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?