Dear Ms. Palermo-Reddy,
I am the mother of a 35-year-old man who is currently recovering from every oral opiate known to man. He has had one near-death experience and two other episodes in an in-patient rehab setting.
He says he’s currently drug-free, but my concern is that I’m having trouble communicating with him regarding his addiction. So many subjects are taboo that I feel that I’m constantly walking on ice. I try not to get into it, but I can’t ignore his past and the ramifications that his behavior have had on his young family or ours.
I want to be there for him in a loving and supportive way, but I know he’s less than truthful, and I’m clueless how to address it.
Could you please give me some direction on how to keep our lines of communication open and flowing, and how I can be a better, more supportive parent? The support group I’ve joined has not helped me at all.
First, I hope you know you’re not alone. Regardless of your knowledge about the disease and recovery process, it becomes impossible to think clearly and act rationally when the addict is someone you love.
Second, every addict’s family I know has benefited from having an adviser — someone to talk to whenever they need help or advice, a sympathetic psychological professional who has dealt with similar problems before.
Addicts are told in recovery to leave the past behind. They almost always carry a metaphorical backpack of troubles with them. Good therapists I know advise that they just take it off, with all their troubles, and leave it behind. Maybe you should too.
My clients often find it best to just avoid talking about the past. Like addicts in recovery, they just try to take it one day at a time, never look back, and try to forgive whatever havoc and pain the addict has caused in the past.
All that said, not telling the truth is a red flag. When people are 100% in recovery, they commit to being totally honest. When they’re not, it raises the question whether they may have relapsed or are about to. That could mean it’s time for a drug test.
Beyond that, the families I know get a lot out of their support groups. It’s critical to learning everything you can about the disease and also to your own emotional well-being. If this group isn’t helping, find another one.
Whatever happens, stay strong — and don’t give up!