Heroin addiction. It’s a painful place to live.
…Not just for the person in bondage to the drug, but for everyone who loves that person.
Drug addiction chips away at the family of the addict. It erodes relationships a little at a time.
Are You Enabling Your Child’s Heroin Addiction?
Many family members, particularly parents, find themselves in difficult situations when they discover their child is entangled in drug addiction. In reality they are just trying to help, but the unhealthy choices they often make stem from the blind love they have for their child. Instead of helping, certain behaviors can end up harming the person struggling with drug addiction, prolonging their ability to use and actually keeping them from seeking the help they need.
Signs of Enabling
Here are typical signs of unhealthy, enabling behavior. If you see yourself in any of these situations, it’s time to recognize it and reach out for help.
Sheltering your child from the consequences of his drug addiction
We love our children and as parents we often try to show that love by agreeing to do just about anything to shield our child from the pain of their choices. We smooth the road. We get them out of situations.
I once read a letter that a father wrote to his son who was in the grip of heroin addiction. He said, “I see you as a little child standing on a train track with a train coming full speed toward you, but you just don’t see it. It’s my job to run to you and throw you off the track, even at my own expense.” That seems like true parental love, but in reality, it will just take the father’s life and the child will be standing on another train track the next day.
The truth about life is that we are going to have to face the consequences of our choices. Certainly, as parents, we can help our children even when they are adults. But please ask yourself some hard questions; how many times are you willing to post bond? How many times will you pay the pawn shop ticket? I recently had a mom tell me she drives her son to buy drugs so that he won’t go through heroin withdrawal. We can’t keep shielding our children from consequences. In reality, it may be prolonging their drug addiction.
Is it time for an honesty check? Are you cleaning up the messes caused by drug addiction?
A decision to stop this cycle may be difficult, because believe it or not, you’re becoming addicted to helping….but it is 100% necessary.
Keeping their drug addiction a secret
Drug addiction is cunning and manipulative. It is like a boa constrictor tightening it’s grip on your child just a little bit more every day. One of the characteristics of addiction is the deep denial and isolation involved. A person struggling with drug addiction will almost always be extremely adamant about “not telling anyone.” As parents, we often agree. Why embarrass my child or subject them to shame? We will just keep this between us.
This is the worst decision ever. The truth is, you need outside help. By the time heroin addiction (or any form of alcohol or drug addiction) has taken hold of your child, outside help and support is a vital part of recovery. You, as a parent, need support and clarity, and your child needs the support of others who have been there and know the way out.
Allowing yourself to be manipulated or threatened
Sounds harsh when you read those words right? Threatened? Why would you allow yourself to be threatened without reaching out? Unfortunately the pathway into addiction and all of the nuances and layers can be confusing. If your child begins to place blame on you, family problems, or threatens self harm, a parent often allows themselves to be manipulated, even threatened.
“If you don’t take me to get my drugs, I’ll just walk there, and who knows what will happen to me!”
“I can’t go through withdrawal. You can’t just cut me off from your help. I hate you!”
Are you ready and emotionally equipped to handle these words? Drug addiction is ruthless and if parents aren’t prepared, they can cave to the threats and manipulation. Drug addiction can cause frightening events and in an attempt to keep the family as calm as possible, the parent can end up caving again and again. I’ve seen parents provide large sums of money again and again to a child in active drug addiction. When questioned, they say, “Look, we have other children. I’d rather just give him the money so he can stop making a scene in the house.”
Blaming others for your loved one’s behavior
Do you find yourself blaming your child’s friends, neighbors, the other parent, or situations as a reason for their struggle with drug addiction? Although it is true that there are many factors that contribute to addiction, and being surrounded by people, places and things conducive to addiction definitely do help along the process, the truth is, the disease of addiction can affect anyone, and the focus needs to be on the individual taking responsibility for their choices and reaching out for help, instead of using situations or people as an excuse to continue.
If you are “agreeing” with your son or daughter and sympathizing with their circumstances and “reasons” for turning to alcohol or drugs, this is enabling behavior.
How to Stop Enabling Your Child’s Heroin Addiction
So, how do you stop?
Finding a support group, and looking into individual therapy is a good start. Here are some immediate things that you can change:
- Quit being the clean-up crew: As difficult as it is, you absolutely have to quit cleaning up the messes made by your addicted child.
- Stop playing the “just one more day” game: Parents often tell themselves, “I’ll just help them this time…and this time…and this time” until they have lost months and years. This type of behavior actually mimics the addicted brain that keeps telling them, “You can quit…just not right now.” Draw a line in the sand and make the commitment not to enable your child just because it’s the easier thing to do. In the long run, it’s causing more problems and prolonging the suffering.
- Write down your plan: Parents can often confuse loving your child with enabling them. Just because you love your child does not mean you have to participate in their destruction; nor does it mean that you have to cut them off without speaking to them until they “get their act together.” There is a healthy way to love and set boundaries. Sometimes writing down your plan will help you to stay on track. Once your plan is in writing, show it to your support group, your pastor or your therapist. You will need help and direction during this difficult time.
I hope this article has given you permission to love your child without contributing to their heroin addiction, opiate addiction, alcohol addiction or other drug addiction.
If your son or daughter is ready for help, please contact Gracious Care Recovery Solutions. We are here for you and ready to help.