In Powerlessness Most Dangerous Form of Parental Denial, I suggested that even more dangerous than a parent’s denial about the fact that their child has an addiction, is a parent’s denial that there is something they can do about it.
“Exhausted, confused, sad, angry, hurting and grieving parents of addicts often come to feel powerless,” I wrote. “It’s no wonder that many parents come to feel powerless. Addiction is complex and challenging. On top of that, parents are often told by those they turn to for support or expert advice that they are, in fact, powerless.”
I urged parents to understand that they can “BOTH establish healthy boundaries AND actively support their loved one in establishing the conditions of safety, stability and opportunity necessary to build a lasting recovery.”
I am quite aware that this is no small task.
One parent who is struggling to both establish healthy boundaries and actively support an addicted son put it so well:
“It is a tough choice over and over, because right action simply isn’t easy to define each time.”
It’s so true.
The standard, one-size-fits-all advice to parents to “detach” and let their loved one “hit rock bottom” is seductive in that it offers a clear direction to exhausted parents caught in a confusing whirlwind of devastation.
It is harder, in a way, to suggest to parents that they should struggle on even as they are faced with tough choices over and over, with no clear or easy answers.
Life is messy, as the saying goes, and life with an addict in the family is all the messier. It’s important to honor the effort.
Parents don’t have the absolute power to stop addiction. But parents are far from powerless.
Parents who choose to can find opportunities to influence the outcome of their child’s addiction. However, playing an active role requires a willingness to think things through independently and make tough choices over and over, even when there are no clear or easy answers. Further, it requires striking a difficult balance between healthy personal boundaries, and healthy recovery support.
It’s not easy. But the stakes are high, and the potential rewards are worth it.