As mothers, we inherently put so much of ourselves and our lives on hold to care for and love our children at any age — that’s just part of what I call the “Mom Code.”
While we generally tend to do this less as our kids grow into adulthood and need us less, that can change when we find ourselves figuring out the best ways to support our adult children through their addiction journey.
When this happens, we fall back into the same role we played when our children were younger and unable to take care of their own needs.
After all, it seems like those who are struggling with substance abuse often can not do what we would expect adults to do, like stay healthy, pay rent, hold down jobs, or even pay for their own groceries and bills.
As mothers, we once again push our own needs to the side to show our adult children they are loved while they fight addiction. We once again lose ourselves, neglect our own self-care, and sacrifice our lives to do what it takes to help our children overcome their own difficulties.
And most of us would do this gladly if it meant our children would get well. We would sacrifice anything for our children. What I learned, though, is that my sacrifice did nothing to encourage my son to choose recovery. He got deeper and deeper into his illness.
And the same is true for most of the moms I work with. The “children” continue down this dangerous path, while the moms continue to be consumed by their child’s addiction.
Is it time to get back some of your own life and find time to do the things you truly want to be doing?
There are clear signs that maybe you need to find another way to love and support your child while actually getting back to the life you want to live. Here are some of the signs.
Do you recognize the above signs in your own life and relationships with your adult children with addiction struggles?
There’s a good chance you’ve been in one or all of these situations in the past few days or weeks, or maybe even this morning.
- 1You promise yourself day after day that you’ll spend time to do what you want — like having coffee with friends. At the last minute, your child calls in a panic and needs you. Your plans are ruined because you won’t be able to face your friends and explain what’s happening in your life without breaking down. They can never know about the terrible things happening in your life.
- 2You’ve finally scheduled a long-overdue trip with your partner or to visit family members. You’re afraid to go and not be there when your child needs you, or that your child may destroy your home or steal from you while you’re away. Or you make the trip, but it’s interrupted over and over by text messages and phone calls as your child fails to navigate crisis after crisis.
- 3You agree to cover one more cost or payment because you hope that just a little bit more financial help will help resolve your child’s issues. You tap into your savings or retirement account or max out your credit card to try and pay for the help your child clearly needs to pay rent, buy groceries, purchase a new cell phone, help them with rehab treatment — it seems like the list never ends.
It’s time to break out of this pattern of sacrificing what you need — try this approach instead.
Loving and supporting your child through addiction doesn’t mean you have to be at their beck and call, 24 hours a day, every day. No healthy relationship can survive a lack of boundaries like that. Instead, start to separate where your child ends and where you begin.
Defining this separation will allow you to better love and support your child in a way that actually encourages recovery, reclaim your own life and meet your own legitimate needs.
Why should you create these separations? Why will this work?
During addiction, your child thinks their needs are the only ones that matter, ever. You need to experiment with first recognizing and then honoring your OWN needs.
When in the throes of substance abuse struggles, your child will also behave as though the world will end when you DON’T meet their needs INSTANTLY. As the healthy one in the relationship, you’ll need to start practicing ways to slow down their expectations.
You’ve been living in the chaos of your child’s addition for a long time, and you need to create space for your brain to accept moments for yourself, to address the needs you’ve long been ignoring.
Try this experiment today to start recognizing your own needs
Set aside just 5 minutes of quiet time on your calendar for the next 3 days in a row; consider this as an appointment with yourself. Put your phone in another room, turn the notifications off, and document the results of your experiment here, on the 5-Minutes of Quiet worksheet.
NOW, download 5-Minutes of Quiet Time and start.
Get yourself back with my Mom-oriented approach.
When you have an addicted child, the journey can be complex when traveling from where we are to where we need to be to reclaim ourselves. I know this because I was in your place, too, with my son; I talk about my own journey in my workshop.
And, hard as it may be to believe in this moment, getting back to yourself is what encourages your child to choose recovery.
Give yourself the gift of this workshop! (Free & Confidential)