Our Addicted Child:
that feeling of powerlessness was horrible.
~By Daniel Green (Recovering Addict)
Daniel Green interviews his parents on how they coped, living with an addicted child.
Daniel: So, first thing’s first, what was it like living with a child in active addiction?
Mom: It was horrible. Horrible beyond words. We never knew what to expect. I never knew what to expect and that’s true of the big stuff and the little stuff. When I say the big stuff, I mean thinking you were going to get arrested, overdose, or die. You know what’s so bleak about having a child who’s also an addict?
At the end of your addiction, I wanted you to get arrested. At least then I would know where you were and that you were alive. Having to seriously consider the fact that my child might die was also probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Imagine feeling all that and knowing there’s not much you can do to change it. Of course, I thought there was a lot I could do at the time.
“Coming to terms with my own, and your mother’s, powerlessness was very hard.” ~Daniel’s Dad
Dad: Yeah, your mother pretty much covered it. I’d just add that that feeling of powerlessness was horrible. I thought, man I even knew, there must be something I could do to help you. I tried everything. We paid for therapists, counselors, drug treatment, school, everything. None of it worked. Coming to terms with my own, and your mother’s, powerlessness was very hard.
Daniel: How did you cope?
Mom: I don’t know that we did cope. Well, I don’t know that I coped anyway. From the time you were about fourteen to nineteen, I was pretty much a mess. I lived in fear and anxiety. Once of the outpatient clinics you went to had a parents’ support group. I went there once a week and kept in contact with the other mothers. That was probably the most helpful action I took.
Dad: I’m with your mother on this one. I don’t think I coped too well, if at all. I tried going to the parents’ group, but I found it more depressing than helpful. We all sat around on these folding chairs. I don’t know. It just wasn’t for me. I threw myself that much harder into work [my dad is a doctor]. When I was at the hospital, I wasn’t thinking about you. Well, that’s not 100% true, but it offered me some relief.
Daniel: Where there other resources or techniques you used to deal with me basically being a living, breathing train wreck?
Dad: Well, I didn’t mention prayer. I prayed a lot. That helped, but again, it wasn’t a magical cure. It wasn’t a silver bullet. There probably wasn’t anything that was a silver bullet. I sought counseling from our Rabbi. That only went so far. I think part of having a child struggling with addiction is just gritting your teeth and hoping that things will get better.
“I never gave up hope. I don’t think a parent can.” ~Daniel’s Dad
Mom: The support group was really what helped me the most. Like your father, I did prayer and seek religious help and that was absolutely helpful. It only went so far though. Mainly it was talking with other parents who had been where we were and some whose kids had found recovery.
Daniel: Did you blame yourselves for my addiction?
Mom: I did for a long time. Certainly I did when you were using drugs. I questioned myself a lot. Things along the lines of “what if I had done this?” and “Why am I such a bad mother?” It was hard! I’ve come to learn that I’m not responsible for your addiction or your recovery. That was another big thing for me to learn. There’s not much I could do to make you stop using drugs. I thought doing this or that would work. Ultimately, it was up to you.
Dad: I did blame myself. I thought maybe I wasn’t a good enough father or role model for you. I thought there were things I could have done differently when you were a child. I even blamed my genes. Addiction runs in our family, you know. I never had a problem, but others did. I used to wish I had different genes. That our whole family did. After doing a family workshop at the first residential rehab you went to, I learned I wasn’t to blame. I guess I knew that all along, but it’s one thing to know it and it’s another to feel it.
Daniel: Is there anything you’d like to say to parents struggling with a child in active addiction or alcoholism?
Dad: Don’t give up hope! You went to seven outpatient rehabs, two inpatient ones, and more private therapists than I can count. You seemed hopeless. That’s it. I never gave up hope though. I don’t think a parent can. I think it’s hardwired into us to never give up on our children. Anyway, I kept hoping you’d get it one day. That it [being sober] would click. And it did.
Mom: Yes, don’t give up hope and seek help for yourself. It was so important for me to have support during your addiction. Your father was amazing, but I needed more. He was just as clueless as I was. I needed parents who had been there before, who had come out and were able to smile again.
Daniel Green is a writer and media specialist at Lighthouse Recovery Institute He’s been sober since 2008 and loves being able to give back to the still struggling addict or alcoholic.
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