How much work is it parenting an addict?
This is going to a be a selfish post. Not one of self pity but one of realization. For over one seventh of my life I have been parent to an addict in active addiction. Of course for the first two years we existed in oblivion of his disease. I'm finding that is not uncommon, unfortunately.
Addiction doesn't recognize vacations, time off, or holiday's. This is a 24/7 disease. The drama invades every waking and sleeping moment of a parents life. Phone calls at all hours and the overwhelming fear of each ring that the message is that ultimate horror.
Relationships crumble dealing with the drama of an addict. Let'em go, stop enabling, cut'em loose, kick'em out of your life, just ignore them, are all phrases that cut you like a knife through hot butter. Every one of them spoken by people that love you and are well intentioned but don't seem to realize that this is your child. Words come easily from those that have never worn these shoes.
Addiction is work. Not just for the addict that struggles every single hour to find a way of getting that next hit but also for all of those that love an addict. Work for those parents that now find themselves raising grandchildren. Added stress for those parents struggling with jobs. Our struggling with parental shame and self doubt caused by the inability of our society and nation as a whole to recognize the effects of this disease. Struggling with our own conflicting beliefs about drugs and drug addicts.
Detach with love. If only it were that easy.
But detach with love is what we must do, not just for our own sanity and life but for the health of our addict. Detaching with love is just another "thing" we must learn to do as if we don't have enough already.
It seems a lot easier to sit back now and come up with what we should do while our son is in recovery and doing well but isn't that the way it always is for most things. Reflection and deliberation is how I learn. Without a time of peace it is hard to take a moment for yourself but it is something that you must do for your own health.
There is no doubt in my mind that this has aged Mom and I considerably. No one goes through this with a child without an nearly unbearable heartache. Sleepless nights, financial stress, the compromising of our own personal values does damage I am not sure is measurable.
Just because right now our son is in recovery does not mean our work is finished. There is a path of destruction behind us in our own wake with our own life and issues. Most of it I am not going even worry about cleaning up. Selfishly, I want a break, but at some point some of the work needs to be done.
How much work is it? It's a hell of a lot of work, but it's worth it if you are working on the right things. My biggest regret is I spent so much effort working on things that didn't mean or accomplish a damn thing.