This week I gave a financial awareness presentation to a group of young men and women in recovery at a renowned treatment program in Southern Florida. I quickly realized that everyone in the room had no idea what their parents were thinking or feeling about their being in treatment – then I thought back to my family’s situation years ago and remember having the exact same feelings and concerns. Empathy for this is what I think continues to allow the work I do to have an impact, I care because I understand.
Over the course of his active addiction we had completely lost the ability to communicate with our child. Especially in the initial stages of recovery, we were so scared that whatever we might say would trigger a relapse we chose small talk over meaningful conversation. I regret that.
Addiction is a family problem that money alone simply cannot solve. But left unchecked, the financial obligations can, and have, bankrupt a family. Each member of the family dynamic experiences financial stress from their unique perspective. I thought I was doing my child a favor by shielding him from the financial stress his recovery was putting on our family because I didn’t want him to worry. I assumed he had enough to worry about to begin with, why add this to the list? Looking back, I realize what a mistake that was as he became more brazen with his requests for financial support with little regard for the impact it had on the rest of us. He was ignorant to the reality of my wife and I’s personal lifestyle sacrifices that had to be made for his benefit.
Establishing financial boundaries was the key for us. We needed to make a stand, and our child needed to redirect his energies from manipulating us to becoming self-reliant. To accomplish this, he needed to understand the financial realities we faced as a family and accept responsibility for his recovery. I believe that became possible once we shared with him our family financial situation because of his addiction. As he awoke to the sobering realization that we didn’t have unlimited resources, he also began to understand that he needed to make smarter choices with whatever financial support we were willing to provide.
Arguing tore us apart. Empathy brought us together. Don’t assume your loved one knows what you are going through, or that they’re is incapable of understanding. You will be surprised what you will learn when you communicate. I know we were.