Finding Peace as a Parent When the Addict Refuses to Change
Loving an addict is tough.
Not only does the person go through ups and downs, but we go through them with the person as well.
In most cases, if the situation gets too bad, we can leave.
This isn’t always easy. But it is always an option.
Abused spouses can find support from friends and family and get to safer environments. Boyfriends can separate from girlfriends. Friends can find new people to associate with.
But if the addict is your own child, the situation becomes more difficult to deal with.
The reason is that we cannot (nor should we) separate from our children. Leaving the relationship is not an option.
Therefore, we have to learn to find peace when our children are addicted to drugs and alcohol but refuse to change.
Here are the 4 things we need to do to find that peace.
1. Trust in Christ
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).
What you are dealing with is overwhelming. Trying to find peace without a source of strength is impossible. We will explore 3 other ways that can help, but first we must rely on Christ. He is our source of peace. And what you are facing is too big to deal with alone. Trust Him with the situation. And His peace will guard your heart and mind.
2. Refuse to Enable
To enable is to allow for the person to continue using or drinking while telling ourselves we are helping them. For example, an addict who cannot pay his monthly car loan asks for money. You give him cash. He uses it to buy more drugs. You’ve enabled the behavior.
The problem with this is twofold. First, the addict doesn’t get better because you are making room for him or her to continue using.
Second, it makes you feel guilty. Deep inside, you know you contributed to the problem. These feelings of guilt steal your peace of mind.
To find peace when your child refuses to change, you must stop playing the enabling game. It is the only way to overcome the guilt and find peace in your heart again.
3. Grieve the Situation Until We Accept It
Grief follows a process. It includes denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, acceptance. Seeing your child change so drastically as a result of the addiction makes you feel like you’ve lost a child in a sense. You actually grieve this as a loss.
At first, you deny the child has a problem. You make excuses.
Then you try to bargain your way through it. You may, for example, promise to be a better parent (to God, to your child, or even yourself) if your child changes the behavior.
Seeing no changes, you get angry. Sometimes with yourself as you analyze your own parenting and blame yourself for the situation. Other times, you get angry with your child and lash out because of what (s)he is doing to you, the family, and him or herself.
Then sadness hits. You feel depressed. Hopeless. Nothing you do works. Why bother?
Afterwards, acceptance sets in. Especially if your child absolutely refuses to change. It’s hard to get to this state because you feel like “accepting” means “giving up.” So what happens is you usually repeat the first four stages of the process.
Eventually, however, acceptance is necessary.
Because your peace depends on it.
You have to come to terms with the situation and accept the things you cannot change. That is true peace.
4. Make Room for Grace
Ending with acceptance of the situation, however, would fall short of the full picture.
We accept things as they are, but we always give grace for people to change them.
Notice I said for people to change them, not for us to do it.
You cannot change the person. And that is what you’ve accepted.
You can, however, have grace for them that through Christ the person will change him or herself.
This is done by showing love. Be supportive without enabling. Be present as long as it doesn’t violate your safety.
And pray for your child to find the strength to change.
The grace you have for the person struggling with an addiction will carry over into your own life. By having grace for others, you will in turn sense grace for yourself.
And that will bring you peace of mind.
Finding peace is possible. If your child is on drugs or alcohol but refuses to change, you don’t have to be a victim.
Anxiety and stress have no place in your heart.
Trust in Christ for your peace. He is more than able. Don’t allow the person to use you to further the habit. You can love your children without enabling them. It may be necessary to grieve the situation. Ultimately this will help you to accept it. And always make room for grace. This will help both you and your child.