We need to be mindful about allowing influence by others/peers,(well intended though they might be), that would have us viewing/seeing our son/daughter -who is challenged with a substance(s) use disorder/co occurring mental health disorder, that is, a chronic condition/disease- as a ‘liar’, a ‘thief’, a ‘manipulator’, and/or any other of these stigma/stereotype-generating characterizations…on the premise that seeing them in this way will somehow protect us from being fooled/ manipulated by the ‘addict’. This doesn’t help us toward recovery. It serves as source of contention and distrust between family members.

These kinds of advisements are not actual support. Predominantly, these kinds of advisements promote a sense of hopelessness about our circumstances, increasing worry and doubt, (anxiety), about our son/daughter’s ability to engage their own recovery process. These kinds of narratives about our sons/daughters, who have a substance use disorder/co occurring disorder, won’t facilitate the necessary spirit required for productive recovery-purposed communications and actions. These so called advisements, mostly, just tend to make everyone involved feel worse/less hopeful about their circumstances, as they promote more distance, contention and dysfunction in the relational dynamic between parent and addicted son/daughter… which can serve to trigger increase in the use of substances for coping by the addicted individual, thereby increasing the risks associated.

As a result of current, intensive studies in behavioral science, family systems studies, and neurological science/brain science, there is compelling evidence that shows that implementations of tough love can decrease the odds for recovery, making the road much more treacherous and hopeless for individuals with a substance use disorder/co occurring disorder, as well as it adding stress for parents/family members (CSOs). Stress decreases hope and sense of self efficacy. Hope and sense of self efficacy are key, clinical components in recovery. There will be no recovery in absence of these.

When we are hope-depleted as parents, in the journey of addiction, we are also much more inclined to exist in a state of chronic anger, fear, frustration and resentment about our challenge. And, this can be the case, despite those many support group meetings we attend. Not only will these negative feelings/narratives infiltrate/dominate most every interaction we have with our son/daughter – who is struggling to engage their own sense of self efficacy about their challenge- but, that state of our unresolved anxiety (fear, anger, resentment, negative narratives/perspectives about our son/daughter) will, in turn, have us making decisions about how to respond to the challenges of addiction with less discernment. Less discernment = more risk. Parents please read this Drugfree.org Intervene Community blog from 2011, written by an expert in the addictions field, Dr Pantalone, on the CURRENT and well regarded communication-serving, recovery-serving, family systems serving approach known as Motivational Interviewing. Pay particular attention to his instruction on the ‘spirit of approach’ regarding talking to/communicating with your son/daughter about their substances use.

I am the parent of a son in long term recovery. I am also a counseling student trained in Motivational Interviewing. After years of applying consistently failing advisements from well intended, good people on the benefits of tough love and detachment and the whole, blanket, stereotypical assertion of “you’re problem is that you’re a co-dependent’, so you’re just not seeing things right” *sigh; We realized the traditional approach was not helping our son gain momentum in recovery, and certainly not helping us gain problem solving skill set and sense of empowerment for our particular circumstances. And, since, we were not about to throw our hands up and ‘just pray’ -though I’m quick to add that prayer and faith has certainly been part of our process- We began seeking out alternative methods of support for him and ourselves, around 2010.

We began learning, and consistently practicing/modeling/implementing healthy change and recovery-purposed relational strategies that were rooted in evidence-based, current methods of approach -methods which trend toward a moving away from ‘detachment’ and ‘tough love’, focusing efforts on ‘positive reinforcement’ and repair of the relational dynamic between parent and children with a substance use disorder/co-occurring disorder. And, that period of time is when we began to see clear momentum in sustainable recovery.

When we pay close attention to the journeys of those brave parents who chronicle their experiences in blogs, or who are open to share their stories in any public/group forum; It is often the case that we begin to realize that these parents were under the influence of their own anger about the addiction journey with their child. They describe struggling with their own anger, shame and resentments about their child’s drug use and poor life management choices, as well as the way their child’s choices impact the functioning of their own life -the collateral damage, in other words. Then, as we continue to pay attention to their progress in their own written and spoken word, it’s no coincidence that as ‘they’ get proper support for their situation, make some changes in their thinking about addiction treatment, and resolve their negative narratives about their circumstances, about their child’s substances use disorder; Parents go on to ,in some amount of time (the time it takes is as individual as the individuals themselves) find themselves/ increasingly describe themselves and their day to day lives as experiencing the benefits of the long term recovery of their son/daughter. It’s not coincidental. Their recovery as a family is the product of them having learned more about alternative approaches and worked hard to apply something ‘different’ than they had tried before.
You’re a great mom, Diane. Keep on keepin’ on. Don’t let up. Keep learning, hoping, and trying the ‘next thing’ when what you have been implementing isn’t producing the results you hope for, in a reasonable amount of time. Sustainable change takes time. Often times, recovery is a much longer process than we might imagine when we first begin the journey. It’s a process that occurs little by little, in the vast majority of cases.

Expand your options for support. Check out the support resource SMART Recovery Friends and Family, (Self Management and Recovery Training -google it). It’s based on current methods of approach that helps to build the relational dynamic with a son/daughter challenged by substance use disorder. It works by educating/training parents, and other loved ones, in interacting with their addicted loved one in a way that helps move anxiety, negative emotions out of the mix thereby assisting in the resolve to move toward their own reasons for change. It works. :-)

Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.



Gina says:
February 6th, 2014 at 10:24 pm

I thank you for this article on detaching with love.
My late brother & I were estranged when he overdosed
& died a decade ago.
Addicts don’t respect boundaries unless you put them
there & keep reinforcing.
Until that happened, he/his addiction was infiltrating
every aspect of my life.

And now, round two with addiction with my eldest
adult son, 37, who has spent the past 7 years angry
at and/or not talking to me because I will not enable
his drug habit via jail bailouts, money, providing a
bed.
His now estranged wife (of 10 years) kept trying to
pressure me into enabling him as she has & does.
This has basically thwarted my being in my 3 granchildren’s
lives.
My therapist (who is also a licensed
substance abuse counselor) has been a true blessing in
helping me understand addiction.
I may try this detaching with love.



Gina says:
February 6th, 2014 at 10:43 pm

One more comment. I am not an expert in this.
I have experienced it re late brother & now with
adult son.
My career involved daily dealing with addicts &
I witnessed the decline of some to their end.
In addition, it was a regular storyline how a family
member or friend tried to help the addict only to
end up losing valuables & their vehicle, (pawned
valuables, car traded for drugs driven by other
addicts or dumped at a drug house).
Then there were the headlines when some
well-meaning soul tried to help the addict
get clean, provide room & food, only to be
maimed or worse.
You have to remember that an active addict
has one relationship in their life & that is their
drug of choice. That is followed closely only
by the insatiable focus of getting more of
said drug – no matter how much they have.

Love or not, that is what you’re dealing with
& subjecting yourself & your family to when
you have an active addict in your home.



lynn says:
February 9th, 2014 at 4:21 pm

When the call comes AGAIN, “this is a collect call…” your heart stops. The promises, confessions of sorrow and love for you warm the heart but don’t prepare you for the reality that it is only partially true. Our children love us, want to get better until it’s hard. They choose drugs over recovery. The responsibility of the crimes they commit are felt by those who love them. We the loving parents feel every inch of the pain.

I feel like I have enabled, been the supplier really and it is stealing my life. I feel like a hostage. I love my son. I know he loves me. I also know he doesn’t gave the ability to stay the course to recovery. If I don’t say no and let him stay in jail I am risking myself. The thousands already spent were for nothing. because here we are AGAIN.

Lost and scared but I have to say no….. his dad is in heaven oh how I wish he were here for both of us.



Gina says:
February 10th, 2014 at 3:50 pm

I have to thank you again for this
place to share & know you’re not
alone.
What sparked my previous posts was
suddenly, after 6 months this time, my
daughter-in-law contacted me & I headed
her off at the path, so to speak.
She agreed to stop trying to pressure me
into enabling her now estranged husband/
my son.
As per their routine (she approaches & if
is not successful, he makes contact) son
did contact me via online correspondence.
I took a day to ponder how best to make it
short & to the point.
I wrote him back & said his life
(choices/addiction) = his way.
And my life = my way (I would not
change my mind about not enabling
his addiction & didn’t want that lifestyle
around me. Then, I gave him my
phone number to call/text if he ever wanted
to. And I added that if he was angry & didn’t
want anything to do with me, that was OK too.
I said I loved him & was not mad at him.
It was the most freeing relief! To just say it.
As it turned out, it was real good because
the “bait” was that if I started contact again,
I would have read some drama-seeking things
he wrote trying to screw with my head on line.
As it was, I read it anyway, but after establishing
some strong boundaries (finally) where I saw
that this is how he manipulates to get attention &
what he wants from others.



Greg says:
February 24th, 2014 at 12:13 am

Operate from within your own truth

A few years ago, I was forced to move in with my mother. For the last couple decades, I had lived a few counties away from my mother’s house. Being a single 55 year old man living with my mother, was not my idea, of living the lifestyle of my dreams. However, the economy tanked, and I was forced to switch to the survival mode for awhile.

I’m the oldest, with four younger sisters. My second oldest sister of 52, has been an addict, for better than (22) years now. She had a wonderful job at our local police department, as a records clerk, for more than (12) years. She got involved with a guy, who was not only an addict, but was involved in numerous crimes in the past. Our locaol police department was very aware, of my sister’s relationship with him, and tried to their best, to steer her away from him. Long story short, she divorced her first husband, to marry this little critter. Their marriage lasted for about a year, until my sister filed abuse charges against him. Now, he is on the run, and she is well on her way, to complete and total self destruction with drugs.

During my stay, my mother who promised me, that she would never take her in…

Took her in for three months. Needless to say, my life was turned into a three month nightmare. She is hooked on stimulants, and from the late afternoon, until early morning, she would ingest large amounts of this poison, and run around the house non stop, keeping me awake, every second of the night. This lasted for about a week, My mother, the great enabler, had no problem with it. She knew, that my sister was an addict. However, she wanted to downplay my sister’s addiction with me, primarily, because she was guilty of changing her mind about letting my sister live with her. This is my opinion only. However, I think I am correct here. You see, my mother and my other sisters, has paid here electric bill several times in the past. She has also bailed my sister out of jail for shoplifting. (I wonder what she was shoptlifing?) In addition, she has been kicked out of her apartment, only to have my mother pay the deposit and first month’s rent, on another place for her to live. I also, would like to mention, that my mother found her newer apartment, only a few blocks away, from my mother’s house. My sister receives $1019.00/ month disability. (disability?) My mother also helped my sister get a new bank, because her older one, was too far away for her to walk. However, it was only six blocks away. But her newer bank, is only (2) blocks away, from my mother’s house.

The stuff, really started to hit the fan, when I was fed up with her, keeping me awake at night. I was furiosly, trying to find a permanent full time job, and I needed my rest. After about a week of this nonsense, I went into the extra bedroom that my mother had for her, and

THREW ALL HER BELONGINGS IN THE KITCHEN!!

I had to do this (4) times, to get my mother’s attention. The first three times, she really didn’t say much about the incidents. However, she cleaned up the mess, while my sister was sleeping her drug induced stupor off. Well, needless to say, word got around to my other (3) sisters, and voila, I am now, their permanent pariah!!

Who am I? I am a recovering alcoholic, who has played this little game myself. My sisters know it, my father down in Florida knows it, as well as my mother. You see, when the facts indicate, that other family members, will take on the very same negative attributes, as my drug addicted sister, you had better believe it!!

Lies. Anger and fear. Denial. Isolating me from family events. Demonizing/victmizing me etc. You know, what the
addict does, when certain members of the family, catch on to their disease.

I warned my mother several times, that there was a good chance that she will die, if she didn’t take more of a stern stance, against my sister’s illness. Three times, my mother sent my sister through the emergency room, for hallucinating, and major abdominal pains. Of course, my mother doesn’t get any kind of positive support from my other sisters. You see, it was all my fault, for my nine month stay at my mother’s house.

In closing, I am back out on my own, and things are much brighter now. It has been about (3) years, since I moved out of my mother’s house. Looking back on it all, it hasn’t been that difficult, to defend my position against my sister’s addiction. From the time I moved into my mother’s house, to the time I moved out, my sister’s condition has deteriorated significantly. During my stay, she was diagnosed as skitzophrenic. (sorry for the spelling) Her doctor told my mother, that her lengthy drug abuse, amplified her condition.

But I must admit, I saw a side to my family, that I never thought would happen. For one, one of my sisters, threw me in jail, for going over to her house one morning. It was shortly after I made the decision to quit drinking and yes, I slipped. Needless to say, I’m glad she did. You see, my sister loves me so much, she wanted to send me a message, that there is a price to pay for drug abuse. I moved down to Florida with my day, back in 1983. Twice, he sent me packing back up north, because he couldn’t tolerate my drinking. My dear mother, stood behind me, and attended several AA meetings with me. She was so proud of me!!

Unfortunately, there has been a dark side to this. None of my family will answer me, when I brought up their support for me in the past.

None of them!!

I could never motivate any of my family members, to attend a support group. Even though I assured them, that they would greatly benefit from this. I don’t fear this disease anymore. I have, and always will, talk very openly about my addiction. My mother finally agreed to attend a support group, shortly before I moved out. However, she changed her mind, only a few weeks, before I left her house. I even had an addiction counselor talk to her, only days before I left, hoping to change her mind. She cried shortly after she spoke with him. I though maybe perhaps, I finally broke through the ice. But no luck!!

To this very day, I haven’t spoke to any of my family members. My mother has e-mailed me a few times, but I haven’t responded. (and I never will)

It’s so so sad, when you had every family member support you during your recovery, only to demonize you, when you try to get another addicted family member to hit bottom. (just like I did) I had a beautiful woman who I worked with at the time, address my drinking problem to me. I avoided her at all costs. However, she spoke truth to power to the point, where she helped save my life. You see, she was a recovering addict herself and yes, we had a growing relationship, for a few years to come afterwards.

I really don’t know what went wrong. Could society and the damning corporate media, condition us in a way, that we cannot experience sympathy, empathy, compassion or integrity anymore? Am I wrong to say this, or am I simply playing the blame game, like so many addicts do? Quite simply, where did our humanity go? One of my sisters, has had a falling out of her marriage of (20) years. She has demonized me the most. She was the one, who called the police on me, over (30) years ago. She also called the police on me, when I was living at my mother’s house. You see, she made the mistake of attempting to demonize me, on my stance against my sister’s addiction one day. I told her to read the links I sent her, about drug addiction. When I mentioned the fact, that she had no problem, trying to save my life(30) years ago, by throwing me in jail, she got up and left. She called the police on me. After the dust settled, I e-mailed her, telling her what a great strain she imposed on my mother. My mother at the time, returned home from hip surgery, and I was the only one taking care of her, because no onle else in the family, would come over anymore. I simply e-mailed her, as well as the rest of my family, in support of coming over to see their mother. (however, I warned my sister who called the police, to mind her manners next time, because I lived there too) Furthermore, I explained to all of them, that I don’t have to threaten or intimidate anyone in my family, to get my positive message across. (much like they had with me) Oh, the stories I could tell, and the many times, that I made all of them, look like a fool. (yes, it did get heated at times) However, my intentions were, just the facts about addiction. They can cling, to making me their permanent pariah all you like. It’s none of my business anyway!!

Well, they never did come over, until after I left.

In a few e-mails, I reassured the fact, that if my family continued to enable my sister’s addiction, she would eventually die. I have pictures of my sister, that I took with my camera, when I lived with my mother. My addicted sister was 52 back then. From the pictures, she looks 80-85 years of age.

Will I ever reunite with my family? NEVER!! I can look into the mirror, and later in the face of God and say, I gave it my best shot!! If they want to talk to me, it will have to be in regards to attending a support group. Anything else, is of no interest to me.

This also, includes my mother. You see, compassion is seeing things, that will benefit many people. Not only yourself. I’m also finding out, that compassion and integrity, are virtually the same. Like fear and anger. However, anger itself, can be justified, when integrity is the outcome. You see, integrity is compassion, that has been angered a few times. Now I know the strength behind social movements. They simply got mad as hell, and weren’t gonna take it anymore!!

I have simply outgrown my family. I know this sounds self serving, but it’s the truth!! I decided back then, that I am going to be around positive minded people. I have to. It’s hard at times, when I think about my family. Especially my mother. But my family is morally weak. It’s not my problem anymore. I did all I can do.

And just like with parents, sons and daughters of parents, have to separate or detach with love as well. If you don’t lead by example, then who will in your family.

May 2nd of this year, (2014) will mark my (30th) anniversary of being sober. And as I have told my mother, father and morally weak sisters,

I make no apologies, of who I am. It’s their cross to bear, and not mine. I’ll lose my sobriety, if I stray away, from these morally enriched principals.

Life does go on, just like the millions of parents, who chose not, to enable their children anymore. Even if it means their death.

And I salute every one of you. You have to in my opinion. You have to play the no games attitude. You can achieve this, by support, your own experience with drugs and yes, the truth!! Again, I make no apologies, of who I am. I tried my utter best, to stengthen my family against this terrible disease. I really really did. However, I have been in the recovery mode, for several years now. I let the dead, bury their own dead. I simply can’t save my sister, nor my family. My sobriety means too much to me.

It was hard to see my mother take up smoking again. She smoked for (20) years, and quit (10) years ago. She at the time, couldn’t sleep a wink. Not only because she worried about my addicted sister, but she started to ingest large quantities of candy and ice cream. The sugar had her hands shaking, and sleep was just a fantasy.

I love all my family dearly. However, I love me even more!! This has been my attitude and saving grace. I have ate right and exercise daily for years now. At 55, I lift weights (3) times a week, and I run and power walk, the remaining (4). I have set a good example, not only to myself, but to the rest of the world as well. As stated before, I hang around fun and positive people at work, and in my regular social life as well.

I experienced my spiritual awakening on my birthday, back in 1997. All I have to do, is tap in to my higher power, and he lifts the bar for me. It’s not that difficult, if you can learn to let go. It has worked flawlessly, and I’m very thankful (humble) for that. :)

I will not look back!!




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