Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parent of an Addict, What's It Like?

What does it take to be the parent of an addict? Looking back and forward it’s not about normal. It’s not hoping and wishing for the storybook life we all dream of or watch in 30 minute bursts on television. Being the parent of an addict is about being more than you dreamed you could be.

A few years ago The US Army used something like that as a recruiting slogan, “Be all you can be”. I should have joined the Army because I feel like I’ve been in a war.

Being the parent of an addict is you learn survival skills. Not just physical survival, yes those are necessary at times but you also learn emotional survival skills.

You learn to love someone that by all accounts is un-loveable. Being close to an addict is toxic, even for a parent. We are not immune to the symptoms of the disease, we just learn how to absorb the poisonous relationship and deal with the behaviors in a way we can protect ourselves and do our best to protect our suffering child.

A parent finds a way to hold on to hope when all seems hopeless. For every time you see the sword of hope held high in victory the next moment you find it plunged through your heart. But you never give up on the hope for not only your child but for yourself.

You find a way to survive in situations that you never dreamed you would encounter. While visiting with your child through a glass wall surrounded by steel bars and cages. Standing beside beds in emergency rooms while a doctor is explaining the situation and the doctor is very somber and there are no smiles to share.

Miraculously you find a way to detach from the actions that your child takes that run counter to every value you hold dear and have taught them since they were babies. You learn to manage your emotions when you know that your child is dealing in areas that you would not venture without a police escort.

The world is upside down. Jail is good, freedom is dangerous. You find yourself asking or praying for the police to take your child into “protective custody.”

A parent lives EVERY moment awake or asleep in a love/hate relationship with the phone. If only the phone would ring and I could hear their voice just to know they are alive this very moment. But, every time the phone rings your heart skips a beat, launches itself into your throat and your stomach flip flops; is this “the call.”

Parents of addicts learn how to smile with friends and family. We need them for our own survival. We learn to allow them inside to places that used to be only for us.

What’s it like to be the parent of an addict? What have you learned about yourself?

14 comments:

Gledwood said...

I dread to think what my parents have learned :-(

BMelonsLemonade said...

Wonderful piece. Poetic, if I dare say.

kel said...

I am stronger than I thought.

ChaiLatte said...

Very well said, Ron! You really covered what life is like as the parent of an addict. As far as what I have learned about myself... that list is endless... I would have to say that I'm much stronger than I ever thought I was, I see myself judging people less, and I've learned that I'm still a work in progress.

parent said...

Good post Ron ..insightful

Like our addicts...we live...one day at a time... ( or hour at a time )

VJ said...

Well done!

I learned to stay out of my child's life until he accepts recovery.

Anna said...

Very well said.

Bristolvol said...

You could not have summed it up any better, Ron. Unfortunately, this is the one thing that never crossed our mind when we were expecting parents. I have learned that I can achieve serenity despite being in the saddest and most hopeless place you can find yourself as a parent.

Tori said...

What a great post! I have learned that I am much stronger than I ever thought I was. I learned that my marriage is stronger than I thought it was. That I need help and I deserve to get it and I deserve to live. Way too long of a list and so much more to learn. I have learned in his addiction were are not at one day at a time but for now one minute at a time.

Barbara said...

Ron, I am going to share this with some friends...maybe. I have always wanted to try and describe what its like to be in this unwanted role; you've said it so eloquently.

For me, I have learned what several others have said above. I am much stronger than I ever imagined I could be. But something inside me has changed, I am not the same person I was before the addiction.

Anonymous said...

Ron,
Tears came to my eyes as I read this post. No one but another parent of an addict could put what we all have felt at one point into words as you did. I have learned to say those precious words of yours into my daily prayers and thoughts...where there is life there is hope. I have learned to cherish those moments of seeing my son in a clear and clean moment and relish in the faint smile and wave of my son who is somewhere inside of the stranger who lives in his body. I have also learned to be accepting of what life is and how I treat people. Thank you for all that you do.
Maria

Syd said...

Thought provoking and painful to contemplate. I see the pain that the disease causes in every meeting. Eventually, those who get recovery for themselves do get stronger and learn that their lives can move forward.

Momma said...

Ron, you are such a great resource for me. This really choked me up. I am going to share this with my husband. I don't know what else to say, you said it all. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Ron, I just found your page last night. How I wish I would have had something like this to turn to 22 months ago. You see, I lost my son to addiction. Yes, 'the calls'.... your poetic writing on this subject brings me to my knees. All I can say is 'keep talking'....

forever Jake's Mom