Become a member of Allies in Recovery and we’ll teach you how to intervene, communicate and guide your loved one toward treatment.Become a member of Allies in Recovery today.

Facing the Truth About a Loved One

Closer look at Truth

The day you realize someone is not who you think they are — nor are they becoming who you hope they’ll be anytime soon—is a painful day.

It’s also a powerful one.

This is the day that living in the reality of truth can begin.

Seeing truth is especially important when it comes to those to whom we are the closest.

Over lunch some years back, my son’s teacher advised me to never take the “Not my child” attitude that many parents have. Before you know it, she cautioned, that can be your child. Your child might even be the ringleader!

When it comes to negative actions of those I care about, she taught me to always stop and ask, “Could this be true?”

It’s important to remember that although our kids might be angels in our eyes, they are human. Which means they are capable of failure, deception, ignorance, foolishness and recklessness.

They are also capable of redemption and restoration if they do take a wrong turn.

All kids go through seasons and phases of life that have nothing to do with who we believed we were molding them to become.

Which means yes – your son or daughter may one day lie, connive, manipulate, turn people against you, steal and even engage in unhealthy substance use.

Realizing that puts you ahead of the curve and can protect you from a blindside.

Many parents cannot accept that their kids are capable of lying, manipulating, or being at fault for problems. The blinders are on and they are on strong.

This thinking can cause us to miss important clues that something needs looking into.

By now we know that dysfunction and addiction can be — and are — happening everywhere, to everyone. We see it everywhere.

Even to “good families.”

It’s critical to know that while addiction is not a moral failing or a result of parental error—it does drive people to do things they many times would not ever do. Once it takes hold (regardless of how that came to pass), a person can be completely transformed.

Anyone is susceptible to an unexpected life event that could lead them down a despairing path.  And we never truly know what goes on in anyone else’s mind, or what might send them in a direction we would never have predicted.

Which means anyone — including your child, husband, wife, mother, father, best friend, neighbor, anyone—is capable of engaging in behavior that would shock you.

That does not mean we need to live in fear, or give up hope. It means we are wise to be open, aware and sensitive to signs, intuition and unexpected possibilities.

Resistance to seeing the reality of a loved one —  which is particularly difficult when it’s a son or daughter — will not serve us well. Nor will building a mental shrine to an innocent phase of the relationship, or believing they are not at fault for wrongs they might actually be choosing of their own volition.

“There can be no healing without truth.”  ~Desmond Tutu

Truth is transformative.

© OpenClipart-Vectors via pixabay

We need to see the best in those we love.  We also need to see the truth.

Truth will set you free.

Having the willingness to acknowledge and examine the truth is the first step toward improvement.  Once we look at things as they are, we can begin to formulate plans toward progress.

Allow yourself to ask the hard questions: Is it possible my son is lying? Could our daughter be manipulating us? Could nefarious drug or alcohol use be happening? Is it possible a relapse has occurred, even though I’m being told something different? Could my wife be keeping harmful secrets? Might my trusted friend or coworker be deceiving me? Could there be more to this situation?

It’s when we face the possibilities of a truth – any truth – we might be denying that we can roll up our sleeves, gather information and support, and come up with healthy strategies for managing the reality we might very well be faced with.

We can then find the way to solutions, sanity, peace, and progress.


“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”~James Garfield

Great advice once given to me: Consider all possible scenarios, prepare for the worst, hope for the best, believe in breakthroughs, and never give up!

Still learning,


Annie Highwater is a Writer, Speaker, Podcast Host and Family Advocate. She has a particular interest in family pathology and concepts of dysfunction, addiction, alcoholism and conflict. Annie published her memoir, Unhooked: A Mother’s Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son’s Addiction, in 2016. Her story sheds light on the personal challenges facing the affected parents and family members, and illustrates how family dynamics both help and hinder the recovery process. Annie’s second book, Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache was published in August of 2018. She resides in Columbus, Ohio and enjoys writing, long distance running, hiking, the great outdoors and visiting her son in California as often as possible.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. This is great Annie.

    This begins with me.

    There’s my concept of good, doing it and expectations; and then there’s G-d’s. I particularly liked your explanation of the INTERRUPTION a LO with SUD creates in my world.

    “The day you realize someone is not who you think they are — nor are they becoming who you hope they’ll be anytime soon—is a painful day.”

    For me, it created an overwhelming flood of COMMANDO dictates in my mind: “do something!” “Hurry!” “Get all these panicked people away from me” and QUESTIONS “what dad would do?” “Where is he/she?” “Who is giving them drugs?” and of course those question lead to a gazillion TO DO action items in my mind.

    All that is my description of the traffic jam or 30 car pileup that resulted after the day of realization.

    In hindsight, the best thing I could have done is to be methodical and start writing down every thought that entered my head in order to capture it and categorize it: Projectable, Actionable, Prayable, Delegatable, Deferable, Meditatable, etc. and gain allies in recovery and become one.

    I always was very organized in business and yet when the “painful day” hit it didn’t occur to me at first to apply the skills I use at work to bear this as well.

    Your “point” is very, very, very, important I feel. Let’s focus on that “painful day” and the skills to help ensure people don’t go through the unnecessary “wheel spinning” that I did at first.

    I love each and every one of you.

    Grateful for this site yet I really hope for the day we all get better at this and make the world a much better place to be human, as you say Annie. Thank you Annie.

    1. Dear 228,

      Wow, thank you so much for the beautiful and thought provoking response!

      The COMMANDO response is definitely one I relate to. I have had an obsession with the Navy SEALs processes for some years now and love to apply them to various dynamics of my own life. I love the concepts of box breathing, getting up early to take charge of my own thoughts before the day instills them, pushing myself harder today than yesterday, facing my own weaknesses and addressing them when an outside source hits a bruise, and so on. I listen to several podcasts and audio books written by SEALs, I love the drive, grit, fearlessness and motivation they inspire.

      Those qualities get things DONE and have helped me accomplish lofty goals without giving up or feeling sorry for myself! But I can also be too hard on myself and charge into problems ahead of peace and wisdom. Zeal cannot surpass intelligence! Hand and hand – they do beautiful things. But balance is so necessary, especially when it comes to navigating the sensitive terrain of addiction and relationships with those close to us. Skills are definitely needed! Calming, wisely thought out skills at that.

      Truth is a power tool, facing it prompts healing and progress. But balance is the key, no one wants to take a drink from a fire-hose. It’s a process, compassion for ourselves and others is crucial for it.

      Thank you so much!

      Much love,


  2. Thank you Annie for this straightforward and inspiring piece. Denial is a powerful force and keeps us stuck in the same dysfunctional patterns, ultimately leading to further pain and heartache. In my own journey as a parent of an addicted son I have learned that refusing to acknowledge and accept the truth is about protecting myself from feelings of failure and guilt. As much as I want to consider myself a “good enough” mother, I have learned that facing reality with courage and hope is the not only the best thing I can do for my son, but the only choice for peace within myself.
    My best,

    1. Dear Lori2,

      I knew I was heading in a healthy direction when I began to notice my motives for doing things. Introspection is not easy work, I admire anyone determined to look within and take ownership.

      Denial for me as well can be about my own feelings. I had to train myself to look for truth despite them. It takes time and no one should have to be great at accepting difficult things about those who are precious to us.

      Facing reality with courage and hope is definitely the best response, and not one without the other.

      Much respect,