Parenting an addict is a stressful job. This is a guest post by Ron Grover, pictured here. Thank you, Ron, for sharing your experience.
"When you first discover that your child is addicted to drugs your heart breaks and your stomach churns. What is happening, what did we do wrong?
Our reaction is very personal. As parents we take immediate ownership of this situation. We refuse to see this problem as it is, an addiction. We make excuses, we develop stories and, of course, we make plans to immediately correct this problem; all in an effort to control the situation. We look for someone to blame. Little do we know that this is an issue unlike anything we have ever experienced.
Addiction is not an accepted illness for many in our society uneducated about this disease. For too many people addiction continues to carry the stigma of a weakness of character. As parents of an addict not exposed to addiction we carried that stigma along with the guilt of our own questionable parenting skills. We cling to the belief that if our child would only make a choice not to use again; then this nightmare would be over and everything could go back to normal.
Parenting an addict is not something that is to be done alone. It is not something that should be done alone. This is a disease that touches all of those that love an addict or even casually come in contact with an addict.
As parents we hid what was going on with our son. We wallowed in self pity. We searched the internet for solutions, we read books and articles, no matter how much we searched and tried nothing seemed to work. Our son continued to use and we experienced more stress and more shame.
Finally in desperation it is off to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. It’s nearly impossible to say the word. As parents, we stumble, we hedge, we mutter, my son uses drugs. ADDICT: what makes it so hard to say, what makes it so hard to admit? As long as addiction carries a stigma of shame the healing for this disease will not begin for either the addict or the loved one of the addict.
My son is an addict. This statement is freedom but it is not free. To make this statement there is tears, there is heartache and there is a realization that my son is afflicted with a disease in which to date there is no cure.
By opening your life and admission to others you allow others to help you and your child. Something I have found to be absolutely true; those people that love you before your admission will continue to love you when you are able to open yourself up for help. In fact, by opening up I have found wonderful friends struggling with the same issue. Without their support and the support of our family I know we would not be in the position we are in today with our son.
The fact is, if we as individuals and even as a nation continue to treat addiction as our “dirty little secret” and not recognizie it as what it truly is, then we will forever struggle to provide the treatment an addict needs for his or her disease.
My name is Ron and my son is an addict."
I have often told clients that goals are stars in the sky. We can use them to guide us and inspire us. When goals are used as a a stick to beat ourselves, they’re no longer useful. So, put the stick down. Stop beating yourself up. Tomorrow is a new day.
Self-destructive habits reinforce guilt and shame. A few definitions: Guilt is “Oops! I made a mistake.” Shame is “I am a mistake.” It can also include feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, helplessness, powerlessness, inferiority, and many more horrible feelings. So, let’s say that you feel guilty about your self-destructive habit or addiction and you want to give it up. You make some progress, and then you relapse.
You’re right back to square one. Starting over. This is where many of my clients start feeling guilty and ashamed. They engage in negative self-talk and feel terrible about their relapse. ("I’m doing it again. I’m so stupid. Why can’t I do it right?”) Of course, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. We all have slips. But some people get REALLY down on themselves, making it harder to bounce back. Now they’ve put extra pressure on themselves to perform. They must do it PERFECTLY. And let’s face it: no one is perfect.
So what do you do instead? You learn to forgive yourself. You learn to be gentle with yourself. Over and over and over again. When you catch yourself in the act of being hard on yourself, say something different. You could say, "It's just a mistake. We all make mistakes. I'm still a fine and worthwhile person. I choose to let this go and not be so hard on myself."
Claim your right to be human (translation: less than perfect). Put the stick down. As you move on and resolve to let go of the shame or guilt, you will value yourself more, making it easier to do better in the future.