A mom wrote to me: My son is in the thick of alcohol addiction. This last year has been particularly difficult with a third DUI and forced hospitalization. There have been some patches of clarity and health, but the battle rages. A few days ago I finally accepted the fact that my help, over all these years, was not helping and that I could no longer allow him to live with me. Is it possible to stay close if I withdraw my support of a place to live? How do I get out of his way but stay close?
My reflection: After fourteen years of addiction with my son, I changed my behavior: I didn’t give him money and didn’t allow him to live at home; however, I never stopped taking his phone calls and I continually reminded him that he was loved. I told him that once he was healthy again, home and family were waiting for him.
Today’s Promise to consider: We each must answer the title question for ourselves, but for me, I learned to stay close and, at the same time, allow my son to face the consequences of his addiction. As parents, we often turn ourselves inside-out in an effort to ‘fix’ our addicted children, until we realize that our help isn’t always helping. In some confounding way, when I got healthier so did my son.
Thanks Libby, I think this is the number one question we as parents of addicted children have. The book you wrote, “Stay Close” was a big help to my wife and I. In addition, fully educating myself on the disease of addiction and accepting that it is a disease, a mental illness, was critical for my own recovery but another key element is having a twelve step sponsor and a alcohol drug counselor who kept my wife and I accountable in our personal recovery journey. Recovery for the family and the addicted child is a life long commitment. It took me twelve years before I began my own recovery so everyone is on their own personal path and timeline, there is no blame or shame. My continued prayers for every family dealing with this devastating illness.
Pat, You have much hard-fought wisdom. Thank you. It took you twelve years to begin your personal recovery and it took me fourteen. During the many years of my son’s addiction, Al-Anon was my saving grace, but it took more than that in the long run: working with Dr. McAfee who was a wise addiction therapist, prayer, writing and meditation. I join you in prayer for every family dealing with this devastating illness.
What a tough lesson for all parents to learn. The sooner we allow children to face the consequences of their actions the sooner they learn to make better decisions. We raised 8 children and were still learning with the 8th. Always love them but tough love is often the best.
Philip, You’re right — it took me 14 years finally to admit that I couldn’t fix things. My son says the exact same thing that you wrote — that it would have been better for him if he had had to face the consequences of his actions sooner. Yes, always love our children, but allow them to grow. Please give my love to your family. Thanks for staying close all these years.