As a parent of a child who suffers from addictions, any self-destructive behavior (like an eating disorder or cutting), a mental illness or a sexual identity issue, we tend to deny there’s a problem. We’re like an ostrich with it’s head in the sand. Denial is an obstacle we need to overcome to make progress in our difficult situations.
It’s so easy to get stuck. It’s too scary and too painful to admit that our child has a problem. There can’t really be a problem! Not my child! We don’t want to believe it. As time goes by it gets harder and harder to make excuses, to keep believing nothing is wrong, to ignore all the signs.
Why does this happen? I think there are many reasons. One reason is that we love our children so much that we don’t want to believe they aren’t the person they used to be when they were little. But they have changed. They are not the same. We must accept this and stop fooling ourselves.
Another reason is that if we admit there’s a problem then we have to do something about it. Admitting this means we have to make some hard changes. We’ll have to stop enabling; or we may need to see a counselor, or begin attending a support group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. We may need to take some strong steps like having them hospitalized or arrange for an intervention. We may even need to find a rehab program for them. We’ll also need to make the time to learn all we can about the issues they struggle with. These all demand a lot from us – time, emotions and finances.
We have a decision to make. Will we continue to live in denial or begin facing reality? Will we keep our heads in the sand or pick up our heads and be strong? It’s scary, but if we arm ourselves with good information and support from others we’ll be okay.
Denial is a natural part of our journey, but we can’t stay there. We need to face our fears and move toward acceptance. This is where we want to go – to the land of acceptance. That’s where we can begin to find peace. I can always use more peace. How about you? Are you ready to move beyond denial?
A book that has been helpful to my husband and I is from Al-Anon, Courage to Change. The readings offer a lot of wisdom and insights. You can order Al-Anon literature from their website: al-anon.alateen.org.