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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Make a commitment! Three behaviors for parents

By Dave Cooke, 100 Pedals

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission, to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. Contact Dave at dave@100Pedals.com.

In a recent parent coaching session, we examined ways to interrupt triggering exchanges between a parent and addicted child. Many parents began to recognize patterns in their exchanges and the toxic impact they were having on both.

We get caught in a trap of repeated responses to the frustrating, challenging and difficult choices our addicted children make, losing our own perspective on the adverse reactions our responses can have. Instead of helping or healing, we actually make things worse, even if that seems implausible.

Altering or interrupting our patterns or habits of responding, requires the willingness to adapt, change or adjust our responses to these confounding choices. Here are three behaviors to focus on to help interrupt unhealthy patterns in our exchanges and interactions with our addicted children:

Eliminate criticism, judgement and condemnation from your dialogue: This is essential for healthy dialogue and healing. Even in the most chaotic situations, our children need to experience our unconditional love more than anything else. Sometimes giving our best is difficult — if not impossible.

It doesn’t mean in our anger or frustration they need to experience our worst. Listening, accepting, encouraging, and supporting are powerful, loving behaviors. When they share the news of a bad decision, it’s best not to challenge, criticize or express frustration. Offer a word of appreciation, ‘thanks for letting me know’, a word of encouragement, ‘I’m confident you know what you are doing’, an offer to support, ‘if you need my help, let me know’.  You may read this example and think, What? 

This is interrupting old behaviors with new ones, changing dialogue, bringing healing and love to a broken, strained relationship.

Focus on what you have authority over and responsibility for. It took me a long time to recognize the extent I would try to manage and influence behaviors which were beyond my authority. Even when I thought I had extricated myself from my son’s addiction/recovery, I realized I shifted away from much of it, though not all.

Everything changed when... where he’s living, what he’s doing to manage his recovery, legal obligations, finances, job, relationships, or his other ongoing recovery or addiction habits were not my responsibility or under my authority.

Anything I did to help or assist in managing his life, is my attempt to control. Today I chose to exert a healthier influence on my health, habits, relationships, communications and interactions with him. Being in a healthier, more balanced lifestyle, better equips me to love him and encourage him when he needs or asks.  Anything else is meddling, another form of control.
I will not engage in behaviors or activities which hurt me. There are “favors” my addicted son has asked which I knew were not a good idea. Each time they went against my instincts, causing causing personal and internal distress when I did. In the end, my instincts proved to be correct, the supportive action was B.S. and I ended up hurt, frustrated, or disappointed in the process. Today, I pay very close attention to my safe meter: gut instinct, the wisdom of experience, and common sense. 

Unconditional love is not demonstrated by engaging in an activity which is instinctively off. Only in active addiction did my son ask of me things that didn’t seem right or were hurtful.  In active recovery, he has demonstrated his independence and his interactions are devoid of strange and uniquely abnormal requests. Making a commitment to honor our warning signs may not be popular with an addicted child; but, they go a long way in protecting you from additional pain while helping you maintain the healthy boundaries.

There are many other behavioral commitments I would love to encourage you to focus on. Through my experiences, these were the most critical and proved to be the most influential and beneficial.  I will share more about these three on my upcoming podcast.