Tuesday, May 29, 2012

For Love, Not Reward

Why do we parents of addicts do what we do? I have had some time to reflect on my actions during the bad times. My reactive behaviors helped no one, but it took a long time and much reflection to understand my motives and outcomes. That's not to say if the situation was presented again I would have the wisdom not to fall into the same trap but I would do it with knowledge this time and my consequences would belong to me without an excuse.

During Alex's active addiction Darlene and I did so much that we felt was right even though other people and experts advice was contrary. I see now that we did much of the enabling and aberrant behavior associated to parents of addicts from a feeling of love but with the expectation of a reward, our son being clear and sober. I also see that many times we did things in an effort to make ourselves feel better at he expense of our son. Of course, at the time we weren't selfishly trying to help ourselves, we were doing it for our son, at least that is what we believed at the time. However, I do recognize that we can only do what we are capable of doing at the time. It's impossible to give something you haven't got.

When dealing with a child in active addiction parental ego is a dangerous thing. It's hard to get over the fact that with some things there is no experience base in which to learn so we revert to what we "know" is best without the benefit of requisite knowledge.

Expectations that our addicted children to get better because we do this or we do that will lead to nothing but frustration and heartache. The only successful strategy for a parent of an addict is to do what you do because of love, not reward. The reward belongs to your child, when they choose to earn it through the work of recovery.

We made many mistakes. I think every parent of an addicted child will make mistakes. No one needs to go to the woodshed over mistakes of good intention as long as we ask the simple question, "What did I learn?" Do what you do out of love. Do the hardest thing out of love and when you suffer or feel bad and lonely know that the reward you so much want does not belong to you, it belongs to your child.

The real reward you seek is acceptance that you can be healthy and once again happy. Acceptance can not be predicated upon your child's recovery. Acceptance and happiness truly can happen even in the midst of the drama and turmoil.


Mike Naylor said...

Thanks for the great wisdom...accepting things we cannot change or control is much better than struggling against the impossible. Our kids make their own decisions that often impact our lives, both good and bad. When I'm faced with the bad, I often revert to the Serenity Prayer.

Capelass said...

I needed to read this today as I've been in a dark space this past week. After 14 long years of struggling with my sons addiction, you would think somehow I would have gained some coping skills, but sadly not.I seriously think I have become 'addicted' to my son gaining recovery. Am feeling so lost and alone on this journey.

Anonymous said...

What a great post! This makes so much sense to me…I don’t know why this never occurred to me. Reactive behavior-check. Looking/hoping for the reward-check! Sometimes I am successful at stepping away from my sons addiction but other times, and most recently, I am right there ready to offer my idea of a “cure”. It’s a maddening cycle.