An Open Letter to Parents on Loving your Child through Addiction

In 2010, my parents received an urgent call from me: my roommate was spying on me. This wasn’t the truth but this is what my brain was telling me – my printer was taking pictures of me; my phone was hacked; and there most definitely were video cameras in my air vents.

This was the first time my parents would realize that their adult child was addicted to drugs.  

I had been taking Adderall for the last six months & when I started abusing it – my brain broke & sent me into psychosis. My parents were psychologists so they had seen this before – not in me, but in their clients. They flew out to California to help me & told my psychiatrist to STOP prescribing me Adderall.

I was pissed. I was also withdrawing & when people withdraw suddenly from an amphetamine they go into a deep depression. I was there – I was in it. I was miserable. I threatened suicide & my parents called the police. I was handcuffed & taken to a psych ward in Los Angeles. It was not pleasant. I didn’t belong there. These people were crazy. I was not. (Even though at that time I was crazy,)

The psych ward held me for the maximum amount of time – 72 hours – & I went home to write my parents a scathing letter about how much I hated them. I was livid. I was also not myself.

This wouldn’t be the last time my addiction broke my parents’ heart. In fact, it would go on for four more years.

And my addiction didn’t only break my parents’ heart, but my friends’ hearts, & the rest of my family. There are loads of stories I can tell you. Stories that get even worse, but if you are a parent or have a loved one who is addicted than I imagine you have stories of your own.

  • You don’t recognize the person you love.
  • You don’t know how to help them.
  • You’ve tried to help them & they won’t listen – in fact, you trying to help them seems to make your relationship worse.

When we are deep in addiction – we manipulate & lie. We say things aren’t as bad as they really are. When we are in this cycle of addiction – it’s hard to get out. We push everyone away but what we really need to know is that we are still loved.

I admit there were times when my father’s eyes broke me because they didn’t see me – they were disgusted with me. (And I would be disgusted with me too.) But, those moments were fleeting & what I saw more often than anything is that my parents loved me. If I did not know this love, if my parents had stopped answering my phone calls, if they had just removed me from their life to protect their well-being, I would not be where I am today.

There is a notion of tough love that has no evidence that it really works. And maybe the notion of unconditional love can be invalidated by some. However, my experience tells me that I needed unconditional love.

  •  I know that my parents saved my life.
  • I want you to know that we can change & we do.
  • I want you to know that it’s absolutely OK to put your own oxygen mask on before you even try to rescue/save/help anyone.
  • I want you to know that you are not alone – that I have many parents who reach out to me who don’t know what to do..
  •  I want you to know that you should find community support & talk to other families who are going through the same thing as you.
  • I want you to know that you should share your story with your trusted friends & family & talk about the hard things & ask for help.
  • I want you to know that your love has the potential to save a life – to change a life – to redirect a person into recovery.
  • I want you to know that it’s OK to be angry, pissed, disappointed.
  • I want to thank you for breathing through fear & anxiety & sleepless nights. The ones who love us are our angels. Even when we don’t tell you that you are an angel – please know you are.
  • You are light in a very dark world.
  • We are alone. We are scared. We don’t want to admit how far gone we are.
  • We want to quit, but we can’t.
  • We want to make you proud but we don’t know how anymore.
  • We’ve tried on our own and it doesn’t work.

But one day, because you loved us – we might wake up & think that it’s possible to change. Because we know that even though everyone around us has no interest in a relationship, you do. You still want a relationship with us.

There was a time in late 2012, when I was living in a seedy hotel room in downtown Hollywood with my boyfriend whom I had met in rehab. My addiction had gotten so bad that I didn’t want to live anymore. It was the first time I was willing to take action on that thought. I went to my car and I swallowed half a bottle of my boyfriend’s pills. I was ready to die. But suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I thought about my parents and the rest of my family. I thought about how much they loved me & even though I was half dead – that thought of love – it saved my life – because I didn’t swallow the rest of those pills.

If you’re reading this letter, I imagine you have heard the term enabling and tough love: you’ve been told to stop enabling your child’s addiction, but love is not enabling. Love is lifesaving. Love leads us with breath and hope. 

Here’s what my parents didn’t do:

  • My parents didn’t let me live with them if I was using drugs.
  • My parents stopped giving me money when they realized it was just being used to fund my addiction.
  • My parents didn’t allow my addiction to run their life.

Here’s what my parents did do:

  • My parents answered the phone every time I called.
  • My parents flew across the country to help me – multiple times.
  • My parents told their friends and family what was going on and removed the stigma and shame that addiction can’t happen to children who were raised with all the love in the world.
  • My parents helped me find treatment & drove me to rehab every time I went.
  • My parents always told me that they loved me regardless of what I had just done to hurt them.

Because my parents showed me this type of love & listened to their own hearts on what was wrong & what was right on how to deal with their addicted child – I will be 5 years sober on February 10, 2019. I didn’t think I could make it one day, let alone 90 days, let alone 1 year – but here I am – a woman who stands tall in her story. 

  • A woman who has rebuilt relationships with most everyone she hurt.
  • A woman who talks to her parents weekly.
  • A woman who has a job, and pays bills, & doesn’t beg her parents for money.
  • A woman who uses her own story to help other people find recovery.

In the last 5 years, I have grown into a person I am proud to be. It makes me happy that my parents are proud of me. But what matters, above all else, is that I know the true value of family – they never left me & unconditional love saved me, no matter how bad it got.


All my Love,