The universal response of a parent who loses a child is “an attempt to put words to an inward experience which is ultimately beyond labels.” (Kabat-Zinn, 264).
Addiction is often referred to as a ‘family disease’, so losing a child to addiction is not only indescribable, but it is accompanied by a desperate drive to ‘rescue’ our child from a disease over which we have no control.
When an unsuspecting parent learns that their son or daughter is an addict, we experience an overwhelming fear of losing a child to addiction. Indeed, that is exactly what is happening: the cunning disease of addiction has kidnapped our child. Most parents do not have the skill-set to reckon with the disease, so we try to manipulate, bargain with, and shelter our sons and daughters from alcohol and/or drugs. The result of our actions and behavior is demoralizing, as we watch our child spiral out of control with no moral compass.
Willingness to Understand Addiction
Losing a child to addiction can be an endless journey into scary places, where, presumably, no ‘good’ parent would ever find him/herself; think jail, prison, detox centers, methadone clinics, etc. However, the most dreaded possible outcome of addiction, death, is a parent’s driving force to justify whatever action they take on behalf of their child. Unless or until we are willing to understand the progression of the disease, rather than react to it, we become victims along with our children.
Over time, losing a child to addiction takes a toll on a parent’s self image. We are ashamed to talk about our child’s addiction to alcohol and/or drugs and are paralyzed by a feeling of helplessness. Under the best of circumstances, rehabilitation programs, therapy and even incarceration may have a positive impact on the disease, but one or more relapses can completely unravel and overturn our lives. Fortunately, this story doesn’t have to repeat or end here…if we are willing to change the way we think about helping our son or daughter, and in turn, allow ourselves to be helped.
Losing a Child to Addiction is Painful, but Losing Ourselves is a Choice
We can derail the course of addiction in our life and limit its consequences, if we are willing to open up our minds and hearts. Our conscious choice to ‘let go’ of trying to control people, places and things (focusing, instead on our own recovery from the disease of addiction) has the potential to ripple throughout the entire family, including the addict.
For many parents, a new chapter to our story was awaiting us in Al-Anon meeting rooms within our community and throughout the world. It takes a little effort to find a meeting, the courage to show up, and a willingness to tap into an inner wisdom that knows “if we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.” (Ancient Chinese Proverb)
If your loved one is struggling with addiction, we can help. Contact us anytime at (877) 977-3268.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are. Hyperion.