I get many calls from parents about young “adults” who are living at home or close to home, often being financially supported by parents to some degree and who are abusing drugs and alcohol to the point of addiction. Parents who are giving their young adults money thinking that it is going for bills or buying groceries but who discover it is going to pay bar tabs and buy drugs. Then child asks them for more money supposedly to pay the rent, the insurance, repair their car or… whatever!” This has got to stop! There are several things for parents to remember when dealing with this situation:
1. Addiction is an illness and the individual is not doing it on purpose. They have drank or used to the point that their brain chemistry has changed and they may need help to stop.
2. You, their parent are not at fault, even if they attempt to blame you. They made the choice to drink/use the first time and now they are out of control.
3. Do not, I repeat, do not support their habit by giving them money. They are resourceful and can figure out a lot of things. They figured out how to get involved with a dealer to get what they wanted. They can figure out how to get away from them. You can buy them a bag of groceries, you can go with them and pay the gas or electric bill but do not give them money to do this, it will go to the bar or the dealer and they will take every penny you have and not blink an eye!
4. Confront them but do it by confronting them with the FACTS! For example: “I gave you $200 for your rent and you spent it at the bar” or “Your car is still in the impound after I gave you money to get it out” or “I know you used the money I gave you to buy meth.” Get the facts and confront with the facts in clear and low tone manner – screaming and yelling will not help! Tell them, “I am concerned about you and want you to get help!”
5. Take the risk and share your concerns but realize your son or daughter may not get help until they see it as a problem so above all DO NOT ENABLE the disease to continue by becoming part of the problem. As John F. Kennedy said “if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.” Enabling is part of the problem.
6. Denial is not the same as lying – they don’t see it. Unless you understand you have a problem you can’t change it.
7. Finally, We know that addiction, whether it be alcohol, street drugs or legal drugs, is an issue of brain chemistry that manifests in a great deal of unacceptable behavior. You, as a parent don’t have to accept that behavior and should let your son or daughters know this.
8. Above all, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! These are extremely stressful situations with which to deal and it is difficult to do this on your own. Go to Al-Anon and talk to others who have been there. Go to open AA Meetings or NA Meetings, seek professional help. Don’t beat yourself up if you get sucked in to helping them again. Addicts are very manipulative but the more you deal openly with the disease, the more opportunities there can be for help. Addiction, unfortunately, is a disease that thrives in secrecy, you don’t have to go down with them and sometimes the decision to stop enabling them can save their life.
Janie Zygiel counsels addicts and their families in CCD’s Denton office.