Self-Defeating Behaviors that Parents of Substance Abusers Believe
Guilt: I caused the addiction. I must be a bad parent!
If I can’t control my child’s behavior, then I must be a bad parent! Gone are the days when you could send your child to his room for punishment, take away her allowance or deprive him of his favorite dessert and expect the desired behavior once the deprivations were over.
Glenn Rader, in long-term recovery himself, has worked with families and friends at a major addiction center, and says that “solving drug addiction is a unique challenge because many of the actions a person would normally take to help someone in a crisis aren’t effective in helping someone with an addiction issue. Author of Stop! Things You Must Know Before Trying To Help Someone With Addiction, Rader thinks that substance abuse disorder is not largely a behavior issue.
Instead, according to the American Psychological Association, addiction is a chronic disorder with biological, psychological, and environmental factors influencing its development. Despite the consequences, the drug abuser continues to abuse drugs because his brain has been altered by the illicit drugs in the pre-frontal cortex, the neuro-circuitry of reward, motivation, impulse control and judgment. Rationalization and distorted thinking become “the new normal.”
Shame: The Big Cover-up. Overcompensating for the Drug Abuser
Parents who try to control their child’s behavior by covering up his mistakes.
- I’ll call his boss and make up an excuse for his lateness. Then I’ll drive him to work so he won’t be fired.
- What will people think of us with an out-of-control child? Our daughter is falling behind her peers. Why is their child “towing the line?” Why can’t we get our child to do what’s expected of her? We must be bad parents!
Denial: They’ll come around!
- They’re young. They just like to party. Heck, we used to sneak alcohol out of the house when we were teens. We got fake IDs so we could drink underage at bars. With time, our kids will heal and mature.
- The safest place for him is my home. It may be safe for him, but not for you! An active drug abuser could steal your money, jewelry, car. With the creature comforts of home and food in their bellies, why would they want to leave and do the hard work of attaining sobriety?
- It’s our child. We have to be unselfish and sacrifice at our expense. Twenty-eight days in rehab doesn’t accomplish much on the road to recovery: detox and some age-appropriate group therapy. Many with substance abuse disorders try multiple rehab programs before becoming serious about living sober. Studies have shown that the longer a person is in drug treatment, the more successful he will be at being drug-free. Transitional living homes after rehab are particularly helpful; they help the drug abuser with real world mundane activities like exercising, running errands, working, volunteering, all under the auspices of a trained professional who helps them keep on the track of sobriety.
Wesley Cullen Davidson
Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.