A Personal Note – Will Your Other Kids Become Addicts, Too?
I dropped the ball last week, but this week for a personal note, I want to talk about my biggest question in life these days. Will my other kids become addicts, too? Am I at risk of living this nightmare again and again? What dictates whether or not your other kids become addicted, anyway?
These are huge questions that I have, and it brings me to some of the recent events in my life. Well, my 13-year-old daughter’s life. Unlike my oldest, my middle is involved in school. She’s a wonderful clarinet player, it’s her thing, and she’s active in choir and drama. Her life is filled with rehearsals, lessons, programs, auditions, and most importantly – her solid friends that are in it with her.
I don’t like to make comparisons between my children. They are so far apart in age that you can’t really compare their differences except in the stages of my life. However, I still wonder and worry, which has brought me to this topic.
Will the Things That Triggered One Child’s Substance Abuse Do the Same to My Other Kids?
So, as I was pondering this question, it occurred to me that my middle daughter is almost a month to the day the same age as my oldest was when she started experimenting with alcohol, and later that year, pot. Pills didn’t come until she was about 15, I think, but I can’t be entirely sure. The point is, as I stood there in my kitchen thinking about this, I started to panic.
Of course, this is a ridiculous thing to do, because there’s no point in worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, but, am I doing enough?
Yesterday, I took my middle daughter and her best friend to the funeral of a very good friend of theirs. She died of the flu. I didn’t hover and tried not to force them to deal with the situation in my way, but I also am very concerned that they do take the time to mourn this loss. Why? Losses and grief can build. They can create heavy, negative, depressed feelings in a person, and when not dealt with, they can create some pretty serious issues.
This is why I felt that it was so important for them to attend their friend’s funeral, and why it was even more important for me to be there. In the background, but very definitely, unencumbered and there. I didn’t spend time checking my phone, I didn’t hover – I knew other parents there so I socialized – but I was very much aware of what was happening with my daughter, and her best friend.
If you’re reading this, you probably know that when your child develops an addiction or seems to habitually abuse substances or alcohol, you begin to wonder what you did wrong. You begin to ask what you could have changed.
While I don’t blame myself and try not to carry guilt, I also know that helping my oldest daughter to cope with things wasn’t my strong suit for a while. I was very young and didn’t understand how things can affect kids. I didn’t know that a lot of the things that happened to my oldest daughter as a result of bullying, and a father that wouldn’t win any awards, were building up in her little heart.
Now, I know. I’ve never been one to accept when a person simply doesn’t want to move past hurtful things even though they can. It has been my experience that when this happens, it’s pretty likely that the hurtful event is being used as a crutch or a way to get attention. It’s also taken me time to recognize that sadness comes in many forms, and healthy sadness can come and go for years and years.
You probably also know that you can’t go back and undo the way that things were, but you can change moving forward. You can use what you learn to make your relationship with your addicted child better from now on, and you can also use that same information to help you be a better parent to the rest of your children if you have them. This is what I am trying to do.
I know that in my oldest daughter’s case, the loss of a dear friend would have been reason enough to “smoke a bowl.” In my middle daughter’s case, I’m pretty sure the only thing she wanted to do was hide with her animals for a bit so she could have a good cry.
Different Personalities Make a Difference Too
I’m also trying to see that each of my daughters has a completely different personality from the other. My oldest is down to earth and real, but she has anxiety. She worries that she’s not good enough, and it affects her everything. She’s really smart, but like many smart people, she has always wished she could be different – more. Even these days, she gets jealous of her two sisters and has no qualms about showing that.
My middle daughter is popular, and sometimes, even though she gets nervous, she will approach life with a stubbornness that comes from my husband. Her need to make things the way she planned is enough to make her fight back her nervous feelings and go forward. She seems like it doesn’t occur to her to be stressed or nervous, but she will quickly shut down when she starts to feel overwhelmed or attacked. She internalizes a lot of her insecurities but tends to accept difficult events more easily than my oldest.
My youngest daughter, while I don’t know her personality just yet, seems to be determined. She sets her mind to something, and she does it. She’s happy – until she’s not. Then it can take forever to calm a fit.
So, why does my oldest daughter have the addiction and why do I think (hope) that my middle daughter won’t struggle? For starters, my oldest has always been looking for the place where she feels she belongs. As time goes on, she’s realizing that she’s always belonged in our family, but these things are slow. My middle daughter has always been unquestioning in her position in life. She knows where she fits, and she gets “family.”
Also, my oldest has always had really difficult anxiety. It stopped her from doing a lot of the things that she might have really enjoyed if she didn’t have it. She used to hide these things well, though, and it took some time for me to see this.
You get the point, though. Different personalities really make a difference in whether or not your other children will wind up becoming addicts, or even abusing substances. Just like they will have an impact on how my other two daughters turn out. Just as they will have an effect on what happens with my granddaughter.
We Have a Hand In How Our Other Kids Turn Out, Too
Another thing that I think it’s really important to mention is that we have a hand in how our kids turn out. I never used drugs, so it was a shock when my oldest did. But, there were other areas that I was lacking in parenting skills. It’s important to try to let your kids see that you are involved in their lives, and if that means taking the extra couple hours a week to volunteer for their softball team, or bring the cupcakes, then that’s what it takes. It helps them to build confidence and feel important.
Kids need to feel secure in their world, and that means creating a home where you can. Rituals, and a place where your child can lay his head and not have to worry that he will wake up to trauma can go a long way. I always had a home for my oldest, and it was her haven, but I couldn’t undo the effects of being with her father.
My whole point is that you can’t look at your kids and expect them to become like their older sibling. You can’t just expect that they will do what their older brother or sister did and let it go. I feel like maybe if we all work hard enough to prevent kids from using or drinking in the first place, we can do a lot to knock addictions out.
Hang out with your kids so you know what’s happening. You want to offer freedom, but not too much. Get to know your kids’ friends and their families. Get to know what your kids think and feel. Give them a safe, un-judgmental ear when they need it, but don’t forget to expect respect and be the parent, too.
Keep On Keeping On
It’s also important to keep on keeping on when it comes to your addicted child. Even if they are grown and your other kids understand what happens with their brother or sister, maintain a connection and work on making the most of the relationship that you have. This will help all of your kids, and your significant other to see that you are a strong unit that doesn’t just walk away when things get tough.
It’s hard. It’s so so hard, and when there is an addiction in the family, it’s easy to give up. To worry too much, and feel like you’re drowning. You’re not. I promise, and when it’s time, there are people to help.
Here’s where I always plug Elite Rehab Placement. They are wonderful, and if you need to get your addicted child into any kind of addiction treatment, these are the people to help you do it. I trust them, I love them, and I know that when it’s time, they will be there for me.
For my part, I’m going to try not to worry too much about my other children. I’m going to try solid parenting, involvement, and having faith. I’ll keep my eye out, celebrate big moments for all my kids, and help them how I can when they need it, and I’ll remember that each of them is different.
If you’re struggling with the same thing, maybe you want to try it with me. Maybe together, we can be reminded that it’s not all awful. Until next week, be well, take care, and have faith.