A father whose daughter is addicted to meth approached me today at the fitness center and asked for my business card.
"I think she's finally ready to do something," he told me. "I heard her yesterday on the phone looking for places where she could go for help."
He and I had spoken a few times over the past year about his daughter's addiction. He was like many parents who had suffered through several bouts of her using, then quitting, then starting to use again. He was perplexed and didn’t know what to do. Finally, though, he decided to back off and let her find her own way.
I'm not sure where he got this idea, but as a parent of an addict I believe this is the best approach. We can't always help because there are sometimes collateral family issues involved. Many times children resist help from a parent simply because it is a parent. In the case of my own children I try to not give them advice about using or not using unless they ask. I once helped one of my adult children get clean and sober. Now that the child is using again there's not much I can say. The child already has all the information needed to make a wise decision. What has to happen is for life to intervene, because that's what convinced me to get clean and sober.
Over the years there were many people who were concerned about me. My reaction to their concern was that they should just mind their own business. I thought they didn't know how to party like I did. I thought they were just a bunch of boring people who didn't know how to enjoy life. It was only later on, when I was paying the heavy consequences of criminal behavior associated with my drug use that I realized that they might have some answers for me.
The great teachers were the consequences of my bad behavior. I learned a lot from days and nights being locked up away from my family. Watching others pass me by while I walked the prison yard was a greater lesson than anything anyone could tell me. It was only after I had paid heavy consequences over and over that I decided to change.
Of course the dilemma for all of us parents is being able to stand aside when we know that our children could be in serious danger. Drug and alcohol use can have serious consequences, sometimes fatal. There will never be a time when we can be 100% right about the decisions we make concerning our children's addictions. We can always second-guess ourselves and wonder if we made the right decision, did the right thing.
And the real question is: do we have any power over our grown-up children?