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.


Mother watching boy walk away, walkman

A parent wrote me recently expressing his hurt at what his son had just done. The son, in early sobriety, wrote on his Facebook page that he had finally found a warm, loving family to live with. The son had moved to a new area and had moved in with the family of another young man in recovery.

What about his own family, the parents thought. What nerve, how hurtful!

A real zinger, no doubt, for a family that had been carrying the son through multiple efforts at sobriety: supporting him financially, providing him a safe respite when needed, running around the state when he got into trouble with the law.

There are two points that I think are worth making about this incident.

The first: we need to remind ourselves that individuals who struggle with substance abuse tend to be deeply self-involved.

This intense self-interest may be the result of the strong discomfort one feels in the world when addicted. So much of drug use is a response to an emotional or physical discomfort. When one is uncomfortable one thinks mainly about one’s self. As for this young man: he made a thoughtless comment on a public site, never thinking how it might feel to his parents when they read it.

The second point is to recognize that our hard emotions are, in part, the result of the interpretation we give to events in our lives.

If you’ll recall, in Video Module 7, we talk about how thoughts affect feelings, and how totally human it is to distort our thoughts in a way that makes our feelings unduly heavy.

The parents in this story took their son’s actions hard – perhaps too hard? It’s tough to get that distance from such a gesture, but what if the parents had chosen to say to themselves: “There he goes again, that ungrateful young man,” or “He’s really still not very well yet, he’ll come around.” Could they have taken their son’s comments less personally, laughed it off, shaken their heads, and returned to their day? Not easy, but when you feel zinged by what your Loved One does, recognize it, see how it feels in your body, and ask yourself “Am I giving this thought undue weight?”

We have a choice in the spin we put on events in our lives. We can make a conscious decision to remain centered in the face of others’ questionable behavior.



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. Thank you for the reminder to not take all of our loved one’s responses so personally. It is very difficult to do that when it really is all so personal – intimate – and so deeply touches our heart.

    I realized when I read zinged! ( which I thought of for myself as “Zinged AGAIN! ), that in this blog example, the son was only thinking in the moment and about himself, (posting his success that he found a loving home), the parent was doing the same thing -only thinking in the moment, about himself (I am being forgotten, disrespected etc).

    Of course it is easier too see a different road to take when the example is not my own life! The parent could instead, simply be thankful for his son finding a safe and sober environment. Perhaps acknowledge, or even cheer on, his good efforts.

    If cheering on, my caution, to not get “zinged again” would be to not let go of my hurt and cheer on my child to prove how big I am or to get a thank you or expect gratitude for my cheering him on — he may only get anger at me —eg, citing something I didn’t do — because around changing patterns – even for healing – there always seems to be a lot of residual anger — and hurt.