When someone you love is an alcoholic or drug user it's extremely hard to put into words just how heartbreaking it is to watch them destroy their life right in front of you as you helplessly watch. If the problem drinker or substance user in your life that you love and care about is your child, a piece of you is dying inside as you watch your child destroy their life right in front of you.
No matter how old they are, they're still your child that you mothered, took care of when they were sick, held and comforted when they were scared or frightened, wiped tears away when they were sad and encouraged to help make them strong.
Being a mother is the most awesome experience in the world and in no way can you ever imagine not being able to protect your child and keep them safe throughout their entire life. Watching your child destroy themselves a little piece at a time is sometimes more than a mother can take because there's nothing you have said or done that's made a difference. You know looking back that they didn't become an alcoholic or drug addict overnight but sometimes it seems that way.
There were telltale signs along the way suggesting there could be drinking problems in the future or that their occasional use of marijuana could lead to harder drugs. Their moods began to change they were overly happy (usually because they're using) or down and hung-over, began hanging out with new friends and neglecting old friends more often, you began seeing more and more dishonesty as they needed to cover up behaviors or where they've been and what they were doing.
Sometimes mothers make excuses for attitudes and behaviors their children exhibit because it's easier than facing reality that they may really be headed for trouble. Without realizing it a lot of mothers and parents enable their children when they have either a drinking problem or substance use problem and most of the time they don't even realize they're doing it.
Making excuses for their behaviors is a big one, how many times have you covered for your child because they missed school or work due to a hangover or they got messed up over the weekend partying with friends? This doesn't happen in every family situation but it does in some.
You financially start covering bills for them because they're unable to keep a job and take care of their responsibilities. You funded their substance or alcohol use by handing them money when they ask for it, of course they don't tell you what the money's really for. In your heart though, you know it's not being spent on what they said, you just hold onto 'hope' that it is.
It's not easy being a parent and it's definitely not easy seeing your child make poor choices and hurting themselves but it only makes things worse when we enable them. In order for them to take responsibility for their actions, choices, and behaviors we can't fix all of their problems, cover for them and make excuses for their behaviors or financially keep their heads above water.
I realize that not all parents with a child that has a problem with drugs or alcohol enables them but many do. Tough love is a very hard thing and raising children doesn't come with instructions and even if they did, one size doesn't fit all.
We all know in reality alcoholism and drug addiction doesn't take place overnight and there are things we can do for our child and ourselves that can make a difference. It may not stop addiction from taking place but it will help with your fears and guilt (we all have that no matter how well we parent our children).We're not perfect and we all make mistakes but it's important to maintain sanity during this time.
Confronting your children no matter how old they are in a concerned yet matter of fact way letting them know you are seeing behaviors and attitudes in them that suggest alcohol or substance use problems in their future taking place lets them know you're aware of what they are doing and where they could be headed. They need to know every time these behaviors are noticeable that you're aware and not buying into the fact that it's 'you' that's changing, seeing things, or crazy.
Don't continue to cover their bills, hand them money or make excuses for their behavior no matter how embarrassing it may be. If they're living in your home no matter how old they are they need to know there's zero tolerance when it comes to substance abuse and drinking.
The most important thing is to get help for your-self because we can't help our children if we need help too. Your physician, an addiction counselor, or therapist can help you with guidelines at this time. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are both excellent support groups that can help you understand the disease of addiction and through the experiences of others going through many of the same issues, you can make better choices. The more knowledge and positive support you have during this time the healthier you will become and the easier it will be when it comes to making helpful choices and decisions with your child.
Seeking the help of an experienced Substance Abuse Interventionist is also an option when your child is in denial about their use of drugs or alcohol. They don't have to be chronically addicted to a substance before a professional intervention is an option either. The sooner the child no matter what the age receives help for their substance use the better.
Just remember there are thousands of parents just like you in need of help for yourself and for your child due to their drug or alcohol use. At the time it seems like you're the only one going through this but I promise you, you're not. Find the help you need so you can make better choices, heal, and stop enabling your child. It may not seem so now but it's the best thing you can do for your child and yourself.