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The Key to Dealing with My Son’s Drug Addiction? Setting Boundaries for Myself
Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I am a hard-headed stubborn guy with the propensity to be a control freak. (I hope there are no other fathers out there like me who are dealing with an addicted child.) It took me a long time to learn that my anger was a result of me not being able to control my son’s addiction. Eventually I learned that, at most, I have a small measure of influence with him. And the only real control I have is over my own self.

When Mom and I first began this nightmare of addiction we heard about boundaries. In my mind that was an easy one. Rules are rules; follow the rules and there would be no trouble. But I learned the hard way — addicts have no concept of rules and how they provide structure to society. If parents of an addict rely upon a set of rules to manage  their addict’s behavior, they will live in an angry and frustrating world.

My famous directive to my son — and it was usually delivered at the top of my lungs — was: “No Lying, No Stealing and No Drugs. JUST WHAT THE HELL IS SO HARD ABOUT THAT?!!”

I am finally beginning to understand, “just what the hell was so hard about that.” This has caused me more anger and frustration than just about anything else I’ve dealt with about his addiction. With me, anger and frustration nearly always dissolved into me hollering at him and anyone in the vicinity, resulting in more anger and hurt for all. In a hurting family, that is the last thing you need –  hurt compounded upon hurt.

I have learned that there is a big difference between rules and boundaries. Rules are easy. Rules are set and everyone follows. Boundaries are not rules. Boundaries help direct  your universe when the rules do not apply or are not relevant. My lack of clear boundaries for myself gave me permission and allowed me to justify enabling my son’s drug use. This has probably prolonged his addiction. This is a regret I live with every day.

Boundaries are healthy for you and those surrounding you. I cannot change my addict’s behavior by setting rules. Any success for me in dealing with my son’s addiction is a result of setting good boundaries for myself.

I choose where I want to go –  I no longer allow my addict to take me where he wishes to go. In a simplistic form, I can make a rule directed at my son that he cannot use drugs in my home. The reality is that he is an active addict; he will use drugs in my home. I will become angry because he violated my rule. I have a right to be angry, right? Did it make anything better or change anything? No, we are still at square one. I am angry that he is using drugs in my home, and I feel out of control and helpless. He is feeding his addiction.  All of this happens because I am trying to control something over which I have no control.

But I can establish a boundary – like this: I do not wish to live in a home were drugs are being used illegally. This actually puts everything on me; there is really no reason to become angry. I now have complete control of the situation and I have several options. I am not trying to control him. I get to decide on the actions in my life.

Boundaries must be set after much calm and reasoned thought. Setting boundaries with my addict in the heat of battle resulted in failure every time. Especially because those “boundaries” (really rules) I thought I was setting were being hollered at him and not being set for me. If you are setting boundaries for yourself and using a calm deliberate approach, success can be more easily achieved and you can control your own actions. That works well with the control freak in me. I set my boundaries to match my values.

To be clear, I do not see boundaries as a solid impenetrable barrier like the Berlin Wall, with heavy life-or-death consequences. I see the boundaries that we set for ourselves more like a rope line. There is a clear demarcation of where we decided we should not go and there is self-imposed security to make sure we know there are consequences for crossing the line. But there may be circumstances that necessitate crossing the line and there may be consequences that you or your loved one has to pay for that crossing.

For example, Mom and I have set a boundary about not visiting in jail because jail is punishment. But, our son is in jail and we went to visit him. Why would we go visit and violate our own boundary? Actually, we went for Mom. Mom had been having bad dreams about Alex and in all of her bad dreams Alex was with all of her dead friends and relatives. She was troubled by this. I’m not sure if she puts much stock in that sort of thing as a premonition or something but she was worried. I just look at it as a dream, but it troubled mom so that troubled me. We visited Alex in jail and the visit calmed her worries and she could once again sleep peacefully. If there are consequences to stepping over our boundary we shall deal with them when and if they arise.

Setting good boundaries for yourself allows you, the loved one of an addict, to bring a measure of control and sanity into a truly insane situation.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Taking Care of Yourself, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more

Getting Your Child to Accept Treatment for an Alcohol or Drug Addiction
Monday, January 25th, 2010

The headlights of the SUV swept  across the face of the gray contemporary home just before dawn. Ever so quietly, the doors of the SUV opened as two beefy men emerged and glided like practiced dancers across the walkway to the back of the house where Diane was waiting.  Heart pounding, Diane* slid the doors open, greeted them with a curt nod, and escorted them down the dark hallway to Jake’s room.

Vaguely sensing someone’s presence, Jake awoke shielding his eyes from the harsh overhead light his mother had just switched on.  As his eyes focused, he took in the sight of the men standing behind Diane, and knew in an instant that they were here for him.  Although unsure of whether the nightmare of his drug life was over or just beginning, Jake knew with certainty that there was no escaping these men, handcuffs and leash in hand.   Ready or not, the escorts would ensure his safe, if not reticent, delivery to a treatment program in Utah.

While this probably sounds like a scene from a made-for-TV melodrama, it actually played out at our neighbor’s house several years ago as they desperately struggled to get their son, Jake, into treatment.  He had adamantly refused

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Posted by Pat Aussem  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, Treatment  /  Comments: more

Recovery: Letting Go and Giving Back
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

The word recovery – synonymous with mending, healing and improvement – is not only a possibility for all of us, but a reality.  Recovery for my stepdaughter Katherine will always be a work in progress, ever changing and full of possibilities.  Our family works everyday to continue the healing and mending process.  Letting go and allowing your loved one to take responsibility for themselves and to move onward with a sense of self-worth is one of the greatest gifts you can give or receive.

We now, with some trepidation, try not to watch Katherine too closely, overreact or analyze her every move.  We are constantly aware of how easy it is to fall back into our old habits of trying to be the “fixers” when it’s Katherine who should be held accountable.  Now, we work on letting her take control of her own life and

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Posted by Linda Quirk  /  Filed under Recovery, Treatment  /  Comments: more

Help Your Child by Overcoming Your Shame
Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

When you first discover that your child is addicted to drugs your heart breaks and your stomach churns. What is happening, what did we do wrong?

Our reaction is very personal. As parents we take immediate ownership of this situation. We refuse to see this problem as it is, an addiction. We make excuses, we develop stories and, of course, we make plans to immediately correct this problem; all in an effort to control the situation. We look for someone to blame. Little do we know that this is an issue unlike anything we have ever experienced.

Addiction is not an accepted illness for many in our society uneducated about this disease. For too many people addiction continues to carry the stigma of a weakness of character. As parents of an addict not exposed to addiction we carried that stigma along with the guilt of our own questionable parenting skills. We cling to the belief that if our child would only make a choice not to use again; then this nightmare would be over and everything could go back to normal.

Parenting an addict is not something that is to be done alone. It is not something that should be done alone. This is a disease that touches all of those that love an addict or even casually come in contact with an addict.

As parents we hid what was going on with our son. We wallowed in self pity. We searched the internet for solutions, we read books and articles, no matter how much we searched and tried nothing seemed to work. Our son continued to use and we experienced more stress and more shame.

Finally in desperation it is off to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. It’s nearly impossible to say the word. As parents, we stumble, we hedge, we mutter, my son uses drugs. ADDICT: what makes it so hard to say, what makes it so hard to admit? As long as addiction carries a stigma of shame the healing for this disease will not begin for either the addict or the loved one of the addict.

My son is an addict. This statement is freedom but it is not free. To make this statement there is tears, there is heartache and there is a realization that my son is afflicted with a disease in which to date there is no cure.

By opening your life and admission to others you allow others to help you and your child. Something I have found to be absolutely true; those people that love you before your admission will continue to love you when you are able to open yourself up for help. In fact, by opening up I have found wonderful friends struggling with the same issue. Without their support and the support of our family I know we would not be in the position we are in today with our son.

The fact is, if we as individuals and even as a nation continue to treat addiction as our “dirty little secret” and not recognizie it as what it truly is, then we will forever struggle to provide the treatment an addict needs for his or her disease.

My name is Ron and my son is an addict.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Recovery, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more


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