Relying on medication and substances to shift our mood and internal experience seems to be rampant in the American culture. It’s the very reason why people drink coffee in the morning; they want to jump start their energy with a shot of caffeine.
On the one hand there’s nothing wrong with this, but on the other, if the drug is being used to compensate for a perceived weakness or to hide from feelings, then that drug can easily become an addiction.
For instance, one woman, who was about to get on a plane, needed to take a sedative because she was anxious about almost every aspect of her trip – the tension associated with going through airport security, her fear of flying, her apprehension of leaving her children for two weeks, her dislike and discomfort with sleeping in a foreign bed, and a host of other anxious feelings. She knew that taking the sedative would ease the anxiety to help her enjoy the two-week vacation she had been working all year for.
This woman’s story sends the message we can rely on medication and substances to take our problems away. And if she were a parent, it sends the wrong idea to her children. Ideally, she might have taken sedatives while she worked with a therapist to uncover the root of her anxiety, which was symptomatic during certain situations in her life.
Another example is when a person wants to calm down and believes that in order to do so medication is necessary, the medication becomes a crutch. The sense of relief, happiness, or relaxation experienced with the medication is not authentic. Finding a sense of calm is not sourced from one’s own power to relax.
An addiction is alive in one’s life when a drug is necessary in order to achieve certain psychological results. It’s an easy cycle to get into. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM) explains that the activation of the brain’s reward system is the key to drug addiction. A psychological dependence is the need for a particular substance because it causes enjoyable mental effects. One has lost his or her power to the drug, feeling the need to take it in order to avoid certain inner experiences and create new ones.
Parents, if you’re in a sober living program, it was likely a long and hard journey to get to where you are now. Perhaps you want to prevent the abuse of alcohol in those you love. You may want to do your best to support sober living in your children, especially if they are young adults.
Of course, they’re going to do what they’re going to do, and maybe they need to learn their own lessons. But you can provide them with guidelines. You can let your life be an example of sober living and of what to avoid. Your long journey of addiction and finally finding sober help can be a model for them.
Certainly, one pivotal component to parenting is modeling the balance between the ability to access one’s own personal power and the need to rely on external sources to regain our power when we’ve lost it. Powerlessness is at the root of addiction. As parents, if you can empower your children to be strong, resourceful, and self-reliant, they will likely avoid the dangers of drug use and addiction.
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