Open letter to parents and loved ones of drug addicts

Parents of America, we’ve got a problem. We are allowing our children to grow into dependent and manipulative adults.

I am not sure many of you are going to like what you’re about to read, but you need to read it.

Are you a helicopter parent? I admit, I have been known to be a helicopter dad to my kids.

Last month, I was in Paris and I took my six-year-old to a playground. I noticed another child fell off the monkey bars about five feet to the ground and got the wind knocked out of him. He was hunched over, crying and startled. His mom, who was sitting a few benches away from me, didn’t get up and run straight over to him. She looked at him, made eye contact, and then he slowly walked over to her, and she reassured him that he was okay.

Two days later, my son fell off the same monkey bars. I forgot what I had seen earlier and ran straight over to my son to rescue him.

The way I handled the same situation shows how we (American parents) have a problem with co-dependency – that my child is not going to be okay unless I am there to help. It’s the biggest mistake we can make as parents. We’ve got to start teaching our kids autonomy over their bodies, their actions and their lives. They have to know that they are an individual and their life is not a collaboration. The worst thing we can do as parents is run to our kids every time they fall down and rescue them.

This doesn’t change when your toddler becomes a grown-adult-drug-addict. We have to love them, keep firm boundaries, reassure them that if they don’t get caught up in all the drama, they can overcome their battle.

So here are some things you should NOT do with your grown-adult-drug-addict:
• Don’t lend them money. They are going to buy more drugs.
• Don’t answer the first time they call you, if they have been off the grid for a few days. Make them wait.
• Don’t be outraged when they lie to you. They have a disease. Cautiously love them.
• Don’t be held emotionally hostage by a grown adult. They will threaten to harm themselves. If they do, call the police.
• Don’t think that if your child is bad, then that makes you bad. It’s not about you. It’s about the drugs.
• Don’t let them live with you. You are not sheltering them from their addiction. They will die in your house.

Here are some things you should do with your grown-adult-drug-addict:
• Help your child find treatment and take rehab seriously. Call the number of the back of your insurance card and research the facilities available to you. Be honest with them about your child’s experience. Ask questions and find out the models of treatment each facility uses. I like the behavior model.
• Go to Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, self-help groups for loved ones of addicts. Don’t be shocked to hear worse case scenarios. But who do you think those parents were seven or eight years ago? YOU. They were you. Now their child is in prison, or worse – dead. They want you to learn from their mistakes.
• Teach your child autonomy over their bodies and their lives. Reassure them.
• Talk to other parents. Know that far too many parents in America are going through exactly what you’re going through. There is real turmoil in this generation of young adults. Be open to finding community and keep yourself informed.

Will your child die of drug addiction if you do all the right things? Maybe. Will your child die of drug addiction if you do all the wrong things? Absolutely.

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