When you have a child, it’s natural to want only the best for him or her. As you watch your child start to grow up, you imagine all the different paths that he or she might take. You may think about education, possible career choices, marriage and maybe even grandchildren.
What you don’t think about when you imagine your child’s future is the possibility that he or she might become an alcoholic or a drug addict. Yet millions of parents are faced with this nightmare every day. You may want to pretend that your child’s problem isn’t really that bad, or you may hope that the problem will simply go away. In the meantime, your own life seems to be unraveling.
Addiction isn’t always easy to recognize at first. Addicts are often very good at hiding their behavior from those they love, and they will protect their right to keep on using and abusing alcohol or drugs with everything they’ve got.
There are certain red flags that may indicate a big problem with alcohol or drugs. You may notice that your child’s eyes appear abnormal. The pupils may be too large or too small. He or she may be sleeping quite a bit more than usual, or you may hear pacing in the middle of the night. Things and people that used to be important to him or her suddenly seem less so. You may notice that your child discards his or her friends and either has a new circle of friends or is isolating.
Some aspects of addiction directly affect you or other members of the family. Mood swings and personality changes are telltale signs of addiction. You may notice money disappearing from your wallet or your child may constantly be making excuses for not having enough money.
You Are Powerless
As a parent, you have always wanted to make everything better for your child, so when you realize that your son or daughter is having a problem with alcohol or drugs, your instinct is to want to attempt to fix it. You may try to control his or her behavior by setting ultimatums or by hiding the car keys or trying to discourage visits from certain friends. You may try your best to understand the behavior or you might even make excuses for it.
The first lesson that anyone who loves an alcoholic or addict needs to learn is that addiction is a disease and it’s bigger than you or your child. You are powerless to fix it. As much as you want to make this problem go away, you won’t be able to. Until your child is ready to admit that he or she has a problem, there isn’t much chance that he or she will choose to get help. You can’t force recovery to happen. But you can stop giving your child the power to upset your mood or distract you from living your own life.
How to Take Care of Yourself
To preserve your own sanity, you need to take your focus off your child and turn it on yourself. How can you hold your own life together? How can you make a decision to live a happy, peaceful life in spite of the bad choices of your son or daughter?
While you are powerless over your child’s addiction, you are not powerless over your own choices. You need to choose not to allow this problem with addiction to completely destroy you.
Reach out for help from your doctor or a counselor. Talk about the way your child’s addiction is affecting you and how your own life is unraveling because of it. Learn as much as you can about the disease of addiction.
Start attending Al-Anon meetings. At these meetings, you will find that there are many people who have gone through situations similar to yours and have learned how to deal with them. By working the 12 steps of Al-Anon, you will learn how to know the next right thing to do. You will learn how to hold onto your sanity in spite of the problems your child is having. You will learn how to take care of you.