A Personal Note – Stepping Away From a Grown Addicted Child Doesn’t Work


This week, for a personal note, I wanted to talk about what happened when I tried to step away from my grown addicted child, and how it didn’t work. In fact, not only did it not work, it actually failed miserably. This is why I am almost totally convinced that stepping away from your grown child that battles an addiction is probably going to create more pain than it’s worth.

Now, you might be thinking that you don’t know what else to do, and I get where you’re at. This is why I tried to step away from my daughter. I thought that since my husband was miserable, and my younger daughter was so unhappy, and I was struggling to keep depression away, there had to be a better way.

This was at a time where my oldest daughter would show up at our house very high. She and her now-husband would pass out and fall asleep on the couch, and visiting us was becoming more of something to do while they were waiting for their dealer than an actual visit. It was terrible to watch. Terrible to be a part of.

During this time, they also lied. A lot. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has sat there listening to bold-faced lies and gotten really, really angry about it. I would think, “You jerks, why are you lying to me? Do you really think I’m so stupid, or do you just not care?” As it turns out, they really just didn’t care.

The thing was, continuing to see my grown addicted daughter high and hear her lie all the time was taking a toll on me. It was hurting my younger daughter, and it was making my husband mad beyond words. I got to the point where I dreaded them coming over, and I actually enjoyed the peace and quiet that the rest of us experienced when my oldest wasn’t around.

Addiction Tends to Bring Out The Sides of People that We Don’t Like

You know how when your friend (who you love) gets drunk and acts like an ass? You get to the point where you just can’t stand to be around him because he’s just such a jerk. It’s like he’s all the sudden boastful, cocky, and doesn’t care anything about your feelings or the feelings of anyone around him. It’s painful, and a lot of times, just not worth it.

So, how long does it take you to walk away in this case? How long does it take you to tell your friend that you just can’t go out with him anymore or start making excuses because you just don’t want to deal with it anymore? Chances are, it doesn’t take nearly as long as you might think, but when we make such a dramatic decision, it can be really hard to do.

This is kind of how it was with my oldest. When she wasn’t around, I was missing her. The kid she was. Like most mothers, I love my daughter with a ferocity that I never imagined existed. It hurts to think of the love I carry for her. My firstborn. My first baby. The one who changed my life. Sometimes, when I think about these things, it makes my heart ache. My breath catches in my throat and my eyes well up.

Even now, that things are starting to get better, I still think of that little girl and just ache for her.

If I’ve hit a nerve, I’m sorry. But, it’s the way I feel. It’s probably how you feel about your grown addicted child, too. And it’s totally normal. The thing is, how do you let go of that person your child used to be? How do you separate who he was from who he is now?

For as much as I loved and missed the kid my daughter used to be, I hated the person she was becoming. Worse, I had no love, and I mean no love for her now husband. He was a grade-A jerk from day one. When they were high he was just a dirty, jerky someone who would probably kill my daughter for drugs if someone said to. Or at least, that’s how he seemed to me.

Not only that, but none of us were able to tolerate my daughter for long. She would flaunt her body, or show up needing a shower, wearing shirts that had blood on them. Her teeth were getting bad, her face was losing beauty, and she didn’t care in the least.

See, addiction, or even substance or alcohol abuse can bring out the very worst in people. It affects the part of the brain that smothers the conscience, you know, the part of you that knows the difference between right and wrong. Substances tend to cause people to be brasher than they usually are. They often begin to think that they are invincible, and they don’t care about hurting people, as long as their actions benefit them.

Addiction Wears Families Down

One thing that many addiction treatment professionals don’t talk about is the toll that addictions take on families. You know, the supporting cast that still tries to have a life? The group of good people who cannot understand what’s going on with their family member? The folks who just want to be good parents/spouses/children/friends/siblings, but are finding that the harder they try, the more difficult it becomes to effectively fill these roles?

In my case, my daughter’s addiction wore me down. I spent countless mornings crying in the shower. I would cry so hard I would fall to the floor. I believed that if I cried in that privacy and seclusion, nobody would see my true pain. For me, maintaining a façade was one of the most important things I could do to maintain my sanity. I knew what I was doing because I carried around a heartache unlike any other every single day.

I used to think about my daughter and ache for her presence. I used to just want to wrap my arms around her and hold her close. I wanted to soothe her and make things better. In my mind, holding her was the only thing that would make things better.

However, the hugs I did get from this grown girl were a far cry from my imagination. She smelled of sweat, and body odor. She often didn’t want me to hug her, but when I did, it felt strange. This realization made things even worse for me. It might have made things worse for her, too.

The Decision to Walk Away

When I made the decision to walk away, it wasn’t like I told her that I didn’t want anything to do with her anymore. It was more of a gradual thing. It was lots of other loved ones telling me that I just couldn’t keep going the way I was. I needed to focus on the rest of my family and start getting emotionally healthy for myself.

I think the biggest change came when a friend, who is also an addiction therapist, told me that I needed to take the time to mourn my grown addicted daughter’s life. The reality is that opioid addiction kills thousands each year. Another reality is that even if and when she does get clean, she will not be the same person she used to be. I couldn’t be ready for this new person if I didn’t go through the process of mourning the loss of the person she used to be. The person she would have been if she hadn’t started abusing substances. That person was gone and always would be.

So, I decided that it was time to start taking my life back. My daughter was grown. Her life and her decisions were hers to make. I couldn’t do anything about them. I needed to step back and regroup. I needed to focus on the rest of us.

I didn’t shut her out completely, but I stopped calling her. I didn’t invite her to events anymore, and I didn’t include her in our big celebrations. For a while, this felt really good. Until she came back, opened me up, and then left again. Then, it hurt worse than before.

I slowly began to realize that I don’t want to cut my daughter out of my life. I love her. I always will. No matter what she does, what she is. I love my daughter, and I would rather have her in my life as an addict than shut her out and have something happen to her that I’m not there for.

My husband, thankfully, agrees, and my younger daughter is on the same page, too. Our family has grown and changed, and we include my oldest daughter for all the ups and downs. We don’t depend on her to be clean all the time, but we don’t freak out about her situation anymore. Instead, we focus on the relationship we are able to have with her.

These days, we take an “It is what it is,” approach to things with my oldest. We let her do her thing. If she has consequences, then they are hers. We have our strong boundaries, and we don’t break them down, but we are rebuilding a relationship with our addicted family member. We are loving her, and letting her love us, and so far, I am cautiously optimistic. Slowly, I’m starting to see more of a change in her than I ever did when I was shutting her out.

You’re going to have to make your own decisions as to how you deal with your addicted child’s situation. You’ll have to sit down and decide what works for you. I came to the conclusion that I needed to maintain a lifeline. After all, I couldn’t call on Elite Rehab Placement to help me find a good treatment option for her if I wasn’t talking to her.

We haven’t gotten to the rehab stage just yet, but I know that when we do, I’ll call on Elite to help me. I’ll depend on the caring staff that we have, and I’ll rely heavily on the insurance specialists to help me figure out what we’ll be paying, and what we won’t.

For now, we’re moving forward. We’re breathing, living, and doing it together. And apart. But we’re getting there, and happier than we have been in a good long time. Hang in there. Don’t give up. When things seem too hard, take a step back. Go on vacation, get a massage, turn off your phone and take a walk, or spend time with the rest of your family. Just don’t give up. It will get better, but you have to see it when it starts to.