Every once in a while, we discuss the issue of addiction as a family disease. In fact, this has been the primary topic of our discussion on at least two separate occasions. On the first, we were simply sharing some stories of hope about families who have suffered through addiction before learning that there truly is some light at the end of the tunnel. On the second, the primary topic of discussion was our two parent support groups. One was our parent alumni program, primarily for the parents of those who have been through our programs. The other was the Amethyst Recovery Moms’ Corner, a Facebook group for struggling parents who wish to communicate with those who understand the torment they face while raising an alcoholic or addicted child. As one of our greatest contributors understands, a mother’s hope is a fragile thing. Such being the case, we felt that offering support to the families of addiction was almost as important as treating addicts and alcoholics themselves.
We are now pleased to announce that, for the last two weeks, we have been running a brand new online support group for mothers whose children are facing addiction. At the time of writing, we already have nearly three thousand mothers who have joined up to support each other through this wonderful private Facebook group. As such, we’d like to spend a little time revisiting the issue of addiction in the family and how you may benefit from the support offered by our new support group, A Mother’s Hope.
Addiction as a Family Disease
Many say that when an addict or alcoholic is “sick” with the disease of addiction, the entire family unit becomes sick as well. When taken out of context, this notion may sound quite insulting. But it is actually an apt description of just how deeply the family unit may be affected by an addict’s use.
This effect begins to take place as soon as the very first signs of addiction begin to surface. At this point, the effect may be quite subtle. A mother’s hope that her son or daughter is not heading down a dark and dangerous path may allow her to believe that her child’s eyes really are just red because they are tired, and that they really are just holding onto that marijuana for a friend. Even when denial does not run quite this deep, the first inclination will often be to believe that the child’s drug use is a one-time occurrence. And to be fair, it might be. Often, however, such instances will continue to occur. In such cases, many loving parents may instinctively assume that their child is simply going through a phase. It is simply too difficult to accept that this behavior is becoming habitual.
As this behavior continues, however, many mothers may be prone to anger. They may be angry at any number of people. They may be angry at themselves for their earlier denial, feeling that their child’s behavior is somehow their own fault. They may be angry at their child for disobeying the rules of the house. If they happen to know who introduced their child to drugs or alcohol in the first place, then this person will also usually be the source of some anger. At various times throughout the child’s struggle with addiction, many parents will experience anger at all three of these sources. Some parents may even argue amongst each other if they do not agree upon the disciplinary measures to be taken should their child come home high or drunk again.
When anger fails to make much difference and the child’s addiction has only grown stronger, many mothers may begin pleading with their children to change their ways. A mother’s hope in this case may at first be to simply lessen their child’s substance abuse. In such cases, attempts at bargaining may revolve around this particular pursuit. For instance, a mother may tell her child to have a glass of water in between drinks, or to drink more slowly. If alcohol is not the drug of choice, then some parents may simply request that their children refrain from using drugs in the house. Such examples do not arise in every family, but they are certainly not uncommon.
Unfortunately, bargaining is much like anger in that it will only retain its effectiveness for so long (provided that it is effective at all). Eventually, parents begin realizing that adjusting the rules is doing very little to halt their addicted son’s or daughter’s substance abuse. This is when depression may begin to set in. A mother’s hope will be dashed, feeling that her attempts at keeping her child safe have been in vain. If parents have not previously blamed themselves for their child’s addiction, then this is the point at which they will begin to do so. Of course, nothing that has occurred is truly their fault. Addiction is a terrible disease, and one person cannot fight it alone. They may care quite deeply for their child, but love is not alone to battle such a cunning, baffling, and powerful ailment.
This is the lesson that must be learned if the family is to gain true acceptance. At this point, professional help may be sought. And if help is sought at the right type of facility, the treatment may be quite effective and the child may remain in recovery without relapse. Of course, the family must help the child to devise a suitable relapse prevention plan. This can be difficult, as rules must be set at this stage which can be hard to follow. For instance, some parents have unfortunately had to allow their children to suffer legal ramifications without providing them with bail. As hard as this was for them, many have learned that the consequences of relapse must be real and tangible if recovery is to take hold.
You may notice that the above outline follows the five stages of grief. This is not by accident. A mother’s hope that her child will be safe and happy will often result in something of a grieving process when it becomes apparent that the son or daughter in question has become an addict. But while the grief of mothering a child through addiction is quite devastating, the joy of watching one’s child discover contentment through sobriety is almost ineffable. It’s something that must be experienced to be understood. To experience this joy, however, the parents of the addicted child will need to seek their own methods of spiritual and emotional support while their beloved offspring is undergoing treatment.
The Need for Support
There is a reason that support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon exist. When a family member is struggling with addiction, they have a tendency to drag the rest of the family down with them. That is not to say that the addict or alcoholic is a bad person—they often do not understand the full ramifications of their disease, or how it affects those they care about the most. And no one knows the goodness in a person’s heart like the ones who raised them. A mother’s hope for her child may be shaken by addiction, by the way in which their son or daughter has caused harm to the family through their actions. But through support, this hope can be regained.
Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are wonderful groups, allowing the families of alcoholics and addicts to share about their experiences and struggles. The primary members of these groups are the parents, offspring, and spouses of addicts and alcoholics, although other friends and loved ones may join if the addict’s use has had a significant effect on their lives. There are certainly many who benefit from these groups, although there are some who may wish for a support group which is a little more tailored to their own specific needs.
This is where groups such as our parent alumni program and A Mother’s Hope come in. Not only are these groups geared specifically toward parents, but many of the parents who have joined A Mother’s Hope have children who are either currently in treatment or have undergone treatment in the past. Not only may parents benefit from the support of those who understand the struggle of raising an addict or alcoholic, but they can also lean on those who know how difficult it is to have a child away at treatment.
Human beings, regardless of their circumstances, have a fundamental need for social support. We are essentially pack animals; while we may do alright on our own sometimes, we thrive when we are part of a community. In fact, studies have shown that social support can increase our ability to handle stress while also yielding benefits to our overall mental health. On the other hand, a lack of social support can be incredibly harmful for those who are undergoing high amounts of stress or trauma.
Needless to say, mothering or fathering a child who is struggling with addiction can be an incredibly stressful experience. As such, social support is an absolute necessity. Without it, the stress can be overwhelming to the point that it may impact your health. And we do not just mean mental health, but also physical health as well. Without social support and other means of combating stress, you may suffer headaches, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, drastic appetite changes, and more. Even worse, stress may cause some parents to begin abusing drugs or alcohol themselves.
One of the problems is that stress can often cause social withdrawal. In other words, parents may be less likely to seek out social support at the time they need it the most. Facebook groups such as A Mother’s Hope may prove quite useful in such instances, as it is much easier to seek support online than in person. As parents get used to seeking support through the friends they meet through A Mother’s Hope, they may find themselves opening up to the idea of seeking support elsewhere. Either way, we will be here for them in their hour of need. All that remains is for concerned parents to make the decision to join our group.
Joining A Mother’s Hope
If you identify with anything we have said about the struggles of mothering an addicted child, and you agree that support is a necessary element of the healing process, then you should absolutely join A Mother’s Hope today. Anyone can join this closed Facebook group by navigating to the group’s page and clicking “Join Group” now. You will then be one of three thousand parents who have come together to share their experience, strength, and hope with one another so as to make the job of parenting an addicted child a little easier for everyone.
Concerned fathers should not be deterred by the name of the support group. A Mother’s Hope is for all parents across the nation who wish to offer each other love and support to complete strangers who will, over time, become some of their closest friends. We named the support group after the incredibly high number of struggling mothers we have met, each one in dire need of extra support. But we have also met our fair share of worried dads, and we would never turn our backs on them. Raising a child who struggles with this disease is not an easy task; no one should have to do it alone.
We hope that you will join A Mother’s Hope, so that you may benefit from the experiences of so many other parents and come to realize that your situation is much more common than it may sometimes feel. You are not alone. And as you receive support from a large community of other concerned parents, you will come to realize that your presence in the group is helping others as well. Because in a group such as A Mother’s Hope, every person gives as much as they receive, sometimes without even trying.