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?

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.


Certified Family Recovery Specialist (CFRS)

Leave a Comment:

Judy Norman says September 13, 2021

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

    Barbara Decker says September 13, 2021

    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

Judy Norman says August 8, 2021

Thank you Barbara… for giving to mothers of addicts ❤️

    Barbara Decker says August 9, 2021

    You are very welcome, Judy. Thanks for you note.

Donna Piro says August 3, 2021

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!

    Barbara Decker says August 3, 2021

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

Sharon Dunn Schwab says August 3, 2021

Thank you for your words. They are encouraging to me.

    Barbara Decker says August 3, 2021

    You are very welcome, Sharon.

Kristi Kennelly says August 3, 2021

Why are all of your suggestions only directed toward mothers? What about single dads who have raised a child?

    Barbara Decker says August 3, 2021

    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

Deborah Purrington says July 30, 2021

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!

    Barbara Decker says August 1, 2021

    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

barbara stahl says July 26, 2021

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.

    Barbara Decker says August 1, 2021

    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

Bonnie Baval-Kresin says July 25, 2021

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

    Barbara Decker says August 1, 2021

    HI Bonnie – so well said:) Barbara

Charlene Lasley says July 24, 2021

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.~

    Barbara Decker says August 1, 2021

    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:)

Jeanie Fennimore says July 24, 2021

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

    Barbara Decker says August 1, 2021

    Welcome, Jeannie – thanks so much for sharing.

Pat Kunde says July 24, 2021

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.

    Barbara Decker says August 1, 2021

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

Nancy Curd says July 23, 2021

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. 💜💜

Terry Mabry says July 20, 2021

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.

    Barbara Decker says July 20, 2021

    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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