For Families of Addicts – You Didn’t Cause It

This wonderful article was written for the parents of addicts, it is being shared here with permission of the author, Stephanie Sears.

Here are a few things I’ve figured out along the way in dealing with addiction. These are things I wish someone had shared with me early on. Please know these are my thoughts and my experiences from the last six years of my son’s substance use disorder. These words are by no means a one size fits all approach. You have to do what works best for your family.

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You didn’t cause it.

You can’t cure it.

You can’t control it.

You cannot fix them.

You didn’t do anything wrong. Do you hear me? YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG.

You can’t work their recovery for them. You can support them and make sure they know they are worthy and they are enough but they need to work their own recovery. You should work on yours.

Get yourself and your spouse some help. Therapy and Nar-Anon are good places to start.

Not trying to be a downer but relapse can happen many times and it doesn’t mean they can’t get clean and stay that way. They have to learn how to be and stay sober. Strive for forward movement not perfection. Try not to make them feel bad for setbacks. Life is full of setbacks.

Don’t take it personally when they/if they lie to you. Addicts will do and say anything for their next fix. It’s truly not personal.

Realize your loved one has a disease and it is recognized by the American medical association as such.

Although your loved one has a disease and that disease is not their fault, not fighting the disease is. They need to fight. It’s an insanely tough fight.

Don’t enable. Which means don’t do anything for your loved one that he/she can do for themselves. This is A LOT harder than it sounds. Having said this, loving your child and keeping them close is not enabling. The whole “rock bottom” approach IMO is archaic thinking. Rock bottom is a place where some go to get better but it’s also a place where some of our babies die. The opposite of addiction is connection. Stay connected if it’s safe for you to do so.

Don’t judge your loved one. I know it sounds crazy to say this when sometimes they are making bad decision after bad decision but it’s not your place to judge. It’s your place to love them through it.

Don’t say….. “You need to” or “If you would just” and instead say “How can I help?”

Don’t forget to tell your loved one you love them. Tell them daily. They need to know you still love them even though they are not perfect. This sounds easy but dealing with an addict in active addiction is nowhere near easy and some days you will feel like you couldn’t possibly utter the words I love you. But do it anyway. It’s important.

Remember, the opposite of addiction is connection.

Meet them where they are. What this means to me is to lower or completely get rid of expectations for how I think things should go and how things should be. When I expect things to go a certain way I’m almost always disappointed and my son feels that. It hurts him and that’s not something I ever want to do. Since I can’t control or change things I choose to meet my son where he is. This has made our relationship immensely better and has brought us even closer.

Although you can’t fix them, please don’t disregard the part a supportive family can play in an addict’s mindset and recovery. Family support matters.

Do not sit in shame. Addiction needs to be talked about and often. Do all you can to stop the stigma of addiction.

Addiction is a family disease.

Never forget, where there is life, there is hope.

Never, ever give up.

One day at a time. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Be thankful for the good days.

Live in the moment.

If no one has told you they love you today, I do.