There is nothing that can prepare a parent on how to respond when you find out that your child is abusing alcohol or drugs. Preventing your child from using any substance is normally the goal. In spite of doing everything, your loved one may fall prey to substance abuse.
Effects of drug and alcohol abuse are more harmful to the youth under 21 as the brain is not fully formed. The abuse may alter the structure of the brain and the way it functions. Once the brain is altered, these effects may stay on even after the abuse has stopped. This makes it important to seek treatment as soon as possible once you find out about the substance use. Do not try to get this under the rug for fear of the stigma attached to treatment.
Be the Parent and lead the drug addiction treatment.
A year ago, my phone was lighting up with missed calls from one of my close friends. I knew something was not right. The call was to reach out to let me know that she just found out that her son was using drugs and she had no idea what to do next. With all the preparation I have had on addiction, I didn’t know what to tell her. I was wiling to be the venting board, as shock, anger and fear poured out. This was a great approach before confronting the child. This helped her process the information and also calm you down. Though discussing this with a spouse is important, you may need someone out of the family to keep you in perspective.
As a Christian, prayer plays a big role, first in recognizing that this is bigger than yourself and also knowing that there is a “bigger” power for help. Believing in God was a great help for my friend and I as we had our first line of defense as prayer. This will arm you as the parent with a peace that surpasses all under understanding under the circumstances to help you navigate the challenge ahead.
Your child will be defensive, and you need to be calm and at peace in spite of how scary this is.
Arm yourself with information about your Loved one.
There is a possibility that your child or teen will refuse to seek treatment or give you excuses why they can stop without treatment. You will have to be firm and deliberate to convince them to go for treatment. The rest of their life depends on it.
On top of this, you will need to understand as much as possible the nature of the disease you are dealing with and most importantly count the cost of the treatment and prepared when you talk to them on treatment.
Take some time to educate yourself on their drug of choice, how long they have been using, who of their friends are using, where does your child get the drugs. It may also be helpful to find out if there are underlying issues that may have contributed to the use, like trauma or major changes in the family, is there possible bullying or situations in school that are contributing. You may not get answers to all these but with as much knowledge as possible, you will be able to get your loved one to accept going for treatment without shaming or guilt them into the treatment.
Keep at the back of your mind the genetic make up of your child. In my family, addiction has never skipped a generation. Every family struggles with it and in a way it has been normalized. This made it hard for my parents to seek help for my brother and the longer they waited the harder it became to get him to get treatment.
Consult with a Professional
There is so much information on drug addiction treatment and drug and alcohol rehab centers that might throw you off in weeding out the right place for you. You will need to talk to someone who is willing to listen to your background and advise you professionally with your success in mind. Most of these places are commercial and getting you in is their end goal. You also need a place that is a good match for your individual case and not a one fit all place. Talk to a counselor who is not affiliated, a church community in your area or a parent that has gone through treatment.
Talk with your child and make a decision together.
In spite of the responsibility as a parent to take the lead, its important to use everything you have to influence your child’s decision. There is a temptation to take over responsibilities to get them into treatment, this is a choice your child will need to make themselves (albeit your skillful influence). There is enough evidence that forced treatment for short term programs of up to 12 months will fail and in some cases be worse than no help at all.
Addiction is a very complex disease, you cannot afford to push it under the rug. Reach out to someone, but do not be afraid, like every other complex disease, recovery is possible.
The goal of this website is to share my experience in addiction and recovery in the family and share helpful resources that works.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best,