If you are the mom of an addict don’t give up hope
The mom of an addict needs as much support and hope that their child can recover from addiction as the mother of a child with cancer does. Yet, it’s so incredibly complicated because how can you have hope over a terrible, deadly disease that no one can control? That’s the question. If your children are not in treatment yet or are in treatment but far from stable recovery, it’s difficult to hang on to positive thinking.
I know, I am one of you. You may have adult children who don’t like you at all and are taking drugs or drinking on all your special days. They may have forgotten you or may be angry at you for things they think you have done to them. Or they think you aren’t supporting them enough or forcing them into a recovery they don’t want.
Substance use alters brain function and makes people do things they wouldn’t do if they were sober, and it destroys relationships. Even more tragic, you may have children who have passed away from an overdose. There is no way not to feel guilty and hurt and deeply damaged. And others who haven’t experienced what you have may not understand or know how to help.
Addicts’ moms need hope that things can get better
When you’re in addiction crisis, it’s hard to imagine there can ever be a time when you feel okay and actually love life again, but it’s possible with patience and treatment. In fact, peace and serenity are the promises of recovery. Your children can recover; and if they can’t, you can. You need some patience, faith and encouragement and hope right now.
Here’s this addict’s mom’s story
I was a hated mom for a lot of years. I wanted to fix things and have our family be all right, but I couldn’t do it alone. Each of us had to decide we wanted to be all right, and I had to accept my part in the family breakdown. When my loved ones went into recovery, I had to go into recovery, too. Recovery is hard work for everyone, not just for those with a substance or alcohol use disorder. We all get sick from the disease, and there’s very little support for family members. It’s hard work to come back from the damage done.
In my family, we had some very bitter years. We even had an actual time out that lasted nearly four years. Timeouts can be good things if you use the space to work on yourself and not be furious. Families can learn to love and appreciate each other, and be better than they were before. I can testify to that. Sometimes you have to let go of your desire to fix things and let go emotionally of your loved ones so that they can love you again.
Addiction can lead to discovery and recovery
It’s important to note that not all children who experiment with substances develop Substance Use Disorder (addiction). Many tweens and teens experiment, have difficult years, and with treatment and support come out of it to live productive and happy lives, and to love their moms again. Others do develop SUD (substance use disorder), a chronic, relapsing, brain disease that requires a lifetime of monitoring and treatment. And those children can love and appreciate their moms, too. Either way, the outcome can be very good. Here’s what you need to know.
- Take substance use (which includes alcohol) very seriously because you can’t assume your child is just going through a phase
- Be prepared that for some years love will seem lost forever
- Work on yourself to understand yourself and the part you play
- Learn the difference between enabling use and supporting recovery
Addicts’ moms have teens and adult children who don’t want their love and guidance
Here’s what happens emotionally. Substance use untethers people (at every age) from the anchors, the norms, the values, the relationships that nurture them. For example, when young people are enjoying or dependent on drinking or using substances, they resist any kind of parental advice or warnings. The more anxious and frightened a mom becomes, the more risk there is for confrontation, anger, and ultimately resistance to any kind of parental intervention.
Mom loses authority and love
Every family with substance use becomes untethered like ships with no rudder. Moms lose both their authority and the love from their kids that nourished them when children were little. Substances and other behaviors replace mom as a rudder and guiding light.
Moms aren’t taught to withstand this kind of loss
When a child cannot allow himself to be loved or to love mom (or anyone else), he or she is truly floundering, but rarely knows it. Imagine ocean liners without tug boats to guide them into harbors, or planes flying without radar or air traffic control. That is family life in substance use. People blame each other. While love may drive a mom to save her child at any cost, there is no love coming back at this time to nourish or help her.
love can be regained
These losses are an outcome for moms from the substance use experience that isn’t commonly explored. Mom loses love and authority, tries to get them back, and risks becoming toxically controlling. We don’t know what’s happened to us and don’t see our attempts at solution as anything but loving and supportive. I felt lost and alone for many years, but I am here to tell you that love isn’t dead during the recovery journey. It’s just in hiding. When mom can accept she’s not in control and adult children have to find their own way, hope can thrive. Moms need hope and patience that life for everyone can improve.