Friday, January 15, 2016

What If They Stop Using???

Annette on her blog wrote a good piece about patience on her blog. It's worth reading here, A Gift of Time.

It reminds me of my experience when our son entered recovery. Based on my learning through our experience change is not something reserved for our addicted children.

I've ask people before this rhetorical question, "If your son/daughter walked in one day and this was the day that they never used drugs again in their life are you ready? Do you know what to do to support them or are you going to be the same person you are today?"

What does it take to be a parent to a child entering recovery?

I'm not sure there is a laundry list I can write and then you check off the boxes as DONE. However. I can write about a few things I learned when my son entered recovery.

Patience is not one of my strengths. Patience is a critical virtue when dealing with a person in recovery. Many of them have been living a life of addiction for many years, this ship does not turn on a dime. They may stop using drugs on a single day but LIFE doesn't change that day just because they stop using drugs. We must learn a different type of patience. We must ALLOW them to learn.

Being a control freak has been a part of me for decades and I have lived six of them. We don't get to control their recovery because we know best. It's OK to exercise our own control issues but they have to be directed in the right direction, our self. I understand the urge, no the need we have to make things better. Better is support, not control.

Perfection is the goal of all us control freaks. We hate to admit it but personally we are not perfect. It's not fair to put perfection on someone in recovery.

Temper our expectations. True story, I once had a manager write on my performance appraisal at work, "Not everyone performs at Ron's level, not everyone has the ability perform at Ron's level. Ron needs to learn to set realistic expectations for his subordinates and himself." We must ALLOW them to learn about this new life at a pace they can accept and handle.

Support is very different for someone in recovery than it is for someone that is using. I often observed that our son began using as a teenager. When he stopped using he was a young adult. When he stopped using I often observed his decision making and maturity level more closely resembled a young teenager. Recognize what life is and do not try to live the life we believe should be. Support can be as basic a food, clothes and shelter. It can be as complicated as therapy, counseling or health and medical support.

Advice is best accepted when it is ask for. Open ended questions work better than statements. "It looks like you are struggling, how can I help?" "What are the things I can do that I don't know to know to do?" "How can we work on _______ together?" Most important, accept their answers.

There are a million other things that can come up day to day. Every one of them you argue with yourself. Should I or shouldn't I? Is this right or the wrong thing to do? Go back to the perfection paragraph and read it again. We will not be perfect. The goal is to be supportive.

This a journey both of you are taking. Both of you are now walking in the same direction, but do not forget that you are on different paths.


Isabelle Cantin said...

Thank you for these examples of open questions ......... I always struggle to know what to say. I'll use these for sure!

Dad and Mom said...


The is a practical guide that I wish would have been available when I was going through this with my son. I had to stumble and fumble. I am only recommending this because I know how good it is and how helpful it is for EXACTLY what you describe. Go to this link, The 20 Minute Guide:

You can get examples and pdf's that page. Click the appropriate, parent or partner. See the buttons on top of the page take you to examples and you can download pdf's that are like gold. My suggestion is just buy the guide it is very inexpensive (under $15) and you get the whole program.

Some of the best money you will spend. If you have read my blog you see i don't advertise but this should be in your personal library/reference area.

Topper said...

Great post Ron. It's hard to know how to proceed if things change and our loved ones make hesitant attempts to change. I definitely have to work on my unrealistic expectations.

Linda deV said...

Thank you for this post. Our addicts are different but the problem of perfectionism is one we share. Love what you had to say:

"Perfection is the goal of all us control freaks. We hate to admit it but personally we are not perfect. It's not fair to put perfection on someone in recovery."

You are so right. It is not fair to put our perfectionism on anyone!! I needed to read that today.

Hope your day is amazing.

Ron Hayward said...

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Brittany Karls said...

Thank you for highlighting that the addict isn't the only one who has to change. Family members also need to be prepared in certain ways to help support their loved one in recovery. I think most of the time family members hope and believe that things will "go back to normal" when their loved one enters recovery. The realization that this is the new normal can be disappointing. Often family members overlook that they need help and support as well.