Most adults learn through experiential learning. We relate experience to what we come to believe that is true. For instance, a child learns through belief. 2 + 2 = 4 because they believe it to be true because someone tells them it is true. As an adult I believe 2 + 2 = 4 because in my life I have experiences to validate that statement.
OK, how is this relevant to addiction and our lives as parents of addicts?
Most of us entered this world of drugs and addiction unexperienced. That means we were unlearned in what to do when our child is addicted to drugs. So, naturally we fall back on our experiences and what we have learned in life to solve and fix problems. The trouble is that as experiential learners it was impossible to learn from experiences we never had.
We all do or did this, myself included. We knew if we just exerted more control, loved more, provided more things and more happy experiences to our child it would all work out. Then when that didn't work we fell back into what worked at times for our young child, negative reinforcement, tough love, the adult equivalent of time out, and at times in anger maybe even resorting to physical attacks. Nothing seemed to work, we were working from a convoluted paradigm. What we learned from our past experiences did not apply in this situation.
What do we do now? Nothing seems to work. There comes a time when we must unlearn. Unlearning is our most difficult learning. Unlearning what we believe to be true, a parents love conquers all, makes us all vulnerable and unstable. Panic and fear takes over our lives. We come to believe our good or lack of parenting becomes a life or death situation for our child.
At some point we must let go of our old learning and step into a new reality. We may be parents but at this point we do not control this adult child we still see as a 5 year old running through the house. We must learn new through the experiences of our life today.
At this point we must learn to take care of ourselves. We must learn a new way to support. We must learn to love while allowing natural consequences. We must learn to capitalize on ability to provide opportunities for discovery. Our addicted child, despite their condition, must discover that life is or could be better without drugs as it is with drugs. That is their FIRST step then their hardest work towards recovery begins.
All of this is not easy. In fact, I will attest to it was the most difficult thing I ever experienced. But, it is necessary. I would go as far as to say it is required.