A Message from the Parent of an Addict

You may have heard that a parent can only be as happy as his or her unhappiest child.  If you have an adult son or daughter who is recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, and you apply that saying to your life, then you are most likely going to be an unhappy parent for a long, long time. However, there is hope for parents like us who have children in recovery.

My wife and I have an adult son in recovery.  He has been in and out of recovery over the last eight or nine years. When we started this journey, we were shell-shocked, paralyzed, easily manipulated and full of enabling measures that made us temporarily feel better but probably made things worse for our son in the long-run. Before long, we had asked our son to leave our house and eventually, he was living in a park. My wife occasionally delivered food to him in the park, which only prolonged everyone’s misery.  Mothers with sons in drug recovery often have a harder time setting boundaries with their child in addiction, especially because a mother’s mindset is to ensure their child is living a happy and healthy life.

Over time, both of us learned that we can’t base our happiness upon the actions of another person that we shouldn’t try to control.  We have learned to slow down, smell the roses and find small things to help us feel more fulfilled. Once you realize that your child’s happiness is not your own, you begin to appreciate the small things in life: a beautiful sunrise, a long walk on the beach in the fresh salt air, a round of golf with your friends, the smell of fresh baked cookies. You will begin to understand that life is much sweeter when you are not relying on an often unreliable, sometimes manipulative, loved one for validation.

As obvious as it seems now, we certainly did not come to this conclusion easily.  Years of helicopter parenting, enabling, and falling prey to manipulation left us feeling bad about ourselves and with an uncomfortable relationship with our son.  We were repeatedly told by recovery experts that our son would only recover if we stopped enabling him and separated our well-being from his. Over time, we slowly learned and continue to learn daily, how to let go and allow him to experience the ups and downs of life without constant coaching and without the provision of a safety net. It goes without mention that as we got better and began healing, our son got better and enjoyed longer and longer periods of sobriety. Although there have been relapses, we feel that we are on the right path to true happiness.  As cold as it may sound, my wife and I are now able to be at peace and feel fulfilled even when our son is not doing well. So with a bit of work and thought, maybe you can actually be happier than your unhappiest child! Good luck!