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.

The Ups & Downs of Being the Parent of …

mom showing son a brochure at table
Illustration © Eleanor Davis

A father writes about the emotional swings of being the parent of a son in early sobriety….

Getting [him] to commit to anything is like pulling teeth. I had to contact the house manager to see if [he] had made a plan to get here. And, he still has not found a job, despite the fact that we paid his December rent with the agreement that he would find work. So, tonight my switch flipped. That is, my pent up worry, concern and probably anxiety flipped over the line into the territory of resentment, anger, bitterness, frustration and loss of patience. I mean, I am so far detached that I am dis-associated!  Let him work this thing out and call me when he is done — know what I mean? I've had it with his procrastination, excuses, lack of motivation, depression and self-centeredness. I am really not interested in helping out; let him do the work. This has picked at the fabric of our own lives long enough — as well as others' lives in the family. Why does saying that make me feel guilty? Why does saying that make me feel disappointed in myself for giving in to such negative feelings? I am truly pretty strong emotionally, disciplined, able to put up with discomfort; yet, this emotional pressure from him has caused me to cave, lose my cool and entertain such vindictive thoughts. Maybe it is the holiday spirit that has been repressed, forced to the back of the bus by concern over his ability to pull himself forward. I did talk about this at our support group meeting tonight and it was good to do so.

Getting sober is the first step in building a life, but it isn’t sufficient. People with substance problems substitute the drug or the alcohol for an honest connection to others; remove that drug or alcohol and your Loved One isn’t magically restored to a model citizen. Dr. John Fitzgerald talks about the early connection young people develop with objects of addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling). He explains how these relationships to objects act as a substitute for a connection with humans, and how this causes delays in the ability to form healthy relationships. Here is a 2-minute video of Dr. John presenting this idea:

Dr. John explains how people with addictions cheat themselves of the developmental experiences that they need to learn how to connect in intimate ways with people. Relating to others is often at the level of a child.

The good news is that treatments exist which address the relational aspect. Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous help create community and encourage sober relationships … it can be a bumpy ride, no doubt. Facing relationships with weak relationship skills takes courage. Improving those skills takes awareness. That’s why good therapy or a therapy group that focuses on relationships are so helpful.

You may just be catching your breath. Yet it may be necessary to use the skills you’ve acquired on this site one more time, this time to get your Loved One, now sober, to accept more help. Start by identifying a therapist or group in your area. Do your homework: cost, openings, therapeutic approach. Wait for a moment in which your Loved One has a wish or a dip, and then suggest the options you’ve identified. Go to Module 8 to get practical advice on how to present the idea of therapy.



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"...)