A wise man once told me that if I spent my life making only new mistakes, my life was truly a life of learning. I wasted a lot of time with my addict repeating mistakes that I had already made. Most of the time it was the result of being stuck in “rescue mode” – instead of finding alternative methods. At the time, I didn’t recognize rescue mode as a method of parenting or a result of living with an addicted child.
Rescue mode is when you continuously work on things that will not accomplish anything. With most of us, this does not just apply to our addict; it applies to our own lives as well.
Operating in rescue mode means you will react to every emotion, crisis and incident of drama in both your life and your addict’s life. Rescue mode will consume you and every ounce of your energy. It’s also self-perpetuating. The more rescuing you do, the more you will find to rescue.
Think of all the people that make it their life’s mission and job to rescue: Firefighters, police officers, military specialists, lifeguards. Not a single one of them attempts to rescue anyone without first understanding their boundaries. Without clear boundaries, rescuers become those who need rescuing, too. This applies to parents of addicts as well.
It’s very complicated thing when you love your child with all your heart but you hate what they have become and what is happening to them right in front of your eyes. The first step to your survival and moving beyond rescue mode is to recognize that you are failing to detach with love.
Detaching with love means understanding and buying into your own personal values and how they relate to the behavior you exhibit to your addict. This requires you to create the quiet time to really analyze what you believe about addiction and your child. It may also require you to seek outside counsel from friends, counselors and other groups. However, even with all of the help, this is still a deeply personal task.
To detach with love requires a bit of selfish behavior. It also requires good boundaries. If you do not take the time to set good boundaries and understand exactly how your boundaries match your core values, you will never escape rescue mode.
Detaching with love doesn’t mean to stop loving or believing in your child. Nor does it mean walking away or washing your hands of the whole situation.
Detaching with love is difficult, but necessary if you wish to rescue your child. This is something I struggle with daily, but it’s something that’s good for me and good for my son. If, as a parent, you want to do what’s best for your child — no matter how old he or she is and how much he or she may be struggling– you will work on this every day.
Wasted efforts and wasted time is the effort and time in which you learn nothing and in which you do not change yourself. It is a simple answer that becomes more complex with application. As with most things, the role these tips will play in the rescuing of your child will vary based on the family, the addict and the circumstances.