I’m trying to raise the child of my addicted child and his girlfriend and let go of my son at the same time. Help!
If there are superheroes in this health crisis, they are the grandparents who are raising grandchildren. At a time when they should be enjoying their own lives and all the fun that we expect as grandparents, they are summoned to act as parents and, once again, put their own lives on hold. I applaud anyone who takes on this task.
I understand you’ll want to protect your grandchild from their parents’ drug use and the behaviors that go along with it. You must also protect yourself from your child’s destructive actions. Keep in mind that people do recover, and cutting someone off or “letting go” of them completely rarely helps.
You may be angry and questioning how your son can seemingly choose drugs over his child. Please know, your son’s brain has been structurally and functionally changed by the drugs to which he is addicted. The choice, at least at this moment in his life, may not feel like a choice. The parts of his brain that govern decision-making and the primordial functions associated with basic survival are compromised. Once we understand the impact of drugs and alcohol on the brain and the changes that occur in it, we are truly amazed that people are able to summon the courage to fight against it all.
Even with those difficulties, 23.5 million people are in recovery now, and thousands of people begin recovery every day. Why not treat this as if your son will recover? Letting him know he is loved and missed and that his child needs him as a father—without guilt or shame, but instead with hope and love—may be the very thing that helps him overcome the messages he is receiving from his own brain that he is not capable of recovery. That may mean just a text or a message through friends at first.
It may not seem as though he understands the consequences of his addiction, but many people in recovery will speak about how the shame of their actions and the impact on their families kept them from believing it was ever possible to repair those relationships, and therefore kept them from believing they could recover. I’m sure if you had your wishes granted, your son could be at least a healthy part of your grandchild’s life. Why not take the path of hope instead of letting your son go?
Disclaimer: The above advice is not meant to be construed as medical or legal advice. If you need professional medical, psychological, or legal advice, please contact a doctor, lawyer, or medical center.
Maureen Cavanagh is a peer recovery coach and interventionist who works with families and loved ones supporting a person struggling with a substance use disorder on their own recovery. She is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings and Magnolia Recovery and Consulting, and the author of If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Addiction and Recovery, published by Henry Holt/Macmillan, and NAADAC-approved FAST: Family-Focused Addiction Support Training. You can learn more about her at www.maureencavanagh.net
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