When my son was struggling with addiction, so much of my time was spent researching solutions that claimed to work for helping him choose recovery. I went to parent support group meetings and countless therapy sessions, read an endless number of books on the topic, and searched the internet far and wide for anything that claimed to offer answers and results — and nothing worked.
This likely sounds familiar: You try all of the “traditional” methods of trying to understand how to help your adult child through their addiction. You work through the steps, try what the therapist suggests, and follow through with what the “programs” say should be done. In the end, though, you’re still where you started.
So you start to wonder…
...And yet, if you do not keep trying new things, take a chance, how will anything change?
Are you frustrated? Do you recognize these feelings as you try to find something — anything — that will work?
Cutting off contact and walking away isn’t an option for you, but things are getting worse and worse. Here’s what you’re experiencing:
These are the most commonly offered solutions for parents in your situation. Does this list look familiar? Have you tried these options?
Method 1: Al-Anon or Nar-Anon
Method 2: Family support meetings
Method 3: Therapy
Method 4: Your own in depth reading and research
Method 5: Prayer
Think beyond the list. Here’s another approach that I recommend — one that helped me and my family.
As I tried to navigate through parenting Eric through his addiction, I tried all of these things also. And I found that each of them had something to offer, and none of them had everything I needed.
I needed an approach that allowed me to make the endless number of decisions in a systematic way. I needed more than heart-felt sharing of what was going on in my life. I needed a way to anchor everything I did in response to the chaos that addiction had brought to my world.
What emerged for me is that there is really a 4-step process. Each step builds on the other steps and guides us to making decisions that may feel counterintuitive. I’m listing the 4 steps below - and I cannot teach the details of all 4 steps in a blog post. So for now, just know that these are the steps I recommend.
- 1Step back and evaluate your own personal priorities (hard, I know). Come to remember that you matter too and are a separate person.
- 2Reflect back in a thoughtful way on each decision you’ve made so far parenting your adult addict. We need to know what has worked as we wanted and what hasn’t.
- 3Each time you need to make a decision, consider all the variables, including your personal priorities, your family situation, your past experience, etc.
- 4Practice, practice, practice step 3.
And communicate each decision to your addicted child calmly and with love and support.
Here’s why I recommend this approach.
1 - Until you know your own priorities, you can’t set boundaries that you can stick to.
2 - Trying to fix your child will never fix your child.
3 - Until your child chooses… no recovery method will work.
4 - You play a vital role in whether your child chooses recovery or not.
Start with trying something new. Start with this guide that helps you establish those priorities.
Now I know this seems unimaginably complicated. It’s not. You just need to know where to start.
When you’re putting everything you have into helping your child — time, money, energy — you lose sight of yourself, and it feels like your family is getting deeper and deeper into a cycle of addiction. Try something else that gets you off the rollercoaster.
When you learn about an approach that works, you’ll get a clearer picture of the priorities you need to re-set for yourself as you go. Choose another way to encourage your child to choose recovery and find more peace of mind.
Get Your Self-Priority Worksheet
Need more help finding a new approach that helps you re-set priorities and encourages your child to choose recovery?
I know that the 4 steps I outlined seem complicated. Please take a listen to my workshop, where I give concrete examples of each of these steps as I applied them in my own life.
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