Why even the most dedicated moms need help when their child is addicted

Mothers are the superheroes without capes, the fixers, the glue that holds the whole family together. We’re supposed to do it all and know it all, without much (or any!) help from anyone else. We’re told this is intuitive and natural, and most of the time that’s all true -- but sometimes we DO need some extra help. I don’t need to tell you that it’s not easy to know when to ask for support. It’s even harder to accept we need it, and close to impossible to find peace of mind in the fact that sometimes we simply can’t do it all on our own.

One of these examples -- the reason why you’re reading this -- is when your adult child is struggling with addiction. Your knee-jerk reaction is to take away the pain of this struggle by doing anything you can as a mom: You’ve always been there to give them money, shelter, a shoulder to cry on, a soft place to land. Of course, this is especially true when they’re an addict, but instead of them choosing recovery, they get deeper into their addiction and you get more desperate to find a way to help them.

You need to know when it’s time to ignore the MOM CODE

There’s a certain Mom Code -- that unspoken set of rules that dictates you’ll do anything for your child, and could stand in the way of truly knowing what to do when your child is addicted. Read on; if any of this resonates for you it’s time to try something different.

  • Your child is using drugs and/or alcohol and shows the signs of addiction. This includes (but certainly isn’t limited to) excessive consumption or use, personality changes, legal and financial issues, and denial that there’s even a problem when confronted. Ultimately, they become someone completely different from the child you raised. You feel responsible for their problems and you’re hiding them from your family and close friends.
  • You are exhausted because you constantly deal with and put up with very bad behavior from your child. They lie to you, manipulate situations and feelings, blame you or anyone else for what’s happening, isolate themselves from those who are closest to them, and use verbal abuse, physical threats, and passive-aggressive behavior to get money from you.
  • While all your friends and family members seem to have children who are thriving, you feel disconnected because you’re too embarrassed to talk about what’s happening in your own life. If you’re honest you’ll look like a failure, even though you have put every ounce of yourself into raising children. You may even ask yourself: How could it be that your child “turned out” like this?
  • It’s impossible for you to “figure” out your child’s addiction. You’re stumped; usually you’re the one in the family that everyone turns to for solutions and you almost always have the answer. Now, though, you’re confused because no matter how much you try or how hard you work, you can’t change the fact that your child remains addicted. But you can’t just give up on them or sit around waiting for them to make a change on their own.
  • You’ve never had trouble doing amazing things in the past. You’ve overcome countless other challenges, other areas of your life display your outstanding abilities -- why can’t you seem to climb over the mountain that is your child’s addiction? You figure that if you’re not being hands-on with this problem, like you always have been, then you can’t make a difference.

Stop doing what DOESN’T work

Do any of these points seem to reflect where you are in life? If so, you’ve likely tried a long list of approaches to help your child choose recovery. And you may have found that most of them don’t work for you.

  1. Spending hours researching and reading on the countless number of techniques suggested to help your addicted child. How much of your Google search history is devoted to this?
  2. Sacrificing your time and energy to support your child through their challenges while feeling that it’s not the right way to move forward.
  3. Agreeing to help them financially for things like rent, car payments or maintenance, or even daily expenses like groceries.
  4. Opening your home to your child and doing everything you can for him/her while they are  there, so he/she knows he is loved.
  5. Trying to convince them to make better choices when they ask for your financial or emotional support, only to give in.
  6. Working with one (or many) therapists to help you and/or them.
  7. Going to group meetings with other parents in similar situations.

Start Doing What Does Work

I have been where you are right now. I have felt exhausted and stumped. I tried researching and giving in and giving up my time and money to try and “fix” my adult child struggling with addiction. After spending years in frustration and sadness, I figured out why. 

And I discovered that what does work is to make sure that all the boundaries you set actually do support your priorities.  This is very important because:

  • You are actually interacting with the disease and not your child, so you must get clear on what you are willing to do and not do.
  • The addiction wants what it wants and does not care at all about you. You have to know your own priorities and care about them.
  • The addict will take everything you give and never be satisfied, you have to anchor every choice you make in your own priorities.

Experiment With This RIGHT NOW

You can’t set boundaries without first knowing your goals. 

And it’s never easy as a mom to bring that focus back to our own lives. So let’s experiment with what is possible. 

In this experiment, you will either W:Win (make forward progress) or L:Learn (learn something new). There is no such thing as failure in any of my experiments. Learning is the most important outcome of any experiment I ask you to try. 

Try something else, something that could help you move forward from being stuck in the cycle of addiction that your family is trapped in.

Click below to get your own Self-Priority Guide NOW. It takes you step-by-step through this experiment.

Get your Self-Priority Guide NOW. 

Did you learn that you need more help putting the pieces together?

I found it to be a real challenge to set priorities for myself when my son Eric was in active addiction, and doing so took an extreme pivot in my way of thinking. I go into more detail about this shift in my free, confidential workshop -- click below to find a time that works for you.

Click here to watch my workshop.

Leave a Comment:

43 comments
Joyce Wasko says October 18, 2020

My son, Michael went into rehab 2 weeks ago. He has lived with me for the last 19 years because of a brain injury and now is addicted to heroine. I need help dealing with this for myself and for my family because they are telling me they do not want him coming back to live with me. This is weighing on my heart and soul and I need someone to talk to.

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    Barbara Decker says October 18, 2020

    I’m so sorry, Joyce, for the chain of events that brought your family to this situation. Please please watch my workshop. The registration link is at the bottom of the post. I put a program together JUST for mom in situations like this – whose hearts are heavy and find it so difficult. It comes complete with a group of solution-oriented moms in similar situations to talk with. Perhaps my style will resonate with you.

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Tammy says October 17, 2020

I have been dealing with addiction for so long!! My husband. Was an alcoholic and committed suicide 2004,, while I was present,,,,, my Son is now in the addiction battle with Meth! For the last three years,,,, I have enabled him and didn’t know it for the longest time,,, but now I know I’m doing it by providing him to live at home with me,,, it’s constant trouble in stress everyday! He recently lost his children to social services!! How do I stop? I’m so depressed and feel so lost!!! How do I kick him out? He had no where to go? Please help me?

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    Barbara Decker says October 18, 2020

    Tammmy – I’m sorry for what you are dealing with. I can help you with this. Please take a listen to my workshop (the link is above on this post) or email me Barbara@LiveWellandFully.com. It is impossible to go through this alone. Barbara

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Retha Hattenhauer says October 16, 2020

My oldest son lost his life in April, 2 mos. Before his 40th birthday . He had numerous drugs in his system but it all started with high school football injuries and pain pills. I was a single mother of 2 sons since they were 1 and 4 yrs old. Greg turned 21 in prison for dealing drugs…there 3 yrs and in and out of rehab ever since. He was such a good man in every other aspect. He had moved out of my house just 6 mos before he died. Had his 1st real job, had finished a yr long rehab, and was doing great….until corona test had him in quarantine waiting on results. He didnt make it back to work. And after his funeral i found out he left his life ins. to his son and now i hv to figure out where to get 9000 dollars to pay for his funeral….so… my house is for sale and i miss my son. I failed him right til the end. May God forgive me. I need to hear how all of you parents who are here rt now, beat the odds and saved your children. I will pray for you all

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    Barbara Decker says October 17, 2020

    Retha – I am so very sorry for your loss and YOU did not fail your son. This disease is random as far as I can see. And it is impossible to find any real pattern to which of our children make it through and which don’t. I can tell from what you wrote that you did everything you could for him, and this outcome is not your fault. I hope you can find a grief support group or someone who can help you navigate this in the weeks, months and years ahead. Again, I am so very sorry.

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Swat Pan Gouwe says October 15, 2020

I am so tired

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    Barbara Decker says October 15, 2020

    Thanks for your note. It is just plain exhausting trying to respond to the chaos this disease creates and figure out what to do. I encourage you to watch my workshop and then reach out if you’d like my support in changing things for yourself so that you are not always so tired. 🙂 Barbara

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cynthia jordan says October 14, 2020

I need help

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    Barbara Decker says October 14, 2020

    Hi Cynthia – I provide help to moms in this situation. Please click on the big colored workshop box at the bottom of this blog page and watch my workshop (free, confidential) and see if my style matches your need. I’d love to support you through this. -Barbara

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Nancy says October 10, 2020

Makes me so sad because it sounds like you have lived the life I’m in but hopeful at the same time that things could change! So thankful for this feeling!

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    Barbara Decker says October 10, 2020

    Hi Nancy – Yes, things can change! For sure. And I have lived this life, While I would never wish addiction into anyone’s family, I must say that being forced onto this journey has led me to incredible personal growth. It has changed my life for the better in so many ways. And so I am grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to discover new ways to live my best life, even in my 60’s. I hope you find that also.

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Cathy pearce says October 9, 2020

I have a daughter addicted and I am in state of depression. I tried talking to her an she has not been in her daughter’s life or grandkids life over a year now its tearing me apart literally. I don’t no how to fix it lord knows I have tried. But now I’m not talking to her an tht is killing me. All I do is cry.

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    Barbara Decker says October 10, 2020

    Hi Cathy,
    I’m so sorry for your pain. This is a painful process for sure. And we need to grieve the loss of the child we expected to have. I do run a program for women struggling in this way and would be honored to be part of your journey of getting to a better place. Please take a listen to the workshop (last big colored box on this blog – click there to register) or email me barbara@livewellandfully.com. You don’t have to walk this path alone.

    Reply
Gaylene Juneau says October 9, 2020

My oldest daughter is struggling with drugs n alcohol
She says I am the reason
We haven’t spoken in about 4 years
My step son died of a drug related death at the age of 28

I continue to learn how to live with this
Waves of guilt come over me and almost paralyze me at times

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    Barbara Decker says October 9, 2020

    Gaylene – I’m sorry for your loss of your son, and for the loss of the daughter you would like to have. She is incorrect – you are not the reason. The disease is saying that. Your real daughter knows the truth. It’s tough to be so paralyzed with guilt. I hope you’ll consider taking a listen to my workshop (the bottom link on the page takes you there). If you like my style, my program helps moms in situations like yours. You are worth more.

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Esther Green says October 9, 2020

I have been dealing with this for more than 15 years. My oldest son lost his struggle in January 2014 at the age of 28. My youngest has 4 years of recovery in September, however I have reason to believe he is struggling or has already relapsed. Over the years, I have finally learned to set boundaries and love from a distance. It is a roller coaster from hell, BUT I have learned to take care of me. Two books that were extremely helpful: “Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You”by Charles Rubin and “Still Standing After All the Tears” by Valerie Silveira. It’s definitely not an easy journey, however learning to set boundaries and giving ourselves permission for our OWN lives does give peace.

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    Barbara Decker says October 9, 2020

    Esther – Thanks so much for your note. I am so sorry for the loss of your oldest, and also that your youngest may be struggling now. I am currently in another class learning more about addiction from the viewpoint of those in recovery. One of the things I’ve learned is that when our children relapse and then start the recovery process again, they have the foundation of the things they learned while in recovery and the climb back up is not quite as steep. Hope this is also the case for your son.

    And I agree that learning to set what are real boundaries (instead of what I often did which were more like wishes or fantasies) is key. When we do that, when we create boundaries focused on what we need, then we can live our OWN lives in peace (at least most of the time).

    You sound like a brave solution-oriented mom, my kind of warrior-mom:)

    Reply
Terry says September 20, 2020

I been dealing with addiction in my home for many years 20 yrs or more I get so depressed I just want to kill myself to get out suffering and pain I have 3 addiction adult children. Turned every rock and still no answers

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    Barbara Decker says September 21, 2020

    Terry – I’m so sorry for how you are feeling and want to first ask you to please call the Suicide hotline: 800-273-8255.

    And then I’d like to say that I can help you get back to you if you are a person with an open mind and willing to invest 2 1/2 hours a week for 8 weeks and use an approach I’ve built exactly for this purpose. Because I couldn’t find what I needed when I needed it either. There is a button in this blog post with a link to my workshop. So scroll up and click the big green button. The workshop itself is free and you can watch 5 min after you click the link:

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Anonymous says September 20, 2020

I been stuck in the addiction cycle with 3 of my grown children I get so sad and at times want to end my life to get rid of the pain

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    Barbara Decker says September 21, 2020

    I am so sorry for what you are going through AND I want to say that I know many fine families who have multiple children in this disease. And it becomes harder sometimes for them to believe that it is not their fault. And still it is NOT the parents fault.

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Bernadette says September 13, 2020

This is so great and says it like I wish I could have. Thank you.

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    Barbara Decker says September 15, 2020

    Thanks so much for your note, Bernadette. You are welcome.

    Reply
eleanor harnevious says September 12, 2020

mental illness and addiction

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    Barbara Decker says September 15, 2020

    Hi Eleanor – The two often go together, for sure. And in a lot of cases, once the addiction sorts out, the mental illnesses fall away. Thanks for your note.

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Jennifer Ponce says September 8, 2020

The hard part for me is deciphering what is enabling a child?

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    Barbara Decker says September 8, 2020

    Hi Jennifer, Yes, enabling is anything that helps the disease exist; helps it grow. And that was hard for me also. I finally find a way to get to those decisions, based on my own priorities and considering that I matter to in the equation, without creating a situation in which my son was encouraged to remain in his disease because of my actions. I call this Love Another Way. Hop on my workshop for more about how that looks, for me:)

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Judy says August 27, 2020

Since I have started this program I feel less isolated and I feel supported. I am in the middle of this program and already I feel more at peace. I am not judged and there is always someone to help me with issues that arise.

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    Barbara Decker says August 27, 2020

    Thank you Judy – so great to hear that you are feeling more at peace:) You are doing a great job.

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Stacy Davis says August 27, 2020

This is so well written and truthful. The road is long and complicated however you can learn how to love differently. You’ll learn to recognize and understand there is a different way to love the addict while taking care and loving yourself- thank you for the support and understanding.

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    Barbara Decker says August 27, 2020

    Thank you Stacy. You are a solution-oriented warrior working and I’m so delighted to know you.

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Pat N. says August 26, 2020

I am finally able to let my daughter be responsible for her own actions without my jumping in to save her. It has been a long struggle but this program came at just the right time. I am more confident in my boundaries. She sees the change in me and as a result she knows I will support her recovery not her addiction. She feels my confidence in her ability to make a better life, one step at a time.

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    Barbara Decker says August 27, 2020

    Thank you Pat. I’m so impressed by how quickly you have changed the impacts this disease is having on you and your relationship with your daughter.,

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Karen Anthony says August 25, 2020

This says it all! The heartache of having an addicted child cannot be easily explained, it has to be felt. This program has helped me realize that I am important too!

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    Barbara Decker says August 25, 2020

    Thank you, Karen – and yes you most certainly are important too! We all tend to forget that. And I’ve often said if I could have “saved” my son by losing myself entirely, I would have made that trade. The universe does not allow that type of barter though, in my experience:)

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Evelyn Jones says August 24, 2020

For the first time in 20 years, since completing the Transformational Boundaries program, I know that I’m doing the right thing by NOT providing financial support for my alcoholic son. He knows that if he chooses recovery I’ll help him get back on his feet, but enabling his addict is not the same thing as helping him.

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    Barbara Decker says August 24, 2020

    Thanks, Evelyn. That last sentence segment is powerful: “Enabling the addict is not the same thing as helping him.”

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Anonymous says August 24, 2020

This article is so true and finding this program has helped me navigate through and develop skills to deal with the reality of having an adult addict child .

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    Barbara Decker says August 24, 2020

    Thank you.

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JoAnn Goostree says August 24, 2020

This is a well written piece. I have experienced everything this article states. Fortunately, I found Transformational Boundaries and it changed my life. I am not doing everything perfectly and I am learning and doing things differently and setting boundaries and starting to say no and take better care of myself.

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    Barbara Decker says August 24, 2020

    Thank you so much, JoAnn, and it is true that none of us can do any of this perfectly. You are working really hard at navigating some deep heartbreak.

    Reply
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