The Power of Denial

by Teresa Schaffer
December 16, 2019

I am the mother of three adult sons, thirty to thirty-six, who have battled addiction issues their entire adult life. As their mother, I spent most of my adult life trapped in the addiction of denial. For years, I unsuccessfully dealt with feelings of loss and grief, and I still struggle with these feelings due to the effects of drug addiction on our family. We mothers of addicted children feel the same pain, shame, stigma, and isolation universally. Addiction is fraught with broken dreams, resulting in great loss, and in the lifetime of my sons’ addictions, it has had a profound effect on the dynamics of my family. 

Denial is what kept me intertwined in the dysfunction and chaos that stems from addiction. When addiction took hold of my children, I did not realize the effect my denial would have on the outcome of their lives until, after seventeen years, I decided to let go of the denial and ultimately let go of my sons.

Many experts in the field of addiction say that escaping reality is one of the root causes leading to those choices. Denial is also an escape! A way for us to sweep the drug issue under the rug, ultimately leading to total and utter chaos in affected families. Of course, because of our denial, we feel that as their mothers, we can protect them. Meanwhile, they are hurting, and we continue to live in denial. In the face of addiction, our love somehow becomes distorted as we continue to pick up the pieces of their hearts, not knowing how to put them back together again.  

Denial is our response to the reality we don’t want to acknowledge—the reality that our child is a drug abuser. We waste so much time attempting to fix all that is wrong, and in our hearts we know we are denying our child help. We cannot control what our children do, especially after they reach their legal adult age. An addict will seek help sooner if he has no means of feeding his addiction.

Moms, there is no more time to waste! Let go of the illusion of control and seek help for your children and for yourself. We can become so consumed with the chaos that we believe we are in control of the outcome. I know that letting go is the only thing that allowed me to be free from the isolation and fear of stigma that addiction causes. We can’t continue to allow the power of denial to dictate whether we will keep our secrets in darkness or bring them to light. Denial no longer has power over me, and letting go of it has also allowed my sons to be free from my enabling and my sweeping it under the rug. 

All of my sons now are productive citizens and are doing their utmost to raise their families. I am so proud to say we, as a family, are working toward mending all the brokenness that addiction has brought to us. If we let go of the denial and stand up against addiction, we are taking back our power, and we as well as our children learn to control our own destinies. We take back the power denial has over us and change our children’s futures. And by doing that, we can get help sooner, and the sooner our children get help, the better for our generation of families who struggle with this epidemic. 

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Teresa Shaffer

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful piece. Yes, denial and enabling contribute to this disease. Yet me must be compassionate towards ourselves. It is a stealthy disorder and hard to see from the inside. You are very blessed to have sons in recovery. Most of us parents do not. Be aware that many of us have faced the disease and have done our best to let go but that action does not fix our children. We don’t know outcomes and often have to prepare for the worst. That is my path.
    It’s important to have a forum for us as mothers to share.
    Thank you

    • Thank you for your response! I do understand the path you are on and by no means, have I turned completely off of it. When I say my family is working at mending the brokeness. Not all of us are participating. And that is our path. I believe I said letting go gives them the power over their own destinies, no matter what they choose. Letting go of my son has not cured or dixed their addiction issues but, it puts the responsibility back in their hands…where it belongs.Please check out my fb page and I pray for support for you and for your children.

  2. Hi Theresa, thank u very much. Yep, I can not get better in denial only in reality. I watched my daughter like a train wreck coming for 35 yrs. she is a street person now . Still love her. Amazing how she has survived drugs and booze. I almost died. They ONLY get help if they want to.❤️?Luv u all jan


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