It is never easy to admit you need help as a parent. Somehow, we think we should innately know how to parent well. So, when I made the decision to attend my first Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL) meeting, it was many years later than it should have been.
My daughter started drinking and using drugs when she was fourteen. She was admitted to an inpatient facility three times before she was seventeen. As a single parent, I was convinced it was my fault and that I could fix it. She is now forty years old and is still using.
I remember when I initially visited PAL, I did not know how to continue loving my daughter without enabling or enraging her. Participating in this group has taught me to reframe my reactions from an emotional response to intentional thinking. It is not intuitive for me as a mother to back away from at least trying to help my child. We are not equipped on our own to be parents of addicts. But by learning that helping an addict is actually prolonging their ability to be an addict, I have been empowered to love her without rescuing her. I see now that only through consequences, and sometimes ugly consequences, do our addicted children seek change.
I have also had to face some ugly issues of my own. I have harbored deep anger and resentment towards my daughter. I have looked at her as the sole culprit of my unhappiness. Participating is this groups has taught me that even though some anger is normal and needs to be processed and released, there is danger in holding on to it. Anger separates us from our loved ones, imprisons our own hearts, and keeps us from looking at our part. Forgiveness does not equal approval or spiraling back into going along with my daughter’s wishes. There is a loving place that allows me to own my part of this, and respond to her in a way that puts all the responsibility for her behavior back on her. Treating my daughter as an adult that must face her own consequences has been very challenging for me. I am certainly not telling you that I have perfected these challenges, only that knowledge is power and change is important when you are stuck on the wrong path. I still stumble and experience pain and anger. The difference is, I am acquiring a new tool set to deal with my pain in an environment that offers support and education.