Why you can’t help your child who is using substances

It all starts with our natural coping mechanisms and why we aren’t helping ourselves either.

Apathy is a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.

It’s the feeling of not feeling and what I refer to as feeling numb.

Numbness was my preferred feeling for a few years. 

It was my coping mechanism when my daughter’s drug and alcohol use started because I felt defeated by it and powerless to help her.

The numbness helped me filter out the overwhelming pain I didn’t know how to handle or process

Have you ever been standing in the ocean facing the shore and suddenly a huge wave comes up behind you, catches you off guard, and next thing you know you are under water trying to stand up so you can catch your breath?

When those overwhelming feelings rolled in and caught me off guard, I was always eager to run back to my comfortable, barely existing, numbness. 

I had little or no interest in hobbies, friends, working out, or anything else I used to enjoy.  

I felt like I couldn’t commit to any plans because I never knew what was going to come up with my daughter.

So, rather than living my life, I laid in bed or a dark room and mindlessly surfed the internet or watched tv.

I knew I was stuck, but I wasn’t sure how to get out of it.

The problem is, in order to be driven to take action, you have to experience feelings about something. 

If you aren’t feeling anything, you aren’t going to be driven to do anything. 

If you are running from your feelings, it creates a vicious cycle of no feeling, no action, no feeling, no action.

Originally, my apathy was a relief because it was an escape from what was happening in my life, but the price was not really living, just existing, just surviving each day.

Instead of embracing unhappiness as part of the human experience and feeling it without resisting it, I avoided it.

BUT, not only did I avoid pain and sadness, I avoided happiness and fulfillment too.

There wasn’t a defining moment that made me change.

I was just sick of neglecting myself and not living my life.

There were many starts and stops along the way.

I would try to motivate myself through actions like working out, but I didn’t know actions are driven by thoughts and feelings so I couldn’t gain any momentum.

My thoughts were still negative, so of course my feelings were negative, which lead me right back to the negative behavior of laying in front of the TV.

Once I learned that thoughts drive feeling and action, I got some traction and made progress toward change. (read more about thoughts here http://heatherrosscoaching.com/the-secret-to-a-better-life/)

I had to take responsibility for my life and own what got me to that place of apathy and forgive myself for letting it happen.

From there I focused on self-care, self-discipline, structure, organization, and becoming willing to feel the full spectrum of human emotion  – good AND bad.

It was a process that took time, commitment, and willingness to try again when I failed.

It was also an opportunity to work on the parts of me that were willing to accept apathy as an option to begin with.

One of my favorite questions to ask myself is “how is this situation for me and not against me?”

I didn’t think anything could be FOR me when it came to my daughter’s substance use. 

Sometimes it’s hard for me to explain this because I’m not sure people can understand it if they haven’t experienced it, but her substance use was the catalyst that pushed me into enough discomfort to make major changes in my life.

That’s how it was for me and not against me. 

Those changes didn’t just stop at where I was before her substance use started, they took me to a new place of love, self-acceptance, and living intentionally.

That is why I always say you have to put your own oxygen mask on first – when I was numb and trying to avoid pain, I wasn’t as available for my daughter. 

I couldn’t fully support her the way I can today.

The best way to help and support your child with their substance use is to help and support yourself so you are available for them and can lead a healthy life by example.