Monday, May 27, 2013

Apologizing to Your Children

Is it the parent's fault if their child becomes an addict?  Sometimes addicts come from wonderfully well rounded and supportive families, sometimes not. There is a myth that all addicts have bad parents.  Most intelligent people realize that's wrong - addiction does not discriminate and no one is immune.   If you are a parent who truly did the best you could and your child still became addicted, then this post isn't for you. This post is for the rest of the parents, those who can share the blame, intentionally or not for their child's addiction.

If you were one of those who did drink and dope when your kids were young and then they followed in your footsteps, please apologize. If you neglected them or allowed them to be abused, please apologize. My father and I are not very close, but one of the things I will always remember was his apology a few years ago for his behavior and drug use when I was young. It wasn't long and heartfelt. It was just a simple "I'm sorry that I did all that" and I felt like he meant it. I thought I had moved on already, but those simple words were more healing than I could have imagined.

Your child may not be in a place yet where they can or are willing to accept your apology, but when they get there knowing you said it and were sincere will help with their healing and most likely yours too.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Baby Beans

When our oldest daughter was about two she started carrying around a bag of dried beans. She called it her Baby Beans. She slept with it and wrapped it in blankets. When the plastic got holes, I'd sweep up the spilt beans and duct tape the holes. When there were too many holes, I bought a new bag. She was the sweetest, most kind hearted, intelligent child I ever layed eyes on. She was completely innocent and trusting like all little children - and so undeserving of the hell she had to live in later. She's now 20, in college, and seems to be doing pretty good. She acts like she has forgiven me for what she witnessed and the neglect she suffered during my addiction, but I don't know if I will ever be able to forgive myself. There are times the weight of the guilt becomes almost unbearable, like a couple of nights ago.

I was cleaning the pantry and picked up a bag of dried beans. Memories of tiny, brown-eyed little girl wearing a pink night gown, sucking on a pacifier, and tucking in her baby beans flooded me. This should have been a fond memory. If I had truly done the best I could as a mother, even with mistakes everyone makes, it would have been. Instead, I was bombarded by feelings of shame and guilt. I shut the door, sat on the floor, and cried until I couldn't cry anymore. I tried to change my perspective and think about the positive things now, but I just couldn't. All I could think is that I should have played her with her more and rocked her and the beans to sleep. I shouldn't have sat on the couch getting high. I should have put her feelings first instead of constantly worrying about a grown man. Later, I should have protected her from hearing the filth spewed from her father's mouth and sounds of fighting and crying. I should have made sure she was always safe and protected instead of getting high to escape my reality and leaving a small child to face hers alone.

I can't go back and change anything. It's too late. I know all I can do is the best I can from here on out and pray that she is more resilient than I am in overcoming the trauma.  Recovery is great. It's much better than the alternative. Everyone benefits especially those that depend on you. But, still, there are some days that just suck.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tough Love is not One Size Fits All either

Just like recovery there is no one size fits all when it comes to “tough love”. Everyone’s situation is different. The loved one has to do what they can live with and what fits their situation. I’ve heard varying degrees of tough love from not enabling by not paying legal fees or bills to completely cutting off all contact. What works for one family may not work at all for another. One good example of this was told to me by another recovering addict.

Andrea called me about 3 years into her recovery and told me her story. She was addicted to meth and living with an abusive meth cooking/dealing boyfriend. Her parents, on advise of their counselor, told them to cut off all contact with her until she got clean. They would not answer the phone for her. When she approached them they wouldn’t even hug her. She became completely isolated. She had no friends and not one “clean” contact. The only people she saw were other drug addicts who came to buy drugs. She didn’t leave the house. Her boyfriend would beat her if she even made eye contact with any their associates.

This went on for a while until her sister broke the tough love/no contact agreement and came to visit her. She treated Andrea like a normal person, took her with her to the store and on dinner dates. She also told her if she ever wanted to leave she would help her. Andrea ended up pregnant. When she was 6 months preganant her boyfriend broke her jaw. She finally wanted out. She called her sister and she picked her up and took her to a shelter. From there she got help with her addiction and delivered a healthy baby.

Andrea’s sister found the balance for “tough love” that worked in her case. If the sister had avoided all contact Andrea said she would have stayed until her boyfriend or the drugs killed her and her baby. She wouldn’t have known anything else to do. Meth addicts can lose all touch of reality. If her sister had came begging for Andrea to leave, took her back to her house off an on when she was able to talk Andrea into leaving, bailed her out over and over, and not allowed her to face any consequences then Andrea’s situation would never have reached the point where she had enough and was ready to quit.

Andrea’s sister didn’t automatically know what to do. She tried the parent’s approach at first and it didn’t work. Then she tried something different. Thankfully, her next approach worked, but only in the end because Andrea wanted it to.

I think parents should listen to the advice of others because no one knows better than someone who has “been there and done that” then take what they’ve learned and apply it to their own situation. An easy X, Y, Z answer is not ever going to fit something as cunning and confusing as addiction.