When you love someone with addiction sometimes it’s hard to see the whole picture. When you’re too close, the lines get blurred and it can be difficult to recognize something for what it actually is. People outside the situation will say it looks obvious to them or, later when you’re looking back at it, it can be completely clear, but when you’re in the middle of it… well, that’s a different story.

Imagine climbing a mountain. As you’re clinging tightly to the face of a cliff, all you see is what is right there in that tiny little piece of rock you’re focused on. When you get to the top of the mountain you’ve got a clear 360° view and a much bigger picture. This is how it can feel when you’re in the middle of trying to save an addict. You’re holding on for dear life, trying not to let go, trying not to lose them. It’s hard to focus on more than that one moment.

When Laura was in active addiction, everything was an “emergency” to her. She’d call me day or night. She’d call 12 times in a row if that’s what it took to get me to answer the phone. Every time she’d expect me to drop whatever I was doing and come to her rescue. Usually her “emergencies” involved money. She needed money for food, rent, gas, doctors visits, etc. and she always needed it right that moment. Looking back on it, it’s so obvious to me that she needed money for the fix she felt she needed right that moment and she was willing to say or do whatever it took to get it. At the time, though, that was so difficult for me to see. I spent far too much time enabling her addiction, trying to help keep her on her feet. I was so afraid she was honestly in need and I’d swoop in to save the day.

Now David and I are going through this again. Matt has a drug problem. Of course, If you asked Matt he’d deny it. It’s easier for me to see this time though because we already went through it with Laura. Matt has been recently released from jail and contacted us 3 times since he’s been out. The first time was to ask for money for rent and groceries. Next is was for dentist. Yesterday he asked me for $50 for Uber to get to his probation appointment. If you’re wondering, No, we did not give him any money. My first reaction is to worry about him, wondering what will happen if he can’t pay his rent or misses a probation appointment. I have to force myself to stop and think rationally. View the situation through a different lens. I realize, if he goes back to jail, it’s because of his own choices in life.

Ultimately we want Matt in rehab, however, WE can’t make that happen. Rehab needs to be Matt’s choice and he’s not going to choose it until it’s all he has left to choose. My friend Jake used to tell me I needed to step back and let Laura hit rock bottom. I asked him “When will that be?” and he told me “When she stops digging.” As a parent, it can be so hard to get out of their way and let them implode. Matt isn’t going to admit he has a problem and needs help until his life becomes uncomfortable enough to make change feel less painful than staying the same.

When Matt asks me for money, I have to tell him No. I’ve offered him information about work he could do. He doesn’t seem too interested in that at the moment. If he loses his apartment because he can’t pay his rent, I’ll offer him help getting into rehab. If he chooses homelessness over rehab, that’s his choice. Does this make me sound cold? Maybe. I just have to remember that tough love is real love. Doing what’s right for someone isn’t always easy. Seeing my child from the perspective of something other than the mother who loves him isn’t always easy. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to see it the way it really is though. The picture is bigger than what’s right in front of you.

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