Holidays are a time for family to come together and share in the joy of the season. But when the family is broken, gatherings become a source of stress instead of a celebration. This is especially true for adult children with estranged parents looking to fill their own kids’ holiday memories with the warmth of a family get together.
Breaking up with mom
There are many reasons adults make a break from their childhood providers. Mental and physical abuse spurred by addiction is, however, one of the most common. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, drugs physically alter the way the brain functions. This can turn a potentially-good parent into a source of misery for the unfortunate children of addiction. Severing ties serves as a means to an end, but what happens when the parent gets clean and wants to reconnect? Sometimes, it’s too little too late. Others, a relinking of the familial chains may be in order. If someone is in this situation and finds themselves leaning toward the latter, here are a few questions to ask themselves before reaching out:
- Have they made an effort to eliminate drugs/alcohol? This is the most important question an individual can ask, and it’s a hard one to answer. Addicts often exhibit behaviors that violate their family’s trust. The desire for their drug of choice may have instigated behaviors in the user such as lying, stealing, and absenteeism. These and other issues can never be resolved until there is no doubt about an individual’s sobriety.
- What triggered their addiction in the first place? It’s estimated that nearly 2.7 million seniors will suffer negative consequences from prescription drug misuse by 2020, according to DrugRehab.org. Elderly people have unique risk factors for drug abuse, including having a fixed income and cognitive impairment due to age. If an individual’s parent began using later in life, sought treatment, and has resumed living a normal and productive life, they may wish to establish a new connection.
Once an individual has begun to reestablish ties, they must know that their relationship will never be the same. Before they can truly have a new relationship with their loved one, they must work through their own issues surrounding the situation. As an adult, they may continue to harbor resentment towards their parent(s) for their drug abuse. Until they let go of this, they run the risk of sabotaging their reunification efforts.
Addicts don’t begin using drugs as an intentional means to hurt their family. In fact, they may have begun using as a way to help. A father might, for example, have started using OTC drugs for energy so he could work longer hours to support his family. He may have not realized things had gotten out of hand until it was too late. We mentioned previously that drugs alter the brain. It’s a complex process and one should take the time to understand this. This may help them see their recovering parent in a whole new light.
Forgiving loved ones is not handing them a free pass to excuse their previous behaviors. One can still hold them accountable for their failed parenting while building new bonds. Neither individual can change what happened yesterday, but they can control how they proceed today and into the future. If their parent has made a true effort to recover, they should be willing to forgive without dangling their past indiscretions over the relationship. AgingCare.com recently posted an article on forgiveness relating to ageing parents. It’s a great five-minute read that can help put things in perspective.
It takes time to heal the wounds of drug addiction. It won’t happen over one family dinner or even a single holiday season. Rebuilding these relationships is a lifelong process and it takes work. But, with understanding, forgiveness, and perspective, an individual may find that their relationship is far better as an adult that which they could have imagined as a child.