When You Can't Save Your Child

15 June 2017 Written by 

What can a parent do when an adult child refuses to listen and is on a self-destructive path from alcohol or drugs? The answer for me was to detach from my son Marvin, which sounded like abandonment to my mother’s heart. How could I live with that? But I wasn't helping him or myself. Something else was needed. What is detachment anyway?

"Detachment is the process where you allow another human being the respect to live their life the way they choose, and you do what is best for you."

What Is The Benefit Of Detachment

What I learned in Al-anon was that detachment is really a beautiful process. We don't have the right to force people to do things the way we think they should. And it doesn't work anyway. Everybody gets hurt. I realized that letting go in this way was exactly what I needed to do with Marvin and probably everyone else I know. Show them respect and allow them to live the life they chose. Isn't that what we want for ourselves, too?

What Did Detaching From Marvin Look Like:

  • I quit asking him a lot of questions
  • I stopped "stopping by" to count the empty wine bottles
  • I quit criticizing his choices
  • I no longer allowed him to be rude to me
  • I do not communicate with him when he is abusing alcohol 

I work hard to keep the boundaries I have put in place. Often, he doesn’t even care that I have left his life. It breaks my heart to have a son out in the world killing himself with alcohol. It could easily become a situation where the disease takes me down, but I know more now.

I Needed A Plan

What do I do when the pain rises up and I see him suffering alone in a disease he doesn’t even know he has?

I pick up my phone and text or call a friend who understands how deep my pain is and is willing to tell me the hard stuff to keep me from sacrificing myself for a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease.

  • She pulls me back from the edge and reminds me of the truth in a simple slogan,“I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it”
  • She lets me complain how hard it is to watch a son throw his life away that I worked so hard to give him
  • She knows when to ask how my other children are doing. This keeps me from making the mistake of forgetting the other innocent victims of substance abuse. She asks if they are doing well and I can honestly say they are all doing great. This leads the conversation to gratitude. I am reminded that 80% of my family doing great
  • She reminds me my son is on a spiritual journey and I am not invited. He has a Higher Power. He is not alone
  • She tells me to grieve for 10 minutes and then go on and live my day with serenity so the disease does not have two victims

My brilliant handsome son has a brain disease. He doesn’t know it and I love and miss him.

I continue to strive to live a life of service and joy. Most days I succeed, but even on my best day there is always a constant thought of him, like a low-grade fever. I haven't really abandoned Marvin. He is always present in my thoughts and prayers.

A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By Madeline Schloop


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Read 76578 times Last modified on Sunday, 25 June 2017 17:22
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Madeline Schloop

Madeline is the widow of a man who died of alcoholism and the mother of 5 young adults whom she parents with the tools of Al-Anon. Her children continue to be affected by the disease of alcoholism. Her stories  deal with life's daily trials and what has and hasn't worked.
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