6 Tips for the Adult Addict’s Mom
Do NOT take responsibility for their addiction
One part of being a parent that can be extremely difficult for the adult addict’s mom is to remember that their addiction is not your fault! While it is true that outside circumstances can sometimes contribute to the lack of healthy coping skills or the desire to escape for the addict, these factors alone are not what causes addiction.
Addiction typically happens when an individual’s specific genetic predisposition meets with a combination of external stressors, ineffective coping mechanisms and repeated and consistent drug or alcohol use.
In short, troubles at home may be a part of the formula, but addiction stems from how the individual deals with those troubles. The addict must take some accountability for turning to drugs or alcohol to solve their problems or ease their discomfort. Beyond that, addiction is a physical and mental condition. It is a disorder, or what some may call a ‘lifestyle disease’. It is not your fault that your child is sick. The destructive patterns they run while in active addiction are not your fault either. You can only take responsibility for your reactions to these adversities.
Support but do NOT enable
This is probably the most common conversation point when discussing how families should deal with having an addicted loved one. A lot of times the adult addict’s mom does not know how to differentiate between helping their loved one and enabling them. So often parents, especially mothers, are nurturers and healers. Mothers typically want to do all they can to help their children be healthy and happy.
But sometimes when the adult addict’s mom is trying to make things easier for their child they end up making things worse.
Enabling is when we do things that allow others to continue their destructive and harmful behaviors. Whether it is through financial means, or just providing justifications or excuses for the individual. Moms can find themselves in denial of what their addicted child is doing in order to help cover up the damage it causes. They might call their job or school and say the individual is sick, helping them escape their responsibilities. They might even help hide their drug use or drinking from other family members.
While we may be able to somehow rationalize these things in our minds, i.e. ‘how will they get their life together without their job/education?’
Or ‘how can they get better if everyone is bothering them?’
Or even ‘they can handle the drinking/drugs but they just get sick a lot.’
It might feel like you are protecting or supporting them, but really you are just trying to minimize the damage. Meanwhile, they continue to get sick. If you truly want to support them, then you can find much more constructive ways to do so.
For more details on how to understand the difference between healing and enabling, download our FREE E-book
Do NOT try to rescue them
For many of us, our mother is one of our first heroes. We look up to them with such hope and trust. And when things get bad many of us are lucky enough to know we can always count on mom. But just because you are our hero does not mean you should rescue us from everything, especially ourselves.
For the adult addict’s mom, the instinct may very well be to try and swoop in and save the child from their downward spiral. In the world today more people are aware of the risks of substance use disorder. The opioid crisis and the prevalence of drug addiction have brought the conversation to the forefront. Therefore, more mothers than ever are now facing the heartbreaking reality of having a child suffering from an addiction.
It is not your responsibility to rescue them. Not because you lack the compassion or dedication, but because you lack the training and experience.
If you are not a medical professional with experience in substance use disorder, it is dangerous for you to try and detox them yourself at home. If you are not a licensed therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist with experience in addiction, mental health and trauma, it is not a great idea to try and diagnose and treat your addicted child on your own.
The only kind of ‘rescue’ you should really attempt is supporting them in getting treatment.
Offer support for getting help
An adult addict’s mom can definitely offer help by supporting the child’s attempts at getting treatment. While it typically does not work to force your addicted loved one to get help, you can encourage them or even set up an intervention to bring other family members and friends together to offer support.
Always remember, if they refuse help or treatment then it is not your fault. The individual has to participate in the process. If they reject your support, it is not up to you to force them into it.
If your addicted child asks for help, be willing to do what you can within reason to assist them. You can help them look up available treatment services, or help them come up with a way to manage the process of detox or inpatient treatment. There are many ways, depending on the circumstances, in which you can help your child get the best care possible, or at least give them emotional support while they are working through the issues.
When an adult addict asks for help, take that opportunity to assist them. Even if they decide not to get the help later, at least they will know you support the decision to try.
Set boundaries for your family
This goes right along with not enabling.
As a mother, you are probably a protector. Setting boundaries for yourself and your loved ones is a huge piece of protecting one another. Making healthier choices for yourself and your family can not only keep you from enabling the addict, but it keeps your family from getting too entrenched in the fight with drugs or alcohol. Your parents, your spouse or even your other children deserve to be in a safe environment. Do not put them or your relationship with them at risk for the sake of enabling the addicted loved one.
Set boundaries with financial support, with your home and your family and what expectations you have. Do not sacrifice your safety or your values to appease the addict’s destructive behaviors.
Just because some people believe that the addict has to reach a state of desperation in order to be willing to get better does not mean that your family should find themselves in a state of desperation. You don’t have to wait until everything is broken before you decide to not let someone keep hurting you, even if it is your child.
Set boundaries and stick to them.
Love as much as you can
Love is the most influential thing in the world. Some might say love is a mother’s strongest superpower. The ability to express and share love is a gift, and an adult addict’s mom can truly put that gift to some good use.
Firstly, do not forget to love yourself. It may not be as easy as it sounds, but it is important. This means accepting your limits, standing by your boundaries and not blaming yourself for every problem your addicted adult child faces. Remember to give yourself credit; you are doing the best that you can and in taking care of yourself, you create space to take care of those closest to you.
Of course, love your child. That goes without saying. But remember that loving them means holding them accountable. Loving your addicted adult child means having compassion for their pain, but not endorsing their habits or enabling their damaging patterns. Loving your child can help you believe in them and their ability to get better, without co-signing their bad choices.
Through self-love, combined with a willingness to set boundaries and learn more about addiction, you can provide healthy and loving support to your child. An adult addict’s mom is probably the best support system they can, so arm yourself with understanding and compassion so you can be the best at what you do best; love.