When I think back about our experiences while Alex was actively using many thoughts and emotions come to the surface. It's hard thinking about what exactly DID we do right? A couple things come to the surface about what we did wrong; tough love and detaching from love.
I wrote not long ago about the importance of listening. I saw my own shortcomings in that area. Still I do a lot more talking than listening. I've always heard that you are never learning if your mouth is open. It's amazing that I can even walk and breath at the same time.
Listening is so critical in parenting an addict, but sharing carries much weight too. Darlene and I would listen to anyone no matter their credentials or experience. We were lost without a map. As I look back not a single person in our history gave advice that wasn't sincere. Every single person was trying to help and we felt so much love from our family, friends, bloggers and even strangers. I guess most people can relate to a parent that fears they may soon lose there child at any time.
How do you separate and analyze the advice that helps and the counsel that harms everyone involved? That takes a person much wiser than me to figure that one out. However, I have decided one thing that I would never say or do again. Call it what you may but I'm going to cut straight to the chase, TOUGH LOVE.
Tough love is one of those generic terms that gets thrown around very loosely. First, I HATE the term, I have written about it before. But as soon as you hear tough love everyone has an opinion but one thing it seems everyone agrees within the definition is "throw'em out".
We tried it, many times in fact. Nearly every time it was done in anger. Which is the worst time to make a decision and set a plan. Throw the little bastard out, "I don't care if he is cold and is hungry. I just can't take it any more. If he doesn't like it then he'll stop using," said by a father. I'll steal a question from Dr. Phil, "How's that working for you?"
Detach FROM love, if I try not to care then I won't hurt. Out of sight, out of thought.
Sometimes it is easy to forget, there is a person inside there. Addiction destroys the body and convolutes the mind but there is a person in there with all the needs of any human being. There are basic life survival needs and the same emotional needs as the rest of us. Most of all I believe the need to be loved never goes away. What hope is there for an addict if love is absent, withheld or conditional?
Taking care of yourself is imperative. You must do what it takes to stay healthy in yourself. If that means detaching and your child cannot live in your home that is right. Detach from the drugs and things that go along with addiction, do not detach from your child. Detach WITH love toward that human being that is such a huge part of your life.
If you have read this blog for any time at all you have been exposed to my many analogies. I use them because I am a simple guy and by breaking something down for myself it's easier for me to understand. Many times I have used the word "path" to describe the life my son was living. "I was on a path and he was on a path and no longer could I walk his path." There is nothing more true than that statement.
I now picture it like this: The snow is three feet deep. My son is struggling and trudging through. Laboring every step. I am not there to lift his legs or hold him up. I am beside him on my path however I am guiding a huge snow blower in front of me. It is helping to clear my path. My son is only ten feet away but he cannot come to my path if he continues his path. Every day I tell him how welcome he is to join me on my path, I tell him I would love to help ease his struggle. Every step my hand is out with encouragement but I cannot put him on my path. He must grasp my hand AND do the work it takes to make it to my path. We are separated but we still love.