When is enough, enough? Recently I have been talking to an old friend and she confided in me that her husband is an alcoholic. She also shared with me that because of his addiction to alcohol that their relationship became so damaged that unfortunately the marriage ended in divorce. So again let me put forth this profound and rhetorical question. When is enough, enough? As family or friends when is enough, enough with dealing with lies, cheating and alcohol/drug behavior? How many times does family or friends have to deal with the anxiety of wandering if they will ever get that most dreaded of calls that something terrible has happened to our friend or loved one? At what point do we sever our relationships with behavior that not only is destructive to our loved one but also destructive to us as family and friends? I have experience of being on both sides of this issue in my lifetime. I have put my family thru terrible times over the years with addictive behavior as well as having someone I cared for deeply, struggling with the disease of addiction. So at times in my life I have had to deal with my own emotions of anxiety, depression and fear of not knowing if the person I cared for was in harm’s way because of their addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Another unanswered rhetorical question is as family or friends what is our role in helping or not helping our loved one. Do we wait for the proverbial “hit rock bottom” to happen before we attempt any help? Do we intervene before this happens and spare our loved one all the consequences of hitting rock bottom? One thing I have learned about the enmeshed family dynamics of dealing with a family member suffering with a drug or alcohol addiction. Family members must take care of themselves. No parent wants to see a child suffer with such an insidious devastating disease. The disease of addiction is so powerful, cunning and baffling and so is the question of when or when not to help your loved one suffering from the disease of addiction.
I will end this commentary with relying on my own experience of dealing with a drug addiction. What is so baffling about treating the disease of addiction, one never knows when the addict finally gets it! But if you do decide that you want to be there for your loved one and provide support and care in an appropriate way here are several things that might help guide you in the right direction.
- Do research on the disease of addiction so that you have a more fundamental understanding of the disease.
- Research treatment options so that you can be prepared to make informed decisions as to the type of help that might be appropriate for your loved one.
- Understand that even though there are many common threads to all addictions there can be many differentials that must be assessed and treated from individual to individual.
Choose a treatment program that has the resources and structure to treat each individual with those components that will give the best opportunity for a long term healthy, sober outcome.
You see it all the time at the mall or the grocery store. It happens at home and in public. It happens on nights and weekends. It is a 24/7 phenomenon and it is all about Darwinism. The weak perish and the strong survive. The most significant problem is that I am talking about the parent child relationship and all the power being on the wrong side of the scale.
There is very little in life that is more disastrous than when a child has more power than a parent and the parents are unwilling or unable to change the dynamic. Parents must be parents and they cannot be their child’s friend. Kids have friends their own age for that. Parents must be parents. Even when it is hard.
Children thrive when limits are set. As much as kids will naturally push limits they will also thrive with limit setting. When parents have an inability to set limits and live by those limits, it is under those circumstances that parents lose control of their kids. There are bad children out there who are bad independently of their parents but for the most part “bad” kids are created by bad parenting.
As kids get older and the dynamics between them become more rooted it becomes even harder for the parents to change the flow of power. Now fast forward to a teen or adolescent or young adult who has a drug and behavioral problem. Imagine how impossible it is for a parent to step in and have any impact on changing their child’s behavior or getting them to even participate in a treatment program. More often than not if the child actually enters a program it is incredibly important that a large part of that program is spent on changing the parent/child relationship. Parents have to relearn how to be parents and kids have to relearn how to be kids.