It is common for those suffering from alcohol and other addictions
to claim that they are hurting no one but themselves.
Gail and I attend a support group made up of the family members of addicts and alcoholics, most of which are clients of Drug Court. In this group we learn coping skills and the correct actions and reactions to the many situations we face. Al-Anon and Alateen are similar groups, also offering help and support for family members of addicts.
Almost universally, the reaction after attending the first meeting or two is, "No, this is not for me." "My situation is different." "These are not my kind of people." If they keep coming, it doesn't take very long to see all that is offered---support, understanding, education, strength, help and love. Again, addiction is no respecter of persons, and we really are those kind of people.
Just as addicts cannot heal themselves on their own; these various groups are available to help family members heal themselves. We strongly encourage you to seek them out.
The Learning Curve
The most often heard laments we hear from newcomers at the family group we attend go like this, "It's my baby." "It's my child." "I have to help them."
And the most common way the parent chooses to help is---to remove some or all of the consequences from their child. This is not helping! Again, removing consequences, "rescuing" our loved ones from the consequences of their actions, is not helping them!
It is ENABLING them!
Until our children learn that they must be accountable for thier own actions, that someone else is not going to pick up the pieces for them, they will continue to make poor choices. (Poor is a euphemism for dumb or stupid.)
Another often heard explanation for bailing their child out of a jam is this. "If I help them just this one more time, if I get them out of just one more jam, they'll learn their lesson and their life will turn around." We truly want to believe that but . . .
overwhelming statistics tell us that is not going to happen.
Until they have to pay the price for their own actions they'll continue in their way---an almost 100% guarantee.
A recovering addict, who is also part of our family group in support of his fiancee' said, "I would not face my own problems as long as there was someone else to take care of them for me. It was not until I ran out of options, not until I was literally sleeping in the alley and diving in the dumpster for food, that I became responsible to find my own solution."
The mother of this same young man finally (after many years of bailing him out) told him, "I'm sorry I never let you have the privilege of failing."
Think of the significance of that statement. It is profound.
"I'm sorry I never let you have the privilege of failing."
These important principles apply not just to the addicted but to all those who, through their own poor decisions, have put themselves in a jam.
This does not mean that we can't help our kids while they need our help on occasion. We are referring to those who seem to habitually get themselves in a spot and we, the parents keep bailing them out.
For them the cord needs to be cut, for their good as well as ours.
We, as well-meaning parents seem to have a dilemma. It is strongly stressed over and over that our family is the greatest responsibility we will ever have.
And that we are to love unconditionally.
Both are true.
So how do these equate to letting our child go to jail? Or letting them pay their own debts, or letting them go homeless.
Try dropping off your child at a homeless shelter some day. We did. And boy, did it hurt! (But we couldn't let him know that.)
*Dilemma: any situation in which one must choose between unpleasant alternatives
The next post will address this dilemma.