A dad wrote to me: We as parents want desperately to solve our children’s problems. After all, that’s what we have been trained to do since their birth. I think we fear the worst and don’t want to be held responsible, even if it’s only in our own minds. The blame we would place on ourselves would be unbearable. Then, after years of experience, we know that the decision to recover can only be decided by the addicted.
My reflection: The realization that I couldn’t save my son from addiction was the hardest lesson I had to learn, yet it was also the most essential for my well-being, and his. For years I was enmeshed in every twist and turn of my son’s sickness. This only enabled the addiction and kept me from being available to my family and myself.
Today’s Promise to consider: Addiction happens. Blame, shame, stigma, and silence do nothing to help our loved ones or us. Today, I’ll stay close, but out of the chaos. As much as I want to stop the trauma, there is only room for one in the addiction.3726
What you believe the word enable means? To me it is a word that has been given too much power and control to everyone directly or indirectly involved in the journey out of the struggle of drug addiction. A person who is fighting the ravages of the disease of drug addiction needs a trusted ally to just hold the light for them as they try to find their way out of the wretched darkness. I can not imagine losing the one who is struggling to death and not to have been there for that person, just to hold the light. Perhaps, for parents who chose not to be there to carry that torch, by believing that the child who is struggling is completely responsible to find salvation on their own, is somehow given an accepted release from responsibility of the actions that may very well be, the reason why this Soul fell into Hell.
Wow. To say the words in this reply breaks my heart. Every parent of an addict has to fight through the heart wrenching pain of loving your child unconditionally but come to grips with the harsh reality that no act of love on the part of me as their parent can save them. Addiction wreaks havoc through the lives of not only the addict but their family and friends. I don’t think anyone can understand the links a parent goes to trying to “save their child” only to learn that you greatest attempts were never going to be enough. Addicts don’t die because a family member doesn’t hold a space for love. Addicts die because they suffer from a terminal illness. Addiction sucks!
You’re right – if love could save our children, they would be saved, but as you write addiction isn’t about love, it’s about an illness. Addiction affects all of us – the addict and the family, coaches, teachers, it reaches out its tentacles and destroys. We want to save our children and will go to extreme lengths to do this. Treatment needs to be accessible to all. My sincere thanks for writing.
To say that addiction is terminal is giving up hope. How sad is that. I lost my son and the details you will never know You assume with your words without even understanding the intentions behind mine. I regret not one moment I walked along side my son and held the light. He didn’t deserve to die and he died knowing, without question or hesitation, that he was loved
Absolutely, you are correct. Addiction is NOT terminal. My son suffered a 14-year addiction, ending by shooting heroin into his neck and groin. He is alive today and he says, in large part, is because I stayed close, held the light, and never gave up hope. He once told me, “Never quit believing, Mom,” and I never did.
I’m deeply, deeply sorry for the death of your son. No, he did NOT deserver to die, but he knew he was loved.
Mary Beth, your words “walk along side my son and hold the light” are so beautiful they have brought me to tears. I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your beloved son. ..An unimaginable grief. I understand the “enable” concept but have instead clung to Libby’s sharing of the phrase “stay close but out of the chaos”. Each of us has to define how to do that with our critically ill addicted loved ones. There is no single formula for all of us. My son’s severe iv methamphetamine addiction is destroying his brain, literally. He has had multiple emergency psych hospitalizations for terrifying psychotic episodes and blood pressure soaring to stroke and heart attack level. He is teetering on the edge. His delusional behavior has led to multiple arrests, both jail and prison time, several residential rehab stays, but always Relapse. We made so many mistakes for so long out of ignorance, desperation, and terror, and we no longer try (uselessly) to prevent the horrendous consequences of his addiction. We don’t give him money or let him live in the house where we can be pulled into the dangerous chaos. We do have boundaries.But I wouldn’t lovingly detach from a loved one with brain injury, dementia, or schizophrenia. And I could never “detach with love” from my desperately ill son. I am not codependent, I am a mother. I have already lost one son and this time I will stay as close as I can to this son with emotional support, reminding him of strengths and successes however small, finding Something to compliment him on, endless love, accepting jail phone calls when he is incarcerated, letters, family news and photos and yes, sometimes a place to rest in a real home on a bed, to shower, to eat homemade lasagna but most of all to get a heartfelt hug before the demon pulls him from my arms again. I Always leave the porch light on in this “dark night of the soul”. I will shine the light and provide unconditional love to my child. And pray unceasingly for his healing. And I pray for yours, Mary Beth.
You are so right – there is no single formula for all of us to follow. Each situation is different, and we each have to decide what we can and cannot do. I wish there were clear answers, but I’ve never been able to find them. Sure, I’ve made mistakes – tons of them – but I try to do, ‘the next right thing.’ The best we can do is support each other and continue to love. We walk together and we learn together.
We have all suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of addiction. I join you in prayer for your son and for all our children.
My love to you all.
Sorry for my overly long woe-is-me rambling. I know this is a blog, not an online support group. I’m embarrassed! I’m just at a lonely despairing place of self pity this week.. Your book and blog are so helpful.
My dear Suzan, Please, never apologize for sharing your feelings here, with us! I’m grateful that you took the time to write and that you trusted us with your thoughts. We all know that lonely, despairing place. We all know the dread and trauma of addiction. We all know suffering. You are safe here, and you are not alone. Let’s keep each other and our children in our prayers. Libby
I agree that enabling is a difficult and often misconstrued word. For me, “Stay Close” but out of the chaos always made sense. When the recovering alcoholic in Italy told me, “Stay Close,” he meant don’t abandon your child. With these words, he gave me a roadmap. Holding the light is a beautiful statement. Yes, let us continue to hold the light for those we love. Thanks for writing.
Please don’t misunderstand my words. I stayed close too. I in fact raised my grandson for a few years wanting to keep him safe. I NEVER gave up hope. My daughter survived but my son in law didn’t. If an addict doesn’t stop using the illness is terminal. But I don’t believe there is no hope. I personally had to learn to not center my life around trying to save my daughters life. No matter what I did…she walked her path.
And please forgive me…I wasn’t trying to be uncaring and I’m so sorry for your loss. I did always believe I had to do everything I could think of until I couldn’t do anything else. One of my other daughters was very angry with me because all I did was help my addicted daughter. I completely lost my life…lost who I was. Now my life and career is dedicated to helping families struggling with addiction. I’m sorry if I misunderstood your statement of holding a space…I do agree that we never give up on loving our kids. And when I said addiction was terminal I misspoke…addiction is terminal if the addict doesn’t stop…but in no way would I give up hope! I still help others struggling. I simply met we as parents can’t stop or cure the addiction.
We can atleast agree that addiction is absolutely devastating and has no pregidice in who it reaches to destroy. Prayers and love to you both!
Thanks for your caring response. Addiction destroys and wants to destroy. In order to defeat it, we each need to reach out a hand to each other. Sometimes we misunderstand each other – we’re human. Words can convey only so much.
All of us love with all our hearts. We did everything possible for our children. We did our best. That’s the important part.
My love and thanks. I join you in prayer for all those suffering.