You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you. ~ Joseph Campbell
Are you feeling overwhelmed because of your child’s drug or alcohol use?
Do you feel the stigma and shame of addiction?
If you answered yes to either of the above questions, I have walked in your shoes. My family has experienced addiction to crystal meth, as well an unhealthy dependence on marijuana. Thankfully my kids found the help that they needed and are now on a better path.
However, too many parents continue to struggle and ride the emotional roller coaster of their child’s drug or alcohol use. Often it leads to guilt, anger, frustration and shame.
It is an unhealthy situation for any parent or family member.
Taking care of yourself is essential. It’s the way to begin the process of healing.
While there are many things that a parent or family member can do, your child will make the final decision on whether they will seek a better life or continue on down their destructive path.
Of course, the hope is that one day your child will make better choices and create a more positive life for themselves.
What can you do in the meantime? Here are some nine ideas to get your started:
Take care of yourself
There is the saying from the airline about putting your oxygen mask on first before you help others. This saying applies for the situation of coping with the substance use of a teen or young adult. It is crucial that you take steps to help yourself understand that substance abuse is very stressful and challenging, but that there is research based strategies that can make a difference.
Understanding and managing your emotions can ease the situation. When you help yourself first, it will enable you to make better decisions and to help your child more effectively.
Educate yourself on recovery strategies
There are many good evidence-based approaches available as well as traditional approaches that may motivate a person to change and seek recovery. One such program is Community Reinforcement and Family Training or CRAFT, which strongly supports family members.
It is important to stay involved in your child’s situation. It is not always necessary to turn away or detach. While it is tempting to want one answer that works for everyone, the solutions are often unique to each person. You have your own issues that need to be understood. Deeper understanding results in a better chance for long-term change.
Positive reinforcement can make a difference
Substance abuse is often accompanied by negative behavior and negative talk. Positive reinforcement can make a difference. Just changing the conversation to one that is more positive can remind you and your child about what they are doing right.
While it may feel that you are acknowledging behavior that your child should be already doing, like not using drugs or abusing alcohol, positive reinforcement has been shown to motivate your child to change their life for the better.
Allow for natural consequences to occur
Allowing for naturally occurring consequences comes from a place of compassion and love. Planned for ahead of time, is not emotionally driven or confrontational. It is not a punishment.
Just calmly get out-of-the-way and let the world teach your child. Those teaching moments can increase their interest in doing something more positive with their life and decrease their undesirable behavior.
When you allow your child to experience the consequences of their actions, they learn a powerful lesson about life. Of course it is always important to keep your child’s safety in mind as well as your tolerance level.
Create a social network
As humans, having a social connection is what will enable us to live well and thrive. Families with substance use issues can often isolate and let go of people who are close. This is not healthy and often makes the problems harder to cope with.
The stigma and shame of addiction stifles family healing. Surrounding yourself with family and friends with similar interests is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It will help you better cope with the challenges that you are facing.
Things like talking to a friend or going out to a movie helps. Try to plan something at least once a week. It will make you feel better and give your mind a break from worrying about your child.
Start a physical exercise program
Something as simple as taking a walk is a good place to start when it comes to exercise. Because things are challenging now, this might be the best time to start a new habit, such as exercise to stay fit and a great way to help yourself mentally as well as physically. Not only will you be helping yourself, but you will be a role model for your child.
It’s been quoted that “Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.”
Physical exercise is a way to improve your mood, relieve some of your stress and stimulate brain chemicals that will leave you feeling healthier and more relaxed. Two benefits of exercise are increased self-esteem and better sleep. Start with small steps to help you get started. You will begin to feel happier, stronger and make better decisions.
Pay attention to other family members
It is easy to get caught up in the negative cycle of your child’s substance use and lose focus of your other family members. Your children who are doing well can easily feel ignored or that their issues are not as important because everyone is focused on their sibling with drug or alcohol issues.
Marriages can often feel like they are on the breaking point. Spend quality time with all your children as well as your spouse. Find something positive each day and stay optimistic. Don’t let addiction break your family apart.
Live in The Now
Recently my middle son told me about the app, The Now. I am amazed that my 30-year-old is interested in the concept of living in the present moment. I love how our kids can often be our best teachers.
The Now gives you 23 days of lessons, tips and quotes to train your mind to live more fully in the moment using continuous mindfulness training.
Here are a couple of examples: “He who lives in the present lives in eternity.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein and “You can’t change the past, so don’t worry about it right now. Go out and do something for yourself instead.”
Living in the now helps you focus on today, not what has passed and not what will come. When you focus on the present you will feel less anxious and more in control.
You feel happier when you are grateful for what you have in your life. Train your mind to look for the positive and notice the shift that evolves. No longer are you caught up in the negative cycle of what might be going on around you. No longer are you continuing to complain about other people’s behavior. No longer are you allowing yourself to be the one who suffers.
When you have moments of crisis in your life, it is important to acknowledge the sorrow and pain. It is also important to work through the process and allow something beautiful to evolve.
Gratitude can turn anger into calm, despair into joy, doubt into hope, resentment into compassion, frustration into acceptance, shame into empowerment.
It gives you the strength to bloom and grow once again.
Do all you can for your child that supports their recovery. At the same time work hard to enjoy your own life and those around you who need your love and support.
Remember you are not alone and there is hope for your child.
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Reminder: You can still join our mom’s support group with 12 monthly themes that impact your overall well-being when you are concerned about your child’s drug or alcohol use. Join our support group today!