Note: This is the second post in contributing writer B.H.’s own story about her son and his struggle with addiction. Her first post detailing her story and journey is here.
You may have heard that addiction is a family disease. This is because this chronic and continuous disease impacts every person that loves and cares for the addict. The impact is much stronger on immediate family, and can take a great emotional toll on the parents.
This is why parents are often so emotionally attached to their addicted child. What parent wants to see their child suffer? What parent wants to see their child completely lose control of their life due to drugs?
What is Codependency?
This is where codependency comes into play, and I was extremely codependent on my son. Little did I know at the time that codependency is a killer in terms of emotional health. This condition is when a parent or other loved one has extreme emotional or mental reliance on a person when this person is going through addiction.
Codependency of a parent towards their addict can immensely affect their everyday life, such as a job, relationships with other loved ones (especially spouses or partners), the ability to focus on the simplest of tasks, and overall health and well-being.
With my codependency, I was constantly worried, depressed, and anxious. I was unable to focus on my day-to-day tasks. I was constantly thinking about my son and what he was doing. I would break down and cry in a heartbeat. I would think about all the bills he had, his attitude toward his recovery, his decisions, his relationships with family, and his future.
I had a problem, and it was big. I was consumed with worry and stress over my young-adult son that it was taking me down right with him. I was failing at life.
I didn’t even realize what codependency was until my husband and I met with his counselor the day he was getting out of drug rehab. She explained it very clearly, but I still was in denial and completely dismissed it. I was so happy that my son had done so well in rehab and was moving into an Oxford House that I didn’t even think that I was, deep down, suffering inside over my son’s decisions. I took him food. I talked to him each night on the phone. I cheered him on as he applied for jobs. I paid some of his bills. But guess what? He still relapsed and ended up in rehab again. Let that sink in. I bent over backwards, suffered through worry and emotional turmoil over him, and he still relapsed.
Getting the Help I Needed
It was with counseling and a drug addiction support group that I realized I needed to stop the nonsense and be there for me. My son was getting ready to turn 20 and needed to live his own life. Of course, I knew I would always help out in some ways, but in other ways I knew he needed to pick up the pieces and deal with his mistakes. This took time to release the pressure of me always needing to pick up these pieces; to stop paying the bills for him, to stop constantly questioning him, and to stop the worry about what his next move would be. These were his responsibilities, not mine.
Once I let go of some emotional attachment, I physically felt free. I had so much time for myself, my husband, my other son, and my friends! It was exhilarating to know that I didn’t need to constantly worry and stress over my adult son’s decisions; and guess what? He ended up just fine! He decided to come home to live and work his way back up on his feet. He now pays rent each month, works, and stays home and hangs out with his brother at home. He makes good decisions, attends counseling, and actually wants to do better for himself – not me, and not for anyone else. Himself.
He still has a long way to go. He has a job, but isn’t quite sure what he wants to do for the rest of his life in terms of a career. He will figure it out as he takes each day being clean and sober. I still attend weekly meetings and weekly counseling to deal with my son’s recovery, and I still tear up when I talk about when he was in active addiction…but it is getting much easier. Time has, in fact, helped me heal.