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?
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.
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