Parenting and addiction - A difficult path


Dear Ted: As 2018 begins, I find myself reflecting on the last year with sorrow as I continue to try to support my son, who abuses drugs and alcohol and causes enormous stress and sadness in my life as well as wreaking havoc within our family. Even though I go to Alanon to help me with my sanity and serenity, I continue to feel the futility (given) the power that addiction has over someone as well as the pain it causes others. I'm hoping you will give insight on this secret hell that so many parents live in as they strive toward a sane life while having the ramifications that come with a loved one who is in the depths of addiction. Thank you, Spencer

Dear Spencer: Thank you for bringing up an issue that is rarely discussed and actually is more common than most people realize. I'm glad to hear you have found support, such as Alanon, which is a program that uses a 12-Step philosophy to support those who have a loved one who lives with addiction. They help support family members with boundaries, connection and a road map to walk their life rather than be lost in their loved one's addiction.

As 2018 has arrived, it is a time for reflection, and usually with a certain level of melancholy as you look back on the year of your life. This is a healthy practice in which you have a chance to see what you would like to improve and what you may wish to do differently. Often, this includes how you behave within close relationships and what you can change within that relationship such as being nicer, more patient, loving and kind. It also includes where you may need to change certain behaviors that lead to a poorer quality of life.

Discerning between what is enabling and what is supporting is difficult. Certain behaviors as a parent may seem to be enabling to some, but you choose these behaviors in order to feel okay within yourself. Some parents have to completely stop all supports to their (adult) child, such as money, shelter, legal funding and other forms of support that enable their son or daughter to continue to be active in addiction rather than come to the realization that they need to get help with a very difficult disease. Watching your child be taken over by the parasite of addiction is excruciating, and deciding what is the best way to support that child is not a clean and clear path. Being willing to support your child in choices that promote health and sobriety, while not being willing to support anything that leads to addictive behaviors, is the key.

Realizing that you cannot control another's behavior but can choose your actions within the dance of love and addiction is where you can put your energy as you grieve and walk your healing path in the midst of a loved one's disease and decisions. This is a very difficult path that many parents find themselves on, and I'm glad you are choosing to share here and receive support from the community around you.

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Ted Wiard, LPCC, CGC, Founder of Golden Willow Retreat at (575) 776-2024 or

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