I Have Limited Contact With My Child. Why Should I Work on My Relationship With Them Now That I Finally Have Some Space and Time?

October 24, 2023

Expert Advice | Barbara Decker

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  • I Have Limited Contact With My Child. Why Should I Work on My Relationship With Them Now That I Finally Have Some Space and Time?

Key Takeaways

  • It’s normal to feel relieved when an addicted child is out of your household, but it’s important to recognize the emotional impact that addiction has had on you and your family.
  • Ignoring your feelings or seeking therapy/support groups can be helpful, but it’s important to also explore your grief and reclaim parts of your identity.
  • Addiction is a family disease and can change parents significantly. Acknowledging its impact is necessary for healing.
  • Writing a letter to your child, focusing on their positive attributes, can help you connect with your feelings and better prepare for when they return to your life.

You finally found some time and peace of mind. Which are hard things for any parent of a child struggling with addiction to find and hold onto. Your child is either in another household, with their other parent, living in another area of the country or nowhere in particular. Or maybe they are just simply out of touch.

After supporting them through their substance abuse for so long, you feel like there’s room for you to breathe. There’s room to take a step away from your relationship with them. There’s finally time for you to focus on the things you’ve been ignoring for so long. While you may even send them money when they ask, that’s the limit to your interactions — it’s just easier than entering into a complex dynamic with them.

You think to yourself: If it isn’t broke, why try to fix it? For you, the best way to cope with having an adult child who’s battling addiction is by avoiding the situation altogether. But what happens when your child comes back into your life? Where does that leave you? And how do you address the feelings of guilt or even torment that come with knowing your child is still in the midst of addiction?

Are you facing these thoughts, emotions, or interpersonal situations despite the fact you may have limited contact with your child?

  • You still feel ashamed, guilty, frustrated, responsible or embarrassed by your situation.
  • You feel like you’ve failed as a parent because your child is not really in your life.
  • You may hear from your child periodically when he or she needs something and you either give what he/she asks for or you feel guilty that you didn’t give what they asked for. If you don’t hear from your child, you feel guilty that you aren’t in touch and/or and worried about his/her well-being. 
  • You haven’t yet finished grieving the loss of the child you raised, the child you expected to have at this point.

If you are truly at peace with the current situation - if you are truly confident that when/if you hear from your child you will know how to handle things in a loving support way that leaves you in a place of peace, stop reading now. This is not for you.

Have you tried these methods to help deal with the feelings and fall out around your relationship or lack of relationship with your child?

Method 1: Out of sight, out of mind. As long as your child isn’t in your life on a daily basis, you can ignore how you feel or think about your relationship.

Method 2: You go to therapy or support groups to help you overcome the feelings of blame and shame, hoping to learn new skills from parents like you.

Method 3: When people ask you about your child, you beat around the bush or just say, “We’re estranged.” If you don’t bring them up in conversation, you won’t have to face the judgement of other people.

Try something new instead of ignoring those feelings and pushing them aside to avoid having to address them.

Recognize the reality of your situation. Get to the truth of it. You (and your family) have tons of feelings rattling around about this that you’ve never handled. There is a grieving process you all need to go through to get to the place where you accept the realities of your situation. Spend time with your grief and explore it.

After you’ve done that (and it takes different amounts of time for each person), then you can start to truly get in tune with the person you were before addiction entered your world. Start to remember the things you value in yourself. Start to find ways to reclaim those parts of your identity - even with your child being “absent.”

Why is this different from what you’ve been doing? How will this new approach work?

Addiction is a family disease, which is different from saying you caused this or it is your fault. It is a disease with deep tentacles and, until you do the work needed, it is hard to move back to the top tiers of Maslow’s pyramid.

  • It has changed you (the mom) significantly. We can only improve the impact once we acknowledge it honestly. Your child’s addiction didn't just affect them. It also affected you. This idea of deep tentacles means it got to you too. It changed you too. It's affected you too. We have to pour out the words, feelings, thoughts, truths - and acknowledge some of how that addiction has literally impacted you.
  • We need to acknowledge the disconnect between the child you envision and the child that you actually have. And you can do that better when he or she is not sitting right in front of you bringing you challenge after challenge, crisis after crisis. So now, time and space have that reflection.

People with the disease of addiction often fall out of touch with us when they do not need something from us. It is very possible you will be in contact with your child later, and it is best to develop the strategies now will you have the time and the clarity of mind. Somehow - some way - you need to be better, stronger, more prepared when that happens.

People with the disease of addiction have a very low opinion of themselves. It helps if the parents develop strategies for helping them discover their own confidence in their competence. So spend time with yourself now, because your child will need a different version of mom when they return.

Start with this step, which you can do TODAY.

Write a short letter to your child. This is for your own purposes. You may later choose to give it to your child, or not. Most Moms don’t. Get in touch with who they were, remember what they value, remember the child beneath the addiction. And tap into and remember why you value them.

It only matters that you write it. That you let the words and thoughts pour out. That you give permission for your feelings and fears to exist. And that you then answer the questions on the My Child Is Away But My Feelings Are Here worksheet. Express how you feel about what has happened. 

My Child Is Away But My Feelings Are Here Worksheet

Still need more help?

Watch the workshop. My son, Eric, was out of touch with me for many periods of time during his addiction. Some were short times. Some were long times. These were the times I acquired the tools and strategies that allowed me to Love Another Way. My son, Eric, says that my change in approach is what encouraged his recovery.

Watch This Workshop for Connecting with Yourself When You Can't Connect with Your Child

I hope you find a pocket of joy in your day today.
Reach out anytime, because I care.

Barbara

Certified Family Recovery Specialist (CFRS)


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  1. My child has been struggling with addiction since he was 17 years old. He is now 31 years old. He maintained jobs, did the methadone program, and was a responsible loving father to his 9 year old daughter until he met a girl 3 months ago. He is now on the streets, no job, no car, and has only seen his daughter a handful of times in 3 months. His sense of responsibility, compassion, and sensibility is gone. He will not take my calls or respond to texts. Every day I prepare for the worst. I feel like I'm not doing enough to help him, but what can I do, I've tried everything. I raise his daughter and I feel like I need to put my focus and energy on her, but meanwhile he's drifting further and further away from us. How will he ever be able to have clarity enough to know what has to be done to get better? I feel so helpless and hopeless. This truly is hell on earth.

    1. Jean – It is very difficult for sure. I’m glad to hear you are focusing on his daughter and she is blessed to have you. The work we do every day in our programs is to help moms like you get to peace and find the best strategies available. And often all the choices are sucky and yet there are choices. I hope things turn around for you. -B

  2. I'm just really struggling with how to handle my adult son's addictions. I feel like I think about him all the time, and that my other children get whats left of me. It's a battle to stay healthy for them and try to deal with his addictions and life style. He feels like I don't care about him, but in reality, I just can't do it anymore. My husband committed suicide 12 years ago, from chronic pain. Ty is the one that found him, and I have guilt about that. I have 3 other sons and they all seem to be doing relatively well. Ty got divorced and has nothing to do with his 8 year old son, whom is also struggling dealing with his Dad, or lack of. Just trying out how to navigate this in as healthy of a way as possible. Thank you,

    1. Kim – It is very hard, and I’m glad you are doing the work and recognize that you are worth feeling better and the rest of your family wants the authentic you back. They miss the real you. (I’d bet money on that.) -B

    1. Hi Joan – I’m sorry to hear that and know how difficult the silent times can be. I hope you are finding a way to take care of yourself, at least some of the time, and find at least a small pocket of joy each day. -B

  3. Thanks so much. I feel really lost in what to do. I’m determined to take better care of me this year. I feel it’s the only thing I can do💔

    1. Annalisa – Yes, you are 100% correct. And you are worthy of a great life also. -Barbara

  4. I had to issue a restraining order on my son. He had become abusive, mostly verbally but I had become afraid of him. I have no contact with him but my other son texts back and forth with him. He is very angry with me, blames me for everything. I’m so depressed and guilty

    1. Sue – That’s one of the hardest things a mom has to do, and I’m sorry you had to. However, I applaud you doing the hard thing. You matter (too) and deserve to be safe and free of the constant stress. It’s just plain unhealthy. He blames you for everything because the disease is in control. Separate the disease from your true son, who really does not blame you. If he ever chooses to get healthy, he will probably thank you. -Barbara

  5. I love the way you always close with saying to find a pocket of joy in our day…..Helps me so much 🥰

  6. Hi Barbara . Thank you for this email. It found me in the stage of my sk. Is clean and has completed a recovery program and is doing well. He lives at my moms home. We visit, text. But what you said about grieving the child he was really hit home with me. There are times when I don’t know how to be now, with him. He’s changed so much , and I am trying to be kind and supportive to him, and also to myself. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      There is skill involved in separating the disease (which addiction is) from the person beneath the disease. And on allowing our “children” to regain their own confidence in their competency. We work on this in depth in our programs. That’s the key to how to be with him now, in a way that is healthy for you and him. Barbara

  7. Thank you for pulling me in by your wise comments…you so eloquently touch on things we are going thru or have gone thru… an affirmation of sorts… thank you

    1. You are very welcome, Judy. For those of us in this “tribe”, the experience is awfully similar from one to another. And many of us don’t know that and feel alone as a result. Barbara

  8. I have been a member of Barbara’s recovery program and it has helped me immensely! My Son is still active but functioning . We live in different areas and he is not consistent with communication. I have written a letter and delivered it
    It really helped to explain alittle of my feelings while showing love and encouragement to my Son and his journey. I have learned through the program that it is his journey and I can’t change or force myself on him. Its not easy but its all I have. Great blog Barbara!

    1. Thank you so much, Donna. You are in exactly the kind of situation this blog is written for. Barbara

    1. Hi Kristi – My primary audience is Moms and I am one myself. There are Dads in my program and they are very welcome as well, as are grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. Barbara

  9. This program has really helped me and my daughter. The biggest thing for me is staying out of her business, not asking all the annoying, probing quesions, and letting her live her own life without my “help” and “advice.” She notices the change in me and told me how much better she feels because of it!

    Thank you, Barbara, and all you other Warrior Moms!

    1. Thanks, Debbie. It is amazing what can happen when we make what are really small (thought hard to make) shifts in our own behavior. Warrior-on because you are doing a great job of it:) Barbara

  10. Since i have joined up to take your class, my friends and family have noticed a big change in me. Last night my oldest daughter went on about how proud of me she was and what an amazing noticable change she could see in me. I have accepted the chaos and drama and ghe fact that its not going to go away anytime soon even though my daughter is working on her recovery. This class is helping me to better respond to the many and ever changing circumstances that are part of an addicts journey.

    1. Wow, Barb! I love to hear about the changes that others see in us. It was true for me also – I moved close to who I want to be and away from the person I had become (and didn’t like very much truth be told). Thanks for sharing this insight. Barbara

  11. So important to grieve and reconnect with ourselves. Also to remember what we love about our children and reinforce that.

  12. Hi, Barbara. Thank you very much for this wonderful perspective/presentation. The Truth of it all is why I decided to continue with this course. I know I still have more healing to do from past experiences & patterns of behavior and, thankfully, I was not deluded into believing that just because my addicted children are not actively in my life now, “everything will be okay…” Because I do love my children z & it is mutual, I know that we will continue to interact with each other in some form or another, especially since I am now a grandmother to their children. So, the process must continue, inevitably for the benefit of everyone, most importantly, myself.~

    1. Thanks so much, Charlene, and it is an ongoing journey for me also, for sure. I’m delighted that you are continuing to do the “work”, which opens up so many new opportunities for us:)

  13. Working on ourselves is always a benefit to us regardless of how much contact we have with our addict child. Thank you for this!

  14. I have been in this program since March and the friendship and sisterhood of fellow Mom’s with the same problems is life changing. I don’t live in perpetual fear anymore and I have others to talk to at any moment of any day.

    1. Thank you so much, Pat, for sharing your experience. YOU have been doing an amazing job:)

  15. Since joining this program I have learned to communicate with my daughter in a different way. It has been a life changer for me and so thankful to Barbara for creating this program. I have learned to love a different way. It has allowed me to have new confidence in myself. 💜💜

  16. Barbara,
    I feel as though you wrote this blog specifically for me!!! Thank you for helping to put words to my experience for in the middle of me taking this program, my son moved out! My child iIS away, but me feelings are right here! I remain in this program and continue with the work because I do want to “be a different Mom” when he returns. I’m looking forward to completing the worksheet and, once again, I can’t thank you enough for helping me to feel understood throughout this chaos of addiction.

    1. HI Terry – Thanks so much for the comment. I’m glad it resonated. This disease has so many facets to it. You are blooming and glowing:) Barbara

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