“You need to take time for yourself.”
Many of us have tried that turn of phrase on our moms, often right around this time of year when we annually honor their unlimited sacrifices.
But if you are the mother of someone struggling with addiction, this suggestion is that much more important. It goes beyond self-care: it’s survival. And, if you’re the mother of someone struggling with addiction, this suggestion will be that much harder to put into practice.
Letting Go of the Myth of Perfect Parenting
Parents, and mothers in particular, may feel a sense of shame or failure when facing their child’s addiction. Although we know that addiction has many roots and is a biological disease, the myth of “perfect parenting” is pervasive. Many families falsely believe that addiction cannot happen to them, and that if it does, it means they did something wrong.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you found out that a child had cancer, you would never blame the family for the child’s disease. Addiction is a disease. As with other diseases, the family can be a crucial support to someone’s recovery — but only if they remember to take care of themselves at the same time.
The Importance of Seeking Support
The experience of loving an addicted child is an emotional roller coaster. Along the ride, parents live through backbreaking desperation, shattering anger, and — in moments of their child’s improvement — pure elation. The intensity and variability involved in parenting an addicted child requires support.
Here are three options for parents to seek and receive this all-important support:
- Family-specific support groups. Support groups such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Save the Michaels, provide much-needed community, and shared understanding in dealing with the devastating disease of addiction. If your child has substance use disorder, don’t discount the power of being with others who understand your experience. Social support can provide comfort, guidance, and release during the intense moments of loving someone through addiction and recovery.
- One-on-one counseling and therapy. Living with an addicted child can be traumatic, confusing, and infuriating. Parents may need help unraveling their experiences and exploring their own emotions. Parents: this is a crucial part of maintaining your own psychological well-being. It also offers the added benefit of helping you, as a family member of someone addicted, see more clearly how you can be a productive, healthy support in your loved one’s life. Horizon Health Services offers support to families of addicts and private counseling in Western New York.
- A tailored online social community for mothers, but open to everyone, this Facebook group is followed by over 72,000 people and connects those who share the experience of caring for and loving an addicted child. The webpage offers guidance, understanding, and takes an activist approach to demolishing the shame that mothers often absorb over their child’s addiction. The page links followers to resources for treatment and sells empathy-based “swag” designed to increase awareness of addiction, and spread messages of hope to all those affected.
Take Care of You, For Them
Everyone who loves someone struggling with the disease of addiction has a mother inside of them. The inner mother is our willingness to sacrifice our personal well-being out of love. It’s the burning desire to see the person we care about happy and healthy. It’s the fierce determination to do what it takes to help our loved one get help.
This Mother’s Day remember that it’s not just OK to ask for your own help — it’s essential.