Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Addiction in my Adult Child

There are some things that it is important to be clear about before you speak with your son or daughter about your concerns. First, separate the addiction from the person in your own mind. This isn't about their character or willpower. This is about a medical condition that neither you nor they have any control over. If you are not clear on this it is not the time to approach them.

If you have a partner, are you both in agreement about your loved one's addiction. Are you and your partner able to talk about this issue with respect even if you don't agree on how to approach the issue.

It is important to understand that addicted people generally seek help when they are allowed to experience the consequences of their addiction. Many times family members buffer the addicted person from these consequences for a variety of reasons related to guilt mixed with love and fear. This is not good for the family or the addicted person.

If you are wanting to confront the addicted person because you have had enough and are angry and resentful, step back!! This is not helpful for the addicted person or the family.

When you do talk with the addicted person be clear that you can not talk the addicted person out of this medical condition, or threaten them out of it, or beg them out of it, or bribe them out of it.

It is very important that you are clear that this is not a discussion. You are not to ask questions or get into an argument about whether they are addicted. You make clear, simple statements. Such as "I am concerned about your addiction and I want you to seek help." "I love you very much and your addiction behavior frightens me and I can't live with it." "I will not support your addiction." "I will support your recovery." "Here is information on recovery centers in town." End of conversation!! They may not like what you have to say but that is irrelevant. The important thing is that you said it and it will get said over and over again.

Remember if their lips are moving they are lying. What counts is behavior not words. Many parents, as well as other family members, trust the addicted person for the wrong reasons. They trust because they want to so badly or they think they should and then they get disappointed over and over again. Never put faith in the words of an addicted person until such time that they have had long enough recovery that they have a track record of following through on those words with action. Until they learn to "walk their talk."

All family members need to get educated about addiction and get support to help themselves and their family on the path to recovery. There are some hard truths to digest during this process. For example:

Your loved one's addiction is not your issue. You are deeply effected by it and unfortunately take it on as an issue but only he/she can solve this not you.

Addiction is not personal. It is a medical condition that happens in the brain at the cellular level. This is because of the changes in the brain brought on by the chronic use of their drug on choice. The behavior you see is not the addiction. It is the result of the addiction working on the brain.

Addiction is predictable. I have been facilitating the family class at Hina Mauka for over eleven years and the questions that family members ask are always the same. Families always run into the same behaviors.

The addicted person's thinking process is changed because of the chronic use of their drug of choice. The brain is changed and one of the changes is that the addict believes that their drug of choice is what makes life worth living. Not family, relationships, accomplishments, career, or responsibilities. They put themselves through tremendous stress because of this. When family members come to understand this it answers a lot of questions.

Family members need to create boundaries. Where do they begin and end emotionally and where does the addicted person begin and end. What are your real issues and what belongs to the addict. Unfortunately family members take on the addicts issues as their own and begin to lose their own identity. This is when family members really start feeling out of control and like they are going "crazy"

Family members have control over two things. Their Environment- What is in their home, life, and How They Choose To Respond to the addiction in their family.

This is an ongoing dialogue. The process of recovery is gradual. Please leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible


Anonymous said...

I read everything here today.THANK YOU soooo much I have asked all these questions over and over and most addiction people say we dont have classes or info for families just the addict You speak so concise and clear and true i will be back to give myself a talk again ps i go to a support group and we all need this....we are grandparents raising grankids who s parents are our addicted adult children blessings and hope to us all

Anonymous said...

thank you...i am 52-my mother is 84-still drinking-binging-falls or hurts herself -gets hospitalized-my brothers & my life stop to attend to this...4 years i did not-i am so sick of it-my brothers called me hostile & judgemental-my mom enabled all 3 of my now adult kids to rebel-oldest daughter an alcoholic since age 18-now 31-mom still sends her $..she & husband drink & fight-daughter seems to be deteriorating-got call @ 1203am last night & call today @ work from husband that she is tearing house apart-i said call the police-these calls are tearing me up-youngest daughter is 22 and missing for 1.5 yrs-drug addict. Son is 34 and an angry narcissist-how do I face that all 3 adult kids are like this-my son says "well YOU are the common denominator" i just want to cut off from it all...just glad no grandkids-i hate myself