Sometimes We Have to Get Uncomfortable in Order to Grow

Having a child with an addiction can create a lot of chaos and discomfort in a family. Most people who find themselves reading this blog will know this from first-hand experience. Participation in a parent recovery program introduces perspective changes that help parents to cope with incredibly difficult  situations. One of these changes seen in both parents and addicts in recovery is that they are able to take the discomfort and pain that accompanies addiction and turn it into an opportunity to take a deep look inward at themselves. Often, I’ve seen them turn discomfort and chaos into a positive catalyst for change, growth, and self-improvement.

So, what are the roadblocks to change?

The avoidance of discomfort is a common way both parents and addicts stay stuck. Think of the parent who does not want to upset the applecart by placing healthy boundaries in the relationship, or the addict who does not want to face the discomfort of living in their own skin without chemicals or face the growing up that must come with recovery. The larger the potential for discomfort and the further away the payoff for change seems to be, the easier it is to avoid even trying.

When parents begin to feel hopeless, the avoidance of an uncomfortable change can become worse and behavior that keeps them stuck can set in. These behaviors can look any of the following ways: justifying current or past unhealthy responses to the addict, justifying the addict’s behavior, accepting that the addict is a victim, finding reasons to delay change, waiting for a day when the perfect conditions exist to act (the problem here is that the perfect conditions may not ever appear), or lowering the bar for how they allow themselves to be treated. If you have ever found yourself in this insanity loop, doing the same things over and over and getting the same results, you are definitely not alone. This type of  insanity is a predictable, but unhappy way to live.

Do not lose hope.

Our greatest moments of pain are usually when we reach for a helping hand, and when we most fervently seek God. Adversity and challenge, although painful, can bring the best out of us.  We may even surprise ourselves by being able to respond to difficult situations and come out the other side not only having survived, but also having learned something valuable. Courage and faith are necessary for change when we are afraid or in pain.

The perspective change of seeing our problems and discomforts as opportunities to be welcomed and as a chance to grow goes a long way to end suffering and provide opportunity for recovery.

Once a parent decides they are willing to withstand discomfort, they can stop making the addict comfortable and allow them to deal with the natural and logical consequences of their life choices. This allows the addict to have a real opportunity to take a look at their lives and make a decision to recover. They may or may not take the opportunity, but at the very least the parent can know they created the chance.

Having a support group for encouragement and support is critical in tolerating the discomfort that comes with these changes. There are countless stories of parents struggling to sleep when deciding not to return late night calls, saying “no more money,” and not bailing children out of jail. Having someone to call can make the unbearable, bearable. The support group also provides hope, because other parents have been able to change and feel good about themselves. There are also countless stories of recovering addicts sharing that the moment of willingness to change was preceded by a moment when no one came to their aid and they accepted it was time for a change. Many of these addicts report extreme gratitude for these moments saying things such as “I am so glad my parents had finally had enough or I would still be out using, incarcerated or possibly dead.”

So, we can now ask ourselves:

Is there a change I need to make that I am avoiding?

If I choose comfort all of the time, am I missing a chance for a positive change?

Am I keeping somebody else from an opportunity to change because I want to be comfortable?

and ultimately….

Am I willing to be uncomfortable in order to grow?

Many PAL parents have answered these questions and taken steps to find recovery, peace of mind and freedom from addiction. They have turned their discomfort, pain and fear into hope, faith, and peace of mind. Their experience can provide a roadmap for any parent who is ready to do the same.

Josh Azevedo is a guest blogger for PAL and is the Executive Director at The Pathway Program,