Nine Things To Do When Your Teen Is Struggling With Addiction
Discovering your child is fighting an addiction is one of the most difficult challenges a parent can face. Naturally, you’d be scared, helpless, and unsure of what to do next. You may also feel angry, ashamed, and guilty. But you are not alone in this battle. Substance abuse in teens is a significant concern in California and the nation.
As much as you should help your child seek help, make sure you get assistance. When you’re in the right state of mind, empowered, and have an active support system, you’re better equipped to help your child through this challenging time.
Attend Al-Anon Meeting
Al-Anon is a worldwide fellowship that supports families and friends of loved ones struggling with addiction. They have a three-fold purpose: to support, educate, and assist families and friends affected by alcoholism.
These groups are excellent resources for parents because they provide an outlet to express their feelings, share experiences, and gain strength and hope from others walking a similar path. Attending a California Al-Anon meeting enables you to detach with love from the teen while still providing support. These groups are anonymous and free of charge.
Educate Yourself on Addiction and Recovery
To best support your child, educate yourself on addiction and recovery. You will discover that addiction is a disease that takes over the mind and body. It changes the way your child thinks, feels, and acts. In other words, it makes them a different person.
Learning about addiction enables you to empathize and be patient. It also enables you to set appropriate boundaries while showing love and support. You’ll effectively deal with your child’s moods, habits, and out-of-control behaviors.
When you’re harsh, angry, or judgmental, it only makes the situation worse. The child might even distance themselves from you and other loved ones. To create a lasting bond, learn what to say or do instead. It’s also crucial that you educate yourself on the steps of recovery. These include:
- Admitting that there’s a problem
- Seeking professional help
- Detoxing from drugs or alcohol
- Attending therapy
- Participating in a 12-step program
- Making lifestyle changes
- Staying sober
Know What Not To Say
Anger, frustration, disappointment, and worry are all normal emotions when your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Process these feelings before talking to them. If you lash out, it’ll only make things worse.
You might say something you regret or hurts them. The teen could further distance themselves from you or become defensive. Instead, have a calm conversation. If you’re not sure what to say, here are some things to avoid:
- I’m so disappointed in you
- You’re ruining your life
- I can’t believe you would do this to me
- What were you thinking
- I’m so ashamed of you
- I can’t believe you would lie to me
- You’re not going to amount to anything
- I wish you were never born
Be Firm on Consequences
Be firm on the consequences if your child is still using drugs or alcohol. They need to know that there will be repercussions for their choices. It could mean losing their car, phone, or privileges. It might also include being kicked out of the house. If they violate your rules, follow through with the consequences. It shows them that you’re serious and will not enable their addiction.
When they get into trouble, don’t bail them out. Doing so will only enable bad behavior. If the teen gets a DUI in California, let them deal with the consequences. For a first-offense DUI in California, consequences for conviction include three years of informal probation and about $2000 fine, all combined with a first offender alcohol program. Allowing them to experience the adverse effects of their choices is a powerful motivator for change.
Get Professional Help
If you’re struggling to cope with your child’s addiction, get professional help. This could be a therapist, counselor, doctor, or clergy member who will provide support and guidance. They can also offer helpful resources.
Your child’s treatment center can provide referrals if you’re unsure where to turn. Let the professionals know how you feel, what’s going on, and what you need. Finding a support group of parents in similar situations can also be helpful. These parents can relate to what you’re going through and offer advice.
Encourage Them to Seek Treatment
Encouraging your child to seek treatment shows that you care, will support them, and want them to get better. It could be inpatient or outpatient rehab, therapy, or a 12-step program. If they’re reluctant, let them know you’ll help them research treatment options. You can also look for resources together. If they’re open to treatment, offer to take them to their first appointment. Also, follow up with them and see how they’re doing.
Encourage Them To Express Their Feelings
Understanding how your child is feeling helps you support them better. It can also repair your relationship. Encourage them to express their feelings by speaking out, journaling, or painting. If they’re not ready to talk, that’s okay. Just let them know you’re there when they’re ready.
Additionally, get to understand the cause of the addiction. It could be trauma, anxiety, depression, or abuse. Once you know the reason, you’ll help the teen develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Your child needs to make lifestyle changes to stay sober. Help them do so. You might have to change your lifestyle, too. It means not drinking or using drugs around them or enabling their addiction. If they’re hanging out with friends who use drugs, help them find new ones. Encourage them to join a club, sports team, or church group.
Additionally, find hobbies you both enjoy and do them together. It could include hiking, biking, sports, or concerts. Doing things together gives you quality time to bond. It also shows them that there are fun things to do without drugs or alcohol.
Support Their Recovery
Recovery is a long and challenging journey with good and bad days. Support your child through the ups and downs by attending therapy sessions and 12-step meetings with them. It also means being there for them when struggling.
When the teen makes progress, celebrate together. Go out to dinner or take a trip. Rewarding them shows that you’re proud of their accomplishments and want to help them stay on track.
If they relapse, don’t give up. It’s common in recovery, but it doesn’t mean your child is a lost cause. It just means they need more help and support. Get them back into treatment and continue to support their recovery.
Focus on Creating a Stronger and Healthier Bond
As much as it’s devastating to realize your teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it’s not the end of the world. They can recover and lead a happy, healthy life with treatment and support. In the process of recovery, you also have a chance of dealing with underlying issues such as trauma, anxiety, or depression. In the end, you create a stronger, healthier bond with your child.