by Nicole Arzt
All relationships have different degrees of agreed-upon behaviors and dynamics. In healthy relationships, both parties demonstrate mutual respect and compassion for each other’s needs. In these dynamics, communication is clear, it feels safe to express concerns, and there is a sense of support and safety even if disagreement or conflict arises.
If your child is struggling with addiction, your relationship with him or her may feel tense, inconsistent, and even volatile. You may feel a variety of conflicting experiences: like you are walking on eggshells, the feeling of disconnection or blatant disrespect, and even the belief that nothing you say or do actually matters.
Boundaries- which are the limits we set for ourselves and with our loved ones- are critical components in our relationships with addicts.
Do Support Treatment and Recovery
Addiction straps the sufferer financially, and many addicts who want help are unable to fund their own treatments. One of the greatest acts of love a parent can provide for his or her struggling child is the welcoming initiative towards treatment and recovery. This can be through locating residential programs, support group meetings, psychiatrists or therapists, or alternative medications. It can also mean providing financial assistance and support in funding these efforts.
Do decide what is non-negotiable, outline the consequences, and STICK TO IT.
As a parent, it is critical to know your own limitations and needs, and it is critical to establish exactly what will happen if those limitations are crossed. Clear communication cannot be emphasized enough. Addiction is built on a foundation of deceit and manipulation, and the front lines of these behaviors often occur within the family itself.
Some examples of recommended non-negotiable boundaries when a loved one is in active addiction
- I will not tolerate any drug use of any kind.
- I will not cover up, lie, or defend your drug use any circumstances.
- I will not bail you out of jail.
- I will not let you live in my home.
- I will not pay for your rent or groceries.
- I will not tolerate being cursed/yelled at.
- I will not provide any forms of transportation.
Setting these boundaries is often difficult- and it may result in backlash or anger from your loved one- but it is essential to demonstrate this consistency.
Do Find Your Own Support
Just as addicts are encouraged to find and cherish support, the same applies to loved ones. Al-Anon, personal therapy, support groups, online forums, or religious services each offer a sense of grounding and camaraderie. This allows for your expression, in a nonjudgmental space, and the ability to receive feedback, empathy, and even advice for your current situation.
Don’t Blame Yourself/Allow Yourself to be Blamed
Parents often fall into a defeating trap of self-blame and self-loathing for their child’s addiction. In turn, when they receive blame from their children directly (you’re the reason I’m this way) or (if you and dad hadn’t gotten divorced, I wouldn’t have ended up like this), it can only reinforce guilt.
Regardless of any of your own wrongdoings or shortcoming, your child is responsible for his or her addiction and the subsequent recovery.
children may blame the parent, which only reinforces
DON’T take on the job of getting or keeping your child sober
It is not your responsibility to “detox” your child or eliminate your home from all potential triggers or stressors. It is not your responsibility to be your child’s therapist, sponsor, or medical doctor. It is not your responsibility to keep track of any risk factors or potential relapse potential. Most of all, it is not your responsibility to keep your child sober.
DON’T neglect your own happiness or health
Many parents overlook their own sanity and individual priorities in the name of rescuing or protecting their addict child. This can be a faulty mistake. Part of your child’s recovery journey will entail personal responsibility for his or her life and actions. You only enhance yourself and the relationship you can have with your loved one by modeling healthy living, relationships, and well-being.
Taking care of your happiness and health means:
- Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Getting adequate sleep
- Attending necessary appointments
- Engaging in meaningful relationships
- Engaging in pleasant activities
- Practicing stress reduction
- Valuing your own goals and desires
Final thoughts: Even if they feel difficult or unfair, boundaries are meant to protect both you and your child’s integrity. Without them, you risk deeply enabling your loved one’s addiction, losing your own sense of self, and experiencing an even a greater sense of discord and disharmony within the home.