Having parents that are addicts can present a whole new set of challenges when trying to get clean. I’ll share the challenges I faced and how I overcame them. Recovery is possible.
My odds weren’t great but I made it out anyway.
Parties and drinking, that’s what I remember growing up. Everyone seemed to be smiling and enjoying themselves. As a young child, I never made the connection between the drinking and late night fighting. I only noticed that people were happier and a lot more fun when they were drinking. Children thrive on attention and I was enjoying all the extra attention I was getting when they were happy. I know now it would get much worse. They had just started to use regularly and life was great. As it often is in the beginning. Those are the moments that get us hooked. The impact of these first experiences stayed with me for a long time.
I grew up believing alcohol and drugs made people happy and fun to be around. Besides my parents who struggled with addiction, my grandfather was also an alcoholic. It was definitely a family thing, aunts, uncles and cousins, many of which struggled with one addiction or another. Watching my family become less irritable and happy when using instilled in me this belief that using was the solution to any unhappiness. This is how I was taught to cope.
It was difficult to find new effective ways of coping because I had no other role models to learn from. After acknowledging this way of coping wasn’t making anything better I had to learn how people outside my family dealt with stressful situations successfully. I had to find new role models and new ways of coping. It’s way more difficult than it sounds. We copy our parents way more than we’ll ever want to admit. For me, watching television and reading taught me a lot about how people dealt with tough situations.
The most extreme enablers, my dad and my step mother not only gave me the means to do drugs; they did drugs with me. I started doing drugs with them as a way to spend more time with my dad but I was almost instantly hooked. Their excuses and reasoning why it was okay to use became my perfect defense of why I didn’t need to stop. This taught me that using wasn’t wrong and before I could even think about recovery I needed to shift my perception of right and wrong. This meant I had to realize my parents were wrong and what they were doing was bad.
I was only able to shift my perception once I admitted that my life and my parents’ life was a complete and utter mess due to the drug abuse. My dad and step mom completely vanished when they lost the house because of drugs and I was selling everything I owned and even some I didn’t own. I was hurting people dear to me just to get high. I had hit rock bottom and had nothing left. That’s when I knew for sure drugs were bad and I had to get out. It was a difficult realization because it made me feel like my whole life was a lie. There’s no such thing as controlling drug use and leading a happy life like I was taught to believe. Drugs will always end up controlling us, and they certainly do not create a happy life. They make us forget for a short while how bad they’ve made our lives. Shaken to the core by this realization I became angry at my parents.
Once my perception of good and bad finally shifted I ran into another huge obstacle. Angry at my parents, I blamed them for my addiction and all the terrible things happening in my life. Not taking ownership of my addiction enabled me to go back to using drugs without it weighting on my conscience. It’s their fault, they did this to me. I just kept relapsing and relapsing. I knew I had to get out but was too busy passing the blame on to everyone else to really work on staying clean. I was throwing a pity party and everyone was invited.
I learned to be accountable for my decisions when I realized that blaming them was taking away my power to change my life and be happy. The more time I spent being an addict the more I could empathize with them and understand why they lied. They weren’t lying to me, they were lying to themselves. That’s what we addicts do. We lie to ourselves so we can sleep at night. We start wanting change once the truth is so obvious we can’t lie to ourselves anymore.
I forgave my parents because I finally understood them. They were doing the best they could even though sometimes their best wasn’t so good; they were good people. In the end, I was the one who made the decision to keep doing drugs. That’s on me. We don’t have to be like our parents. We can learn from their mistakes and succeed where they couldn’t.