Remember that moment you held your child for the first time, there is this sweet innocence that floods over them and it’s impossible to imagine them ever having to go through something as horrendous as addiction. As a parent there is this natural desire within us to protect and shield our children from the pain and suffering we know they will endure. Unfortunately we are powerless to fully protect them because we live in a broken world of sin, and just like our lives have been affected by this truth our children's lives will also be. We don’t have control as to whether our children face addiction in their lives or not, but we do have the power to find ways to help support them in their road towards recovery if they do.
Before being able to help your child in their recovery you have to understand that their addiction isn’t your fault. There are many different layers that can contribute to someone falling into addiction: genetic predisposition, trauma, mental health issues to name a few. No matter what layers may or may not have helped lead your child into addiction nothing you could have personally done would have stopped it from happening. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, it affects the broken families and the whole ones, the rich and the poor, educated and uneducated, etc. No one expects to end up as an addict. There is a road that leads to addiction that many don't realize they are on until it's too late.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).
One of the most difficult aspects of being a parent to a child who has an addiction is to watch them spiral in their addiction and not be able to stop them from doing so. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking if you just got them to agree to go to a meeting, church, or into a treatment center that they will start their journey of recovery. Jesus' words assure us that he wants something better for their life.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).
The hard truth is that you can’t force your child or anyone into recovery, but they have to be the ones to take the steps to seek recovery. They may not be ready to make a change or haven't hit “their rock bottom” yet. Whatever the case may be, they must make the change in their own time and on their own terms. You coming to accept this truth on your end will set a solid foundation or healthy boundaries and expectations that will help keep you from enabling your kids addiction or creating a codependent relationship. This truth will also help you find peace in your own heart and find your source of hope through Christ as you face the incredible trials ahead.
One of the most common concerns of parents whose children struggle with addiction is figuring out how to create boundaries with their child while also providing them with love and support. A good question to ask yourself when you are about to jump in and help your child is if what you are doing is actually helping them or hurting them? As parents it’s easy to get caught up in swooping in and trying to fix whatever problem they come to you with, but oftentimes if your child is struggling with an addiction the problem they face may be necessary consequences they need to experience in order to seek recovery. If as parents you continue to put a soft landing under their fall, they may never hit rock bottom and see their need to seek recovery. Although creating boundaries with your hurting child isn’t always easy, in the end these boundaries are often the most loving thing you can do to truly support your child to make the necessary changes they need to make.
If your child comes to you seeking recovery the best thing you can do is encourage them to set up an evaluation with a rehab center to see what would be the best course of treatment. Encourage them as they make this big step forward, and remind them of all the hope they have moving forward. Do whatever you can to support them and not shame them for the past choices they have made. Addiction has a lot of shame involved, and they are wrestling with this shame already and don’t need you adding anymore on to that. Do your best to remind them of the forgiveness God has given them, and the freedom from their sin they have in Christ.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 NIV).
It’s often been said that you can’t pour out of an empty cup. When you are a parent of a child who has an addiction it’s important to find support for yourself as you try to provide support for them. Support could mean finding an individual counselor to help you sort through your thoughts, point out distorted thinking, and provide you with encouragement as you wrestle through all of the emotions of being a support person for your child. Another way to find support is to find a local Al-Anon meeting which is a meeting for those who have loved ones struggling with addiction. Finding books, articles, or online support groups can also help provide you with the education needed to help you understand the problem of addiction, and provide you with the reassurance that you are not alone. Finding support will only help you further help your child. The best thing you can do is find support in a community or others who have traveled or are traveling on the current road you are on.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV).
As you navigate the difficulty of caring for a child who has an addiction it's important to remind yourself that God loves your child, and is ultimately the one who is in control.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God is aware of the difficulty your child is facing and He is sovereign over all. All the things listed above are great ways to help care for your child who has an addiction, but ultimately the best thing you can do to support your child is pray for them. Your child needs your prayers, and the Bible says pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NIV). Prayers for your child will not only benefit them but will also help you find peace of your own as you continue to surrender it all at God’s feet.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster