It’s natural to feel a bit ashamed or indirectly stigmatized by a recovering parent’s condition. The United States is currently being wracked by a national drug epidemic that is ravaging the lives of millions and costing society billions of dollars annually. The senior population, in particular, has been hard hit by an addiction to drugs, especially to prescription medication. One study estimates the number of adults who are aged over 50 and hooked on drugs, to jump from an (annual) average of 2.8 million in 2002-06 to 5.7 million in 2020.
As the year marches on, consider some of the following ideas for reconciling with your recovering senior parent for the making of positive change together.
Participate in Therapy
Your rehabilitating senior parent may be undergoing therapy as part of recovery. Consider participating in some of the sessions. When directed by an experienced therapist, therapy can address traumatic issues underlying your relationship with your senior parent and pave the way for mutual healing. It can also teach you to better communicate, boost self-awareness, and encourage you to come to terms with the shame and stigma the both of you may be feeling over the addiction. Therapy sessions can also help treat the roots of the anxiety disorder or depression that led to the addiction in your senior parent in the first place.
Rekindle Your Shared Passions
It’s likely you and your loved one participated in a lot of happy, relationship-bonding activities before he or she succumbed to addiction. Find a way to rediscover these activities that had been so effective in bringing you two together before addiction reared its ugly head. Whether it’s playing baseball or going on a nature walk together, there are plenty of relationship-building activities you can both undertake that will generate joy. Your senior parent needs to be reminded that the happy days can come again, even after addiction.
Express Your Support
It’s important to constantly express support for senior parents as they undergo treatment. Tell your parent that you admire his or her perseverance and courage for facing the problem head-on, and follow up your expressions of support with action, such as sending cards and flowers.
Set Realistic Expectations
It’s valuable to recognize that your relationship with your senior parent will likely be forever changed as a result of the addiction. This isn’t necessarily bad. You and your parent may be introduced to new ways of communicating with each other that support a happy and healthy future. With practice and a lot of time, your newfound abilities to relate to each other should help to foster a new kind of relationship that may prove to be stronger than the relationship that existed before the addiction.
A Takeaway: Understanding Addiction
For a time, your senior parent may seem “lost” to you as he or she is in addiction. However, your recovering parent is now fighting a difficult battle and needs your support. By being there for your parent through thick and thin, you can help him or her overcome addiction.