I am probably going to open up a whole can full of worms with this post but worms are good for fishing so if the comments get too hot, I’m going fishing. ;-)
Over and over it is repeated about addicts; you cannot make a person get clean. Addicts get clean when they want it for themselves. I believe there is enough truth in that statement that it has become the accepted knowledge. However, I do not believe that is the driving force for many addicts to give up their life of drugs. Sure there are some addicts living a life of homelessness with absolutely no one to call on that eventually clean-up based upon a desire that is wholly internally driven. From my experience that is not the norm.
My proposition as it relates to young addicts based upon personal observations: Younger addicts need role models, mentors, loved ones or sponsors as a key component of recovery. They get clean because of, or for someone else, they maintain their sobriety for themselves and the fear of losing a love or respect of those people that replace the void a drug has filled.
The rationalization for my theory follows much cognitive dissonance in my own analysis of the behaviors and observations of young addicts that remain addicted and those that have lived an extended time drug free that are now older adults. This is not a study that examined mountains of empirical evidence, these are my conclusions based upon anecdotal evidence gathered in discussion and observations. In reading this, remember the source, I am not a scholar or professional in this subject, I am just a father of an addict trying to make sense of insanity.
Why would an addict decide to or even want to get clean and give up using? I have never taken drugs in an illegal way to get high or whatever. I can only guess what it is like based upon others descriptions. What I am told about getting high, it is good, it is real good, I’ve been told imagine this, it is like 100 orgasms throughout your whole body. The feeling is over and over it is there whenever you want. Now, truth is why would anyone not want that once it has been experienced? Why would someone give that up experience voluntarily? As an addict why am I expected to give up an experience that in my life is as essential to my brain as food, water, oxygen and procreation?
My conclusion is without someone or something to fill that void it is highly unlikely, that any addict would give up their drug. In fact, I can rationalize that there is no reason any addict would give up their drug of choice without that “something” either real or spiritual, to fill the void.
Based upon my above mentioned conclusion my son’s only hope in living a life free of mind altering drugs is to have someone or something to fill the void of abstinence from drugs. A profound experience is required as a first step. And that is only a first step not the whole solution.
With that it begs the question, what is the role of a parent, significant other, friend or child?
My son’s addiction is by far the most complex issue I have faced in my life. In dealing with this issue as a parent you grasp at whatever straw, lifeline or sliver of hope you can find. I don’t believe this is wrong; this just is the way it is. Without doing these things you will not grow and learn. As adults and parents we grow and learn through experience. With your own child drowning in the crisis of addiction it is unlikely we will learn from experiences we had not personally tried. There is a tough learning curve we all must experience and some round the curve quickly and some not so quick but there is no cutting the corner. There are proven processes in this path but there is no step by step formula to insure success either for the addict or the person who is a loved one of the addict.
It is my belief that love is one of the most basic and strongest of human emotions. This is the emotion that ensures the survival of our species. Anyone can procreate but without a love bond between a mother, parents or caregiver of a child there is no survival for that infant. As such, without that continuing love for the addicted young adult I believe survival is a marginal proposition, at best.
Love does not mean enable. Love does not mean remove all the pain and misery in your addict’s life. Love does not mean you give up your life at the expense of loving an addicted child. Love means being there, it means not abandoning your addict emotionally. It may be that your child cannot live in your home but that doesn’t mean you do not try to empathize with their pain and fear. It just means you set good boundaries for yourself but be sure you show your child where the gate is on the boundary so they know how to enter your life safely. Do not put locks on the gate.
As parents we develop problem solving skills that continue to evolve to a higher level as we age and accumulate life experiences. A young person that becomes addicted does not have that knowledge in which to draw. I believe someone or something must be the light at the end of the tunnel. Otherwise the darkness will swallow a young person and lost is an outcome, not a current state of being.
A young adult does not have the life experience to find their way out of the morass of addiction. Abandoning your child physically and emotionally is a path some choose but that leaves your addicted child to wander aimlessly in the darkness, some find the exit but many do not. But sometimes that path for a parent or loved one is necessary for self preservation; each family situation is unique and must be handled in context. That is why I believe there is no cookie cutter program that fits every family and every situation, no step by step recipe for success just a group of processes that have proven to be successful for individuals and families in the past.
Now for a harsh reality I have come to accept and am just now beginning to understand. Every addict I have talked to or read about that was addicted as a young adult, not one of them got clean because of Dad and Mom. That’s a hard pill to swallow for this parent.
But when I speak to addicts that have come out the other side about getting clean they spoke of someone or something as the driving force that drove their efforts in recovery.
Sometimes for dumb old me to grasp a concept I have to create analogies to my situation. Hench some of the other ones you have read on my blog, like the “sidewalk of life”. So, as my son drives along his road to recovery I must accept that no matter how much I love him and want him to succeed I am not the driver, I am not the car, I am not the highway or road. At most, I may simply be a gas station along the road. Sometimes he may stop for fuel and sometimes the fuel gauge may read full and he passes me by. That is not a reflection of his love for us as parents or our role in his recovery, it just means there are days he needs fuel and some days his tank is full. My role is to have fuel when he needs it and for the sign outside to always read “OPEN”.
I never know what kind of fuel he may need, emotional, physical or spiritual. So if his tank needs to be topped off with an “I love you, I believe in you” or simply a dinner on Friday night that is the new role of this dad of an addict.