mother and daughter

I was one of those hated moms, and it’s a confusing phenomenon. My only wish was to love, help and guide my children through their teen and college years, but they saw me as interfering, controlling, and a little bit crazy. And I was.

Substance use makes all family members more than a little crazy. In my family it was hard work for everyone to come back from the damage done. We had some very bitter years. We even had an actual time out that lasted nearly four years. Time outs can be good things if you use the space to work on yourself and not be furious. Families can learn to love an appreciate each other, and be better than they were before. I can testify to that.

Substance Use In The Teen Years

It’s important to note that not all children who use 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 parents need to know.

  • Parents have to 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

The Substance Use Road To Broken Hearts

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 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 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. 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 loses 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, even dark days like Mother’s Day can be joyful again.



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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass became a recovery advocate and co-founder of Reach Out Recovery in 2011, encouraged by her daughter Lindsey who had struggled with substances as a teen and young adult. Learning how to manage the family disease of addiction with no roadmap to follow inspired the mother and daughter to create Reach Out Recovery's website to help others experiencing the same life-threatening problems. Together they produced the the 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World of Recovery, and the teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, distributed by American Public Television. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. In her career, Leslie has worked in advertising, publishing, and magazines as a writer of both fiction and non fiction. She is the author of 9 bestselling crime novels, featuring NYPD Dt.Sgt. April Woo. Leslie has has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education and as a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation. For from 1990 to 2017, Leslie was the Trustee of the Leslie Glass Foundation.

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