Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: My question for Deepak, whom I am very thankful for in my quest for a closer connection to God, is: How can I deal emotionally with having adult children who are drug dependent? I have gone to Al-Anon for years and read all the daily readings, but when my child is using or his life is in chaos, like losing their houses or jobs or not being good parents, I don't know how to keep it from occupying my mind 24/7, and an overall feeling of doom surrounds me. I can do it with other people in my family, but not with my own children. I cannot find any literature that addresses this from a spiritual standpoint. I think this is one of the most common feelings of unhappiness that parents feel, because drug addiction is so prevalent in our society. When you go to sites that show you how to deal with not being at peace inside, they mention every aspect of you not finding fulfillment in daily life except this one. How can I as a parent let go of the pain and anxious feelings I feel? Please address this issue if you can. Thank you.

— Jeanette K., Carlton, Minnesota

Dear Jeanette,
I'd like to answer your question specifically. It would take hours and days to go into detail about parent-child relationships, but you are asking about guilt, anxiety and the frustration of not being able to help. In spiritual terms, this is an issue about attachment. Attachment makes you feel obsessed about your children's lives. It makes their pain feel like yours. You all but lose the boundary between you and them.

You can get beyond such attachments through a process that involves the following steps:

  • See that attachment isn't positive. It helps no one. The most effective therapists tend to be unattached, even detached. It gives them clarity and objectivity. It allows their skills to be used most effectively.

  • See that your attachment is harming you. As close as you feel toward your children, the life that is closest to you is your own. Sacrificing a good part of it to suffering is destructive. You must value yourself enough to want a good life for yourself. From this goodness, you will offer more help to those in need, not less.

  • Reject false hope, wishful thinking and the constant recurrence of "solutions" that never work and which your children reject anyway. If they say no, be an adult and accept that no means no.

  • Heal your wounds. Most addicts have lost the ability to care about those around them. They are in the habit of hurting, rejecting, betraying, keeping secrets and breaking faith. The disease works that way. But all that negative behavior has hurt you. Don't let parental guilt turn you into a punching bag or a rug to trample over. Heal yourself where you hurt.

  • Fulfill your primary relationship. You don't mention your husband, but if you are still married, repair your bridges with him. This is not a path to walk alone. Realize your children are not your primary relationship. If they are all you have, that still doesn't make it your primary relationship, because they aren't relating to you at all. Find someone to relate to who cares for you. They certainly don't.

  • Find a vision to follow. Right now, your vision is an illusion. It is fixed on the false notion that if you found just the right key, you would solve your children's lives. Please see that no parent solves any grown child's life, which means you haven't failed. It's impossible to fail at what was unachievable to begin with. The mind abhors a vacuum, and you need a purposeful goal in life to fill the place where anxiety and guilt now reside.

If you seriously undertake these steps, you will go long way to reclaiming your own life from the self-destructive tendencies that have set in. It's never too late to find yourself.


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Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.

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