Are you struggling to overcome the fear of change?

For however long and by what methods you've been using to interact with your child about their addiction, it’s just not getting them to really change.

They’re still choosing addiction over recovery, and you’re still feeling powerless to help. You and your child (and likely your entire family) have developed a certain way of “dealing” with these situations, and you’re not sure if or how you should change that approach. You’re afraid.

In fact, you feel fear most of the time. It’s this dominant emotion that drives your decision making when it comes to your child. There’s no logic or fact involved. Often, you don’t like how you feel or respond in these situations.

And you’re also afraid of not doing anything at all.

You're afraid of changing how you respond. You are afraid that you might end up making it worse.

Facing the fear of change

Many decisions we make as moms to children struggling with addition are based on us picturing the worst possible outcome.

Consider this story from one of the mothers I worked with — we’ll call her Donna. Her son Tommy had been struggling with addiction for years, and Donna was struggling to understand how she could best help him.

When we first started working together, Donna told me that she had recently spent $80 on another cell phone for her son Tommy. She was often finding herself supporting him financially (and emotionally as well) because she was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t help, or if she found a new way to approach Tommy’s constant crises.

I asked her why it was so important to keep helping Tommy with buying another cell phone. “If I don’t, Tommy won’t call me — how will I know he’s okay or even alive? He could die without it.” This fear that Donna had was clouding her judgment; she was creating a life-or-death situation out of a small issue (lack of a cell phone) and let urgency drive her to do what she always did (helping Tommy financially) because she was afraid of doing anything else, or nothing at all.

Knowing when it’s time to overcome the fear of change

Beyond worrying about the “consequences” of changing her approach, Donna also realized she was worrying about knowing when it was time to change; when it was time to face and overcome the fear of trying something different. It’s not uncommon to feel some of the ways that Donna (and countless other mothers) have felt when interacting with their child under the effects of the disease of addiction.

This article is for you if:  

  • You know your child is using drugs or alcohol and may be addicted, based on behavior or even their own confession.
  • Your child no longer looks or acts like the child you raised.
  • Your child encounters crisis after crisis in their life and is unable to overcome them.
  • You hide much of what is happening from close friends and family or even lie to them because you feel responsible and like a failure as a parent.
  • You’re afraid of change, and afraid things will get worse. Change is never easy, and it is especially hard when you’re talking about the life of your child.
  • You’re worried all the time about whether your decisions you make with regard to your child are the “right” ones, the ones that will really help your child get out of addiction and back to life.
  • You’re feeling constant anxiety and you’re on high alert all the time to be able to “intercept” issues with your child before other people know.
  • You’re backtracking on saying “no” to paying for something for your child. You eventually say “yes” even though you know in your head it’s not a good idea.

Have you tried these methods before and still nothing has changed? 

Method 1: You parent softly. And by that I mean you hope that if you are nice to your child, show love and support instead of discipline and punishment, your child will act better.

Method 2: You avoid the problem. You don’t say anything… at all… ever. You hope your child will figure it out and that your child just needs to grow up or solve some other problem in his life.

Method 3: You complain/vent - your therapist and friends all know how bad Johnny or Susie has been lately. And you've been venting for years now.

Here's an approach I recommend to face your fear

All successful approaches start with taking the time you need to think through your options. Think outside the box, beyond black and white, and beyond what you’re already done. Factor in your emotions and reactions you get from your child, along with what your personal priorities might be.

Own the responsibility for your own actions. Understand that you child has choices to make day in and day out, and so do you. Complaining solves nothing. Avoidance solves nothing. If nothing changes, then nothing will change and this will be your life year after year. 

Why I recommend this approach

I recommend because you have to understand how someone with the disease of addiction behaves.

  • An addict believes everything is urgent. You need to be the healthy one and assess calmly if this request truly is urgent.
  • An addict is manipulative. He or she will play on your emotions. He or she will try to maintain the status quo, the state of addiction. He or she will latch onto your fear, and your mind will not be able to see beyond that.
  • When a child is addicted, fear is a natural state for the parent. However, when that fear drives each decision you make, you don’t make decisions that are aligned with your true priorities. And often those decisions aren’t the ones that will encourage recovery for your child.

Do this NOW to empower yourself to face your fear

Next time you’re faced with an interaction with your child about their addiction, take some time before responding. This is often hard to do because of the nature of the disease of addiction. The disease wants everything now, now, now. So, click the blue button below TODAY and download 3 Simple Steps For Taking Your Time Before Responding.

Work through this experiment that starts with brainstorming and ends with planning your “exit strategy.” Think about this new option and how it’s different from what you might typically do. Ultimately, this is an experiment with two outcomes: You’ll either W:Win or L:Learn.

Download 3 Simple Steps For Taking Your Time...

Take the next step towards overcoming your very natural fear of change

Taking time to consider each request/need is the first step. Actually figuring out how you want to respond to each request is more complex and beyond what I can cover in an article.

To hear real life examples of how I moved past my fear, into a place where I could love my son, Eric, in another way, watch my workshop.

Hear how I overcame my fear (and how you can too).

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


Certified Family Recovery Specialist (CFRS)

Leave a Comment:

Suzanne Maye says November 23, 2020

Fear is the most driving experience when making decisions, having an addict who moved home and doesn’t pay rent and all money goes to his addiction is my bottom. He needs to go and I need to accept that whatever happens, it is. not my fault, and I have no control wherever he lives and goes.

    Barbara Decker says November 23, 2020

    Suzanne, I agree with everything you wrote. And it is hard. I’m so sorry you are going through this. Barbara

Bonnie says November 22, 2020

My granddaughter 22 wasting her life. It consumes me sometimes

    Barbara Decker says November 23, 2020

    Hi Bonnie – Yes, this disease has impacts that can easily consume us, consume our family unit, have devastating impacts all the way around. I’m sorry you are going through this, and there is hope, for our children, for our grandchildren, for us.

Bonnie Baval-Kresin says November 18, 2020

Yes fear is a driver. Not wanting to upset applecart or have volatile situation keeps me stuck.

    Barbara Decker says November 19, 2020

    Fear is I would say 90% of the driver, and for me, my fear fed the disease of addiction. I thought I was helping my real son, Eric. And all I was doing was feeding that blasted addiction and allowing it to get stronger because I was so afraid. Took time and work to change my response from fear based to Love Another Way based. Thanks so much for your note, Bonnie.

Lori F Rink says November 18, 2020

As always I love these helpful ways of dealing with an addicted adult child. I am trying these changes. Haven’t seen results yet but will definitely continue. Thank you!

    Barbara Decker says November 19, 2020

    Thank you, Lori, and it takes some time for the people around us to shift their behavior as we behave in different ways. Stay consistent and positive and take baby steps, just for you. The real goal is to do these things for you (because you matter too) and set the boundaries needed so we can live our best life!

Deborah Deveau says November 18, 2020

You have found your role. Thank you for helping me.

    Barbara Decker says November 18, 2020

    Thank you, Deborah – and glad to be of help. I do feel like maybe at age 65, I figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Time will tell…

Jacki Hankinson says November 14, 2020

I really like this because it gives all of the very relatable problems and reactions we have in a caring, nonjudgmental way.

    Barbara Decker says November 14, 2020

    Thank you, Jacki.

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