The Difficult Road to Closure and Growth
The idea of forgiveness is one deep-rooted in our society. For millennia, followers of religions across the world - from Christianity to Islam to Hinduism and to even more ancient faiths - have placed a high value on the concepts of forgiving and of refraining from judgement.
Outside of religion, we see the positive aspects of forgiveness every day. The humanist concepts of altruism, empathy, sympathy, release, and closure are all closely centered on forgiveness in one form or another, and only the most cold-hearted among us would ever completely turn their back on the possibility of absolution.
So, no matter which culture we come from, no matter which faith we follow, if any, forgiveness is universally understood and is accepted as necessary in many cases. However, when it comes to our own parents - when it comes to facing up to a household damaged and fractured by the trauma of addiction - the path of forgiveness is not always so easy to walk.
This is something we will be exploring in more detail in this article, as we examine how to forgive parents whose lives have been blighted by drug addiction.
The True Meaning of Forgiveness
There is no universal experience of growing up in a home where drug addiction is a real factor. No two peoples' stories will be the same. However, there are common elements which are reported time and time again.
Children growing up with drug-addicted parents will very often be neglected. This ranges from a parent 'forgetting' to pick a child up from school or from a friend's home, to a child not having access to necessary food, sustenance, and medical care.
In many cases, children growing up in homes like these will be actively abused. This abuse takes many forms and can be emotional, physical, or sexual.
At the very least, children in these situations have been exposed to a world that should not have been allowed into their young experience - which should not have been allowed to touch upon their formative years. So, while, yes, it is true that no experience can be compared to another, the implications for a child with drug-addicted parents are often very grave indeed.
And so there is trauma. There are wounds which are left unhealed - wounds which refuse to be healed - of both a psychological and an emotional nature. There are underlying issues and simmering resentments which do not fade away. This makes forgiveness a difficult issue and an awkward concept to reconcile.
It should be made clear from the outset - forgiveness is not a minimization of suffering or trauma. Forgiveness is not a means of 'explaining away' or 'sweeping under the rug' the horrors of what has been before. Instead, it is a method of healing; a means of stepping beyond the pain and ugliness which went before, in favor of something new.
Understanding and Moving Beyond
We have established that forgiveness, in this instance, is something which needs to be carefully negotiated by both parties. Forgiveness must not be seen as a concession or a defeat on the part of the son or daughter, nor can it be received as a validation or an endorsement on behalf of the parent. Mutual understanding is vital from the very beginning.
The act of forgiveness involves letting go. It involves a conscious process of moving beyond the trauma and casting off any hang-ups or anxieties which may have become associated with this. Consider it this way - by holding on to the pain and resentment, you are only causing further anger and torment. You are not fighting back against your parents, you are worsening the damage they have done and exacerbating the problem.
There must also be a process of rationalization involved. When you work to forgive your parents, you must first be able to place their actions within a logical framework. In the vast majority of cases, it was never your parents' intention to cause harm or pain to you or to other children in their charge. The damage done came at the end of a long line of mistakes and negative influences. Working to understand these influences is a good place to start.
A parent may have suffered abuse as a child themselves or may have been neglected by parents and guardians. This may have led them to normalize such behavior and then to carry this behavior forward into adulthood and into their relationship with their own kids. They may have even become consumed with anger and resentment of their own, to the extent that they were unable to assume the responsibility of parenthood - this understanding will serve as an impetus to break the cycle of abuse and neglect for the next generation.
Remember, at every step, forgiveness is about understanding; it is never about excusing.
Dispelling Misconceptions of Forgiveness
Forgiveness, by its very nature, is a difficult subject. It is a concept which many of us view as being simple and straightforward, but is in fact extremely complex. As a result, there are many misconceptions which have sprung up around forgiveness - particularly in relation to drug-addicted parents.
These misconceptions only serve to muddy the waters further, making it even more difficult to negotiate a way towards a positive outcome. We have covered some of the most common misconceptions below, to help you better understand your route towards a happier, healthier, and more whole you.
Forgiveness and Apology are not Linked
An enormous misconception surrounding forgiveness is that the concepts of forgiveness and apology are in some way linked. The idea that forgiveness should follow an apology, or that it must be followed by an apology in order to be valid, is simply not true. In fact, by waiting for an apology or by expecting an apology, you are only doing yourself further harm.
This is because of the convergence of pride and denial. Many people, even if they know they have done wrong, are too hung up on notions of pride and self-importance to admit this, even to themselves. Meanwhile, the nature of drug addiction and the lifestyle that comes with it makes it difficult to think precisely and to be honest. This means that many people suffering from addiction find it difficult even to recognize that any problem has ever existed.
So, why would you put yourself through this? Why would you delay your own healing simply because someone else can't admit that they have a problem, for whatever reason? Don't worry about the apology - forget about meaningless words like 'sorry' - and do what you have to do in order to step beyond the trauma.
Forgiveness is not a Validation
One factor that many makes people who have been wronged baulk at the idea of forgiveness is the sense that to forgive is to somehow accept or even validate the behavior of the wrongdoer. For example, if your parent has neglected and abused you, you might feel that forgiving this behavior is to somehow send a signal that this is ok - that this is a normal way to be.
No - this is not the case. Forgiveness is a necessary step on the road towards healing and towards personal growth. You are not excusing the actions of another; instead, you are simply releasing yourself from their power. You are stepping beyond, to a place in which you can no longer be hurt.
Don't be held back by this fear. Do not feel that you are somehow delivering power, or victory to those who have hurt you in the past. In fact, you are severing that power, and you are laying the groundwork for a successful and fulfilled future for yourself.
Forgiveness is not the Beginning of a New Relationship
What comes after forgiveness? Happy families? A new beginning? A clean slate?
No, of course not. This is simply impossible. Just because the torment that you have been put through has been dealt with and has been processed does not mean that it ceases to exist. The hurt that you have experienced is still there, even once you have moved on.
Drug addiction is a terrible thing. The toll that drug addiction takes on the human body, on human life, and on society as a whole, is similarly terrible. Drug addicts are often victims of circumstance. Often, the weight of a few bad choices made and left unrectified gets too great, and, quickly, the situation gets out of control. A degree of understanding is important when dealing with people who have fallen victim to this kind of personal tragedy, but that is all.
Wounds do not fully heal, unfortunately. Just because you have forgiven your parent or parents does not mean that you should allow them complete access to your life once again. How much of this access you do decide to allow is up to you, and up to you alone. Do not feel pressured into having an active relationship with your parents going forward, or even any relationship at all.
The Practical Route to Forgiving Drug Addicted Parents
Even when equipped with prior knowledge of the nature of forgiveness, the actual process of forgiving can be difficult. We have compiled a list of some practical tips you can use to move forward and to achieve the life that you deserve.
Consider Personal Growth
Nothing in life is in vain. Even the most unpleasant or negative experiences bring us opportunities for growth and personal development. What you have gone through will never be positive, but it has made you what you are today.
Consider this. Consider how you have grown as a person over the years. Consider your achievements and the things you can be proud of, in spite of everything. This will help you as you transition to the next phase of your life.
Take as Long as You Need
There is no set time frame for forgiveness. There is no single accepted route towards letting go. There are simply individual people, each with their own way of processing emotions and dealing with personal issues.
This means, take as much time as you need. There is no right or wrong way to go about this - you simply need to get the closure you require to move on. Cut yourself some slack and do not put yourself under pressure.
Speak to the Experts
No one needs to suffer alone. If you are having trouble with the process of forgiving, or if you are not sure precisely how best to go about it, speak to a professional team. One of the services we offer at Pemarro is expert and warm family counseling, ideal for those processing the trauma of growing up with drug-addicted parents.
We also provide individual counseling and other services if you feel that this would be a better solution for you.
Prepare for What Comes Next
We have already discussed what doesn't come next, or what doesn't necessarily have to come next, but what does come next, after forgiveness? What can you expect in this post-forgiveness landscape?
A new world, perhaps. A new outlook on life. The person that you are once you have experienced the release of forgiveness will still be 'you', but it will be a version of 'you' with greater potential and with a world of possibility just waiting for you.
It will be at this point that you begin to recognize forgiveness for what it is. You are not absolving anyone of their sins. You are not explaining or excusing anyone's behavior. You are simply lifting a weight from off your shoulders. You are drawing a line under the damage done. You are saying: "no more!"
What comes next is up to you, but no longer needing to carry that weight around your neck will leave you feeling freer and more attuned to your potential than ever before. Take your first steps towards forgiveness, and never look back.
Need help from our professional counselors? Want to embark on one of our detox programs? Simply need further advice regarding drug addiction and abuse? Our team are always here to help. Get in touch today.
Every year, drug and alcohol treatment saves countless lives in the United States, turning what could have been a seriously negative situation into a positive one.
In some cases, treatment programs are entered into on a wholly voluntary basis. The individual assesses their life, takes a look at their habits and their actions, and recognizes they have a problem. From here, they simply take the steps they need to live a life free from addiction, often enlisting professional help along the way.
Other cases, however, may be more complicated than this. The nature of drug addiction makes it all too easy for victims to slip into phases of denial, or self delusion. They may not realize that they have a problem — or they might not want to realize it. What follows in these instances is a downward spiral of increased dependency and ever riskier behaviors.
So what happens in case like these; cases in which the individual is unwilling or unable to seek the treatment they so desperately need? It is down to another — usually a friend or family member — to make that call.
Naturally, this is a difficult issue, and potentially risky terrain upon which to tread. However, it is necessary. You owe it to your loved ones to do the best you can for them, just as they would owe it to you if the roles were reversed. With this in mind, inaction is impossible — something needs to be done.
This guide, prepared by the Pemarro team, is designed to help you understand this journey better, and to do the very best for those close to you.
How Do I Know If My Loved One Is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol?
The key to knowing whether or not drugs and alcohol treatment is required comes down to a single word: 'problem'. Basically, is your loved one using drugs or alcohol to an extent that it is causing a problem in their life, or are they on a track towards experiencing severe problems?
These problems can manifest themselves in many different ways. Here are a few of the most common areas in which drug and alcohol abuse can start to take its toll on a life;
•Health and fitness — Drug and alcohol abuse ravages the body, making it even more difficult for an addict to maintain a good — or even a normal — level of fitness.
•Professional — Overuse of drugs and alcohol is a release from responsibility in and of itself, and so it can become difficult to adopt a responsible attitude towards work.
•Social — Drugs and alcohol lead to risky behavior and often to confrontation or neglect of friends and family, which, in turn, takes its toll on social life.
•Appearance — The ravages of drugs and alcohol can cause premature ageing and other negative effects that are evident in the individual's appearance.
•Psychological — A combination of the above, or the convergence of other factors, can cause serious depression and other psychological illness.
These are the areas in which your loved one's problems might begin to manifest themselves. It is in these areas that a casual — although still risky — habit can hit that tipping point, giving way to a genuine issue.
But what about the signs of drug or alcohol abuse? How can you tell — or begin to tell — when a problem exists, or when a problem is forming? There are no hard and fast rules here, and much of this depends on your knowledge of your loved one's personality, but there are some warning signs you can look out for:
•Drinking to the point of unconsciousness
•Drinking alcohol alone with frequency
•Repeated refills on prescription drugs
•Closer relationships with known or suspected drug dealers
•Attempts to conceal drug or alcohol consumption
•Legal issues arising from drinking and drug use
•Sudden deterioration in health or physical appearance
•Absences from work or missed school time due to drugs or alcohol
•Feelings of depression or evidence of risky or disturbing behavior
•Feeling unable to shake addiction or to bring substance abuse
•Shame and feelings of guilt stemming from alcohol and drug use
It should be noted that this is certainly not a complete list. However, this does provide a useful guide to the kinds of things you should be looking out for. Don't forget that the Pemerro team are on hand to provide you with assistance and guidance, so get in touch.
What Should I Do If I Notice Drug and Alcohol Symptoms in Loved Ones?
Noticing drug or alcohol addiction in your loved one is an important step in the process, but it is only the beginning of the journey. From here, you need to know what to do to get your loved one back on the right track.
Every case is different, of course, and no two individuals will respond to intervention like this in the same way. However, by following our general guide, you can bring about the best outcomes for someone you truly care about.
Avoid Judgement and CondescensionAll of us are human beings. All of us have made mistakes in our lives, or gone down the wrong avenue. Often, the circumstances we find ourselves in are as much a product of bad luck as bad choices. With this in mind, do not seek to judge or patronize a victim of addiction.
Instead, seek to understand. Speak to your loved one like the esteemed, respected, equal that they are. Demonstrate that this is a case of a friend or family member reaching out a hand of assistance, and nothing more.
Feelings of delusions, shame, and embarrassment; these elements can cloud the process. By speaking to your loved one as an equal, you are minimizing these unhelpful emotions, and taking steps towards something better and more positive.
Make It Clear That Seeking Treatment Is Not Weakness
This is something that needs to be understood — by both parties; you and your loved one — from the very beginning. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a shrewd recognition of a problem and of a way to get out of such a problem — in short, it is a smart move.
The desire to avoid appearing weak or seeking assistance tends to make the spiral of addiction and abuse much deeper. Either we think we can handle the situation ourselves, or we bury our heads in the sand and we ignore the situation altogether, and all the while we grow more addicted and more dependent.
Reinforce this idea with your loved one: help and assistance are natural, they are necessary, and they represent the key which unlocks a life free from the horrors of addiction.
Work with Your Loved One to Recognize and Understand the Problem
The words 'understanding' and 'recognition' have cropped up time and time again in this guide. This is because they are fundamental elements on the road to freedom from addiction.
It is important that you work gently towards mutual understanding. You cannot chastize your loved one, or shame them into changing their situation. Instead, you need to understand the factors that have led them to this point, and work with them to form an understanding that you can both accept.
From here, recognition will follow, and you can begin to take the necessary steps towards treatment and subsequent freedom.
Consider Other Underlying Factors
It is important never to lose sight of other factors which may be at work. Drug addiction and alcoholism rarely exist in isolation. It is unusual that these illnesses and afflictions spring from nowhere. There may be other issues, such as underlying trauma, mental health problems, negative influence from peers, or other negative factors. Be prepared for this.
Let your loved one speak. They may have stories that they need to get off their chest, and this might help them to understand their situation a little more clearly. Together, the two of your can work through any demons they are battling and explore counseling and other services alongside drug rehab.
However, do not let your loved one explain away their troubles. Self medicating through alcohol, for example, is not a healthy way to deal with past trauma, just as drug use can never be viewed as way to cope with stress and anxiety. Understand these factors, but focus on healing and growth as your goal.
These things take time. As much as you would like to provide a quick fix for your loved one, and to get their life back on track sooner rather than later, this often will simply not be possible. By forcing or pushing the individual in the direction you feel is best for them, you might not be having the positive influence you expected, and you may be engendering more resistance and resentment in your loved one.
Think about it from their point of view. Which do you think would work best? Gentle encouragement and coaxing, or a more aggressive and urgent form of convincing? In almost every situation, the former is the better option.
Consider this when you sit down to talk things out with your loved one. Prepare yourself for a potentially long, but ultimately rewarding, journey.
Which Programs Are the Most Effective?
It is difficult to say precisely which program will work best in your situation, as no two cases are the same. At Pemarro, we provide a range of different programs and services designed to provide comprehensive treatment and detoxification services as you move towards a life free from the horrors of addiction.
These include the following:
Sub-Acute Medically Managed Detoxification
Detoxification must be overseen by an expert team of medical professionals. The process can be tough on the physical and psychological condition of the patient, and so, supervision is key.
As drug addiction and alcohol abuse are linked so inherently to psychiatric concerns, this sort of assessment is extremely important. A good quality psychiatric assessment will include screening and a co-occurring exam.
In some circumstances, a group counseling session with family members present is a positive exercise, helping people to work through their problems and to move towards a positive future as a family.
It may beneficial for your loved one to talk through their problems in a group, gaining inspiration and motivation from their peers as they battle against addiction.
As the name suggests, individual counseling is delivered on a one to one basis, with more direct attention given to the patient. Many find this to be the most effective means of beating addiction, but it can be deployed among other methods.
Continuum of Care Tailored to the Individual
Care is an ongoing thing. The battle against addiction is, similarly, an ongoing thing. Medical and rehabilitative teams need to work with patients to develop and ongoing system of care.
Referral and Transport to Next Level of Appropriate Care
A specific team or facility may not always be equipped to handle complete and comprehensive levels of care. However, all facilities will exist within the same network of care, and so referrals may be necessary to ensure that the patient has what he or she needs at all times.
What About Other Underlying Issues?
Drug and alcohol abuse are incredibly serious conditions; often more serious than many realize. The toll that these two forms of addiction take on the emotional, psychological, and physical state of the victim is enormous, and its extent may not be immediately evident.
As such, great care must be taken at all stages of the patient's drug and alcohol treatment procedure, to ensure that the patient's needs are being met, without fail and without exposing your loved one to any further suffering or danger.
At Pemarro, we employ a skilled team of advisors who are on hand to give you the support you need at each and every step. It is easy to forget about yourself when you are offering help to a loved one, but you need a helping hand too, and there is no shame in asking for one.
Get in touch with our team today and let us help you find the best path for you and your loved one.