Like I’ve said before, In my work with families and parents who have addicted adult children, I hear the same things over and over.
And it’s because parents love their children more than anything, and they want so badly to see their children happy and healthy.
So, when addiction strikes in one of your children, what do you automatically want?
Control!
And, of course, this makes sense because you want to solve the problem. But, as you probably know, it’s not a problem parents can solve. So, these control attempts invariably fail and just create chronic stress from the ongoing tug-of-war. And until parents learn to stop, this goes on for years or even decades, with potentially devastating results.
The trickiest thing about it is that you don’t even realize how you are attempting control.
You see, control attempts can be subtle. They usually don’t come in the form of physical behavior. No one is locking anyone up in the basement or anything (although parents sometimes fantasize about doing so!).
Control is usually attempted through communication.
I hear parents say so many things to their adult children with one goal in mind: to motivate them to want to stop using substances and get help.
Does it work? Nope. Because motivation is an inside job. It can’t be magically bestowed from one person to another.
Instead, these verbal control attempts usually lead to:
  • Increased frustration and anger
  • Increased feelings of guilt, regret, and responsibility
  • More arguments, empty threats, and verbal abuse
  • Hurt feelings and damaged relationships
  • Increased feelings of anxiety and depression
  • More enabling and less self-care
Is there any good news? Yes: We can learn to “drop the rope” in our struggle with control. Compassionate and healthy communication is a skill that helps you do this, and that you can learn and practice.
The first step? Just start to notice what you are saying to your adult child and why you are saying it. If you notice any desire to control, just label it to yourself: “control attempt, friend.”
Awareness is the first step in initiating any change. So, if you recognize that you are trying to control the situation or your adult child…congratulate yourself. That is a moment of mindfulness and an opportunity to create the change you want.