Family & Parenting
Families trying to help a loved one struggling with addiction get a lot of mixed messages. “You’re one of the single greatest influences in your loved one’s life.” And that’s often true. Then again, you hear the “three Cs” of addiction recovery: You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it and you can’t control it. Again, true.
Teenagers with a parent or parent-like authority figure who uses marijuana have increased chances of both using marijuana and drinking heavily, a new study from the RAND Corporation has found.
When you love an alcoholic or addict, you probably experience a lot of unpredictability and pain in your life, including both extreme highs and extreme lows. You get caught up in frequent drama and are obsessed with trying to change situations you can’t control and you may spend time, money and energy trying to fix someone else’s problems. The worst part of all is the addict doesn’t want to be saved or changed. He or she barely seems to notice your efforts. The addict or alcoholic that you love is driving you crazy.
By Heather Rolland, LCSW
Can you imagine applying to become a parent as if it were a competitive job? Imagine the job description: physical care, emotional care, financial support … and then all the potential contingencies. Navigating the first 18 or so years is hard enough, but for some parents, the next few steps—the letting go and releasing your child, now a young adult, into the world—may be the hardest. For a parent who has been through the wrenching process of helping a child identify and treat an addiction and enter recovery, this next step may feel like the hardest one of all.
Active drug addicts are compelled to continue to use drugs no matter what. That means they will sacrifice many things to their addiction, including hopes, dreams, career goals and loved ones. In most cases, anything that gets in the way of their next high has to go, and very often that includes being good parents to their children.
In the U.S. and throughout much of the world, significant numbers of both married and unmarried people consume alcohol regularly. Most of these individuals drink in light or moderate amounts that don’t generally lead to problems; however, some individuals increase their risks for a range of problems by drinking heavily. In a study published in July 2014 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham assessed the level of impact that a husband or wife has on his or her spouse’s habitual level of alcohol intake.
For children, the concept of addiction as a disease is a tough one. In fact, it’s not always easy for adults to understand either. As a parent it is your job to talk to your kids about addiction if someone in their lives has a substance abuse problem. Whether it is a parent, a sibling or a more distant relative, you have to help your kids try to make sense of what seems so difficult to understand. Start a discussion about addiction at a level that is age-appropriate and then make sure your kids have the necessary coping strategies to deal with having an addict in the family.
Recovery from addiction is a difficult road to travel. Not only do you need to resist temptation and stop yourself from relapsing, but you also have to learn how to live all over again. Living as a sober person and as an addict are two very different things and, once in recovery, you have to learn what it means to be sober.
Along with your personal and internal battles, life after recovery also means dealing with the people around you and their perceptions of you, feelings toward you, and their trust or lack of trust in you. At work, people may now be looking at you differently. Your sober friends may tiptoe around you. Most importantly, however, are the feelings and attitudes of your family.
The diagnosis of a mental illness in a teenager is often the result of a long process. As a family, you may have endured school meetings, testing by the school psychologist, appointments with your family doctor, referrals to a specialist, and then multiple visits with a therapist before actually seeing a doctor. Phone calls to an insurance company, notes home from teachers, and perhaps even suspensions for behavioral issues may have prefaced the diagnosis. As a parent, as difficult and upsetting as hearing the diagnosis may be, relief and a sense of handling things often accompany the label. With a label can come a plan.
As an addict’s use spins out of control, what happens to the rest of the family? In families where one or both parents develop an addiction, certain “rules” about how to behave and how to survive develop alongside the addiction.
When we think of teens, drugs, and pressure, the word “peer” tends to add itself to the list. Peer pressure can determine the clothes teens wear (or covet), where they go in their free time, and what they do there. Peer pressure, along with curiosity and other influences, contributes to first drug use-alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana (in that order)-most often occurring at ages 12 to 14. This stage is also identified as the prime years for peer pressure susceptibility.
Peer pressure also works in the opposite direction. About half of teens have no friends who are regular drinkers, and about seven out of ten don’t have smokers or “druggies” in their circles. Recent data shows those ever-variable numbers rising-in the case of cigarettes, a dramatic rise. Even when friend choice is not deliberately based on those criteria, such social dynamics tend to reinforce themselves. It’s one of many good reasons for parents to know their children’s friends.
While likelihood of drug use increases through the teen years, along with the likelihood of knowing drug users, those choices are less likely to be based on peer pressure as older teens grow into more self-assurance and self-directedness.
Almost everyone has a friend or relative suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs. Because of the nature of addiction, those suffering from it can often lie, cheat, and steal to cover their tracks. This makes living, working, or dealing with them highly problematic. Even people with otherwise rock-solid boundaries can find alcoholics and addicts easily pushing their buttons.
As human beings we experience a wealth of emotions from love and hate to despair and elation. It is one of the many things that make us human. Of course, while some emotions are great and wonderful and embraced, others are no fun at all. One of the most frustrating emotions we all have to deal with at times is frustration itself. No one likes to feel this way. It comes upon us when things just aren’t going our way. For the addict trying to come clean and for the loved ones waiting for the addict’s behaviors to finally change, frustration can be a daily burden.
The consequences of addiction far exceed the emotional and physical effects for the user. People suffering from addiction may continue to make choices that separate them from friends and family and other social relationships. Extreme mood swings and irritability can also destroy lives; the addict may also take advantage of friends and family to try to feed their addiction. Forgiving an addict, though difficult, may be necessary for a loved one to improve their health and maintain positive levels of self-esteem.
When you are a child, you look up to your parents. They are supposed to be there to protect you, to keep you from harm, to look out for you at all times. But when one of your parents, let’s say your Daddy, drinks alcohol, sometimes things just don’t go right at all at home. The more your Daddy drinks, the worse it can get. You feel lost, confused, and alone and you don’t know what to do. First of all, you need help. And there is help available.