Addiction is chaos. Arm your family against it with Assistance in Recovery’s 20 Rules of the Road.
By Jaclyn Wainwright
1. Take a deep breath. You are not the first family to go through this. Help is available.
2. You don’t have to wait for things to get worse. Addiction is a progressive disease. Unless it is treated, it will always get worse. The best time to act is NOW.
3. What other people think about you, your family and your problems is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. There is no shame in seeking recovery for a chronic, progressive, fatal disease. Don’t sacrifice your family’s well-being for fear that you won’t be invited to the neighborhood block party.
4. There is no room for judgment. There is no good or bad. There is only the question, “What do we do about it?”
5. Make decisions based upon the greater good of the entire family. Put your emotional health first; don’t sacrifice your own emotional stability for the sake of the addict.
6. You must decide what “is” and “is not” okay within your household. Active addiction, illegal activities and inappropriate behavior are not acceptable in your home. Set healthy limits and boundaries, so that you are not swept up into their chaos.
7. Consequences are your loved one’s birthright. Withholding them is stealing. If we do not allow addicts to face the full force of the consequences of their actions, we enable them to continue to use without significant cost.
8. Parents need to parent. This is different from being liked or understood by your children. Consistently enforce boundaries for your family and know you are acting out of love and concern for their well-being.
9. If you have been playing the role of counselor, therapist, or doctor – “YOU’RE FIRED!” Addiction requires professional help. Let the professionals do their job and focus on helping yourself.
10. Parent is an action verb. Take action. Ask for help. You don’t have to stay stuck in the insanity of the disease. You have a choice.
11. Understand that you can “love your children to death.” Literally. Loving your child does not mean you have to save them. By enabling your child you are helping the disease to progress.
12. The sentence that provides freedom: “Today is the day we change the nature of our relationship.” As parents of an addict, we have to challenge ourselves and be willing to change our fixed ideas.
13. Getting the help you need is a process not an event. Be patient but persistent. Recovery is a long road—it’s a lifelong process for an addict. Trust the process and support your child when they make positive decisions.
14. Don’t meet crisis with more crisis. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the addict’s problems. Make sure to detach from time to time. Do things for yourself that you enjoy.
15. Remember the three C’s: You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You are not the cure. Addiction is not caused by environmental factors. When you realize you can neither change nor control someone else by direct action, you take the first step toward helping your child.
16. Learn to give the gift of “No.” No, I won’t give you money. No, I won’t bail you out of jail. No, I won’t let you borrow my car. The disease of addiction will fervently resist a family’s effort to say no. This resistance is a difficult but necessary hurdle for the family to overcome.
17. Practice the “Rule of 101”: If you have tried 100 different things and nothing has worked, try 101. Never give up on your child. Always let them know you believe they have the ability to recover.
18. You are only as sick as the secrets that you keep. The worst thing a parent can do is nothing. Talk about what is happening in your family and don’t keep secrets for your addict that will ultimately bring much needed consequences.
19. With knowledge comes responsibility. Once you are aware that there is a problem, you have to do something about it. You cannot sit back and let addiction swallow your child and your family whole.
20. Never, never, never settle for the status quo. Do not think of this as a phase that will play itself out. Drug addiction is not a phase.
Jaclyn Wainwright is director of recovery management programs at Assistance in Recovery. AiR is the leading provider of interventions, recovery services and case management in the U.S. Learn more about AiR at a-i-r.com.