My husband’s grandmother had two sayings, “you are only as happy as your least happy child” and “G-d invented death so you could stop worrying about your children!” For the record, her children were all well-settled, successful adults by the time I met her. I am not sure why she would have had cause to worry, which is why I found her outlook to be particularly fatalistic. Did my parents really care if I had a bad day in court? Certainly, becoming a parent didn’t mean that my happiness would be forever intertwined with the happiness of someone whose actions and decisions were independent of my own! I firmly believed, and still do, that parents have the right to have rich and meaningful lives apart from their children. As a parent myself now, however, I can now see that we were both right.
While it would be unhealthy for my every happiness to depend on my child’s day-to-day popularity on the playground, I could never be fully satisfied if I knew one of my children were ill or truly suffering. The struggles of the child, at least the big and serious ones, will always impact the parents. This is a fact of parenthood.
It is only natural then that a child (even an adult one) dealing with a serious disease would cause sleepless nights and worry for his or her parents. Just as a parent would worry about their diabetic child regulating their sugar intake, the parents of an addict, too, must worry about how their child is managing his disease. Has he sought treatment from a cocaine rehab clinic? Has she acknowledged the severity of her condition? The laundry list of worries begins to include previously unimaginable things: is my child safe from violence on the streets? Where is my child? Will she go to jail tonight? Will he steal from me? The previous question of “how will I pay for college,” is replaced with “how will I afford treatment and how will I tell my other children?”
With so many worries, old and new, it is easy for a parent to lose sight of his or her own goals, wants, and needs. It would be easy, as my sweet grandmother-in-law said, to let this ruin your own happiness. I am reminded of another old adage, however, which says that you cannot serve from an empty cup. That is to say, that if you have nothing left in your “emotional reserve,” it would be impossible to extend aid to your child in need. Taking care of “you” is not self-indulgent or frivolous, but rather a part of caring for your addicted loved-one. It is sort of like putting on your own oxygen mask first so that you can assist them later. Obviously, this can include therapy, support groups, drug addiction clinics, and eventually family therapy.
The choice to seek a lawyer during a family crisis may not be as common as seeking a therapist, but it may be equally important as you care for yourself and your family. At ELO we value families, even when they are in crisis. Our goal is to preserve your family roots while protecting the branches of your family tree against future damage. We are here for YOU. We strive to give you peace of mind. We provide guidance and comfort, care and support, through our wrap-around legal services for families in crisis. Join us for our series on legal issues that impact families dealing with the crisis of substance addiction. Each week we will cover a different legal need of families in crisis– I hope you will follow along so that, together, we may grow in our understanding of this complex topic.