When can I let go? I am not sure how to parent my adult child in recovery for over a year.

I missed so much time with him and he is doing terrific, but I don’t really know how much help or guidance is appropriate. He kiddingly tells me to get a life, and I’m afraid he’s right.  When can I let go?

Parenting a child in recovery (let’s face it, no what their age,  they are always our children) is a different experience than a typical parent-child relationship. 

Many of us have more than one child, and quite often our other children do not have a substance use disorder. We know how we went about parenting them; we began to let go and trusted them to make good decisions. We stood back and let them make mistakes, knowing that they were resilient and would make better choices in the future. Unfortunately, our experience is not the same with our children who have become addicted to alcohol and other drugs.

Unless we find our own personal recovery, we will continue to treat our recovering child as if he or she is still using substances. That leaves us all stuck in the past and unable to enjoy the present. Once we realize that we never had any control over our loved one’s drug use, and know that all of the hard work they did to enter and  maintain recovery is their accomplishment alone, we begin to see that we need to let go of the fear, which often looks like the need to control to our children. We cannot “worry them well”or be so vigilant and watchful that they do not slip. In doing this, we may give them the idea that no matter how well they do, we don’t believe in them. That is, of course, not the impression any parent wants to give to their children.

Letting go of the illusion of control is not easy. Sometimes the process of letting go makes us feel more powerless than we can stand. One way to begin to appreciate that our children are in recovery is to take care of ourselves and make time for the things we were unable to do when our children were actively using alcohol or other drugs. Find a new hobby or reacquaint yourself with an old one. Try meditation, yoga, or other self-care techniques. Get to know yourself again.

 Just like your child’s life no longer needs to revolve around alcohol or other drugs; your life does not need to completely revolve around them. Moving on with your own life because you are beginning to trust your child is doing the same may be the acknowledgement he or she needs that both of you can have a typical life and relationship again. We never truly let go of our children, but recovery is a time when we, as parents, can begin to let our children try out their wings and trust they will be successful.

Sending Love,

Maureen – Coach C.

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

Each new edition of MomPower will feature questions from you, our mamas, along with my replies, to help educate and guide you toward the answer that works for your family. If you’d like your concern featured, please send a brief question to Maureen@MagnoliaCS.com with MomPower in the subject line. Reach out. You are not alone.

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Questions for Coach Cavanagh

1 Comment

  1. Do interventions ever work? My 30 year old son has been in rehab twice and was sober for 15 months, but now he is in active addition again, living in a separate state all by himself (his choice). He has never liked going to AA meetings and as far as I can tell is doing nothing about getting sober. He lost his job two months ago and is barely looking for another. And there is a possibility of him being evicted from his apartment.


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