Over the weekend, I had a long conversation with a friend whose son is battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol. It was heartbreaking listening to her story and knowing how little there is that she or I, for that matter, can do to help him.
She is trapped in a position of loving her son, willing to do anything to help him and yet unable to stop his addictive behaviour for him. She is forced to sit on the sideline, watching the train crash unfold as his life spirals out of control.
I feel her pain so deeply, having spent many years battling my addictions to gambling and alcohol. This year is the 20th anniversary of me stopping, but I can still remember like it was yesterday those self-destructive times.
For her, the difficulty lies in how best to help her son, and this is an almost impossible moral dilemma. He is the only person who can make a change in his life. Any help she gives before he has decided and committed to stop is likely to facilitate his continued addiction.
If she gives him money, he will use it to feed his habits, if she provides a roof over his head in the family home he brings chaos and destruction to her own home, if she gives accommodation then he turns it into a squalid den of addiction.
For him, the change will only come when he hits rock bottom. Until then, the fear and hardship of breaking his addiction are outweighed by the emotional comfort that it brings. Addiction will continue until he decides that living clean is the best option. It is a choice that only he can make.
So the moral dilemma for his mother is this. Do you continue to facilitate his addiction and at the same time slow or stop his descent to rock bottom, or do you withdraw help and watch him crash rapidly to the floor in the hope that there he can find the self-awareness needed to seek help in living a sober, clean life.
It is an impossible choice, and my thoughts and prayers are with her. The best advice I can give is to offer love and non-judgement to her son. Be there when he is ready to seek help and throughout the process, remind him that you love him warts and all.
If you are suffering on either side of this situation, then please know that you are not alone. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Seek help, find someone to talk too. Share the problem with others and believe in a brighter future. You have the power within you to change and improve your life. Be brave. You can do it.
Remember, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.