Being the parent of an addict can be one of life's hardest challenges. You may feel you are at fault and as if you somehow ruined your child's life. Worst of all, you fear he may go to jail, overdose, or die as you watch him fade away, lose friends, and drift. It probably makes you feel helpless, but there is help. You can take steps to feel more in control.
Investigate the type of addiction your child has so you can understand his or her disease and know how to help.
The following resources may provide helpful guidance and education.
- Drugs: National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIH) gives you a comprehensive overview of each possible drug. It provides trending research on the topic, refers you to related topics like HIV/AIDS, and offers other resources, as well as funding possibilities if you need them.
- Alcohol: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides information on alcohol, alcohol use, and treatment of alcohol-related problems.
- General Addiction: AddictionsandRecovery.org offers information on addiction and recovery for individuals and families
Recognize the Stages of Addiction
It is helpful to parents to recognize the four stages of addiction through which people progress.
Stage One: Experimentation
This is when the individual tries or is first exposed to the drug and begins engaging in the activity. The habit can range from Internet use to sampling alcohol to trying prescription drugs. The addict may start the habit for many reasons, such as:
- Peer pressure
- The need to conform
- To feel confident and happy
- To relieve stress
Stage Two: Regular Use
The individual finds the drug or behavior solves her problems. She turns to it more often to improve mood, resolve problems, or feel a sense of belonging.
Stage Three: Problem Use
In this stage, the individual feels he needs to have the drug to survive. The child has stepped from healthy to unhealthy use of the substance where, instead of him controlling how and when he wants to use it, the substance controls him.
Stage Four: Addiction
Here, the individual's thoughts and life revolve around the substance. It becomes a drug that maintains and sets his mood. Much of his money goes towards supporting his habit. The intense craving for the drug controls the individual and manipulates decision-making, health, relationships, and all aspects of life.
Don't Negatively Enable
Your child may seek your help in abetting his addiction through requests like transportation, money, or a place to live. Refusing can be difficult, particularly since addicts tend to be manipulative. Your child may accuse you of not caring for, neglecting, or hurting him. Withstand!
Enabling harms because:
- The money will be used for drugs instead of moving forward as the addict may promise.
- Your child will be made to feel even more dependent on you instead of learning to fend for himself.
Tough love pains you and your child, but it is the only way forward if you want to save his or her life. Only give money to pay for constructive things, such as a treatment center.
Let your child know that while you cannot continue abetting his harmful behavior, you do want to help her improve.
- Brainstorm with your child the best ways you can help.
- Unfortunately, society tends to label the addict as "victim." Although there is some truth to this, addicts tend to abuse the label. Let your child know he can beat this disease as he would want to beat a fever or other illness.
- Practice positive enabling by encouraging your child to control his or her destiny.
Support groups will help you stick to your resolve to not negatively enable. They will help keep you strong, provide a source of support for you, and may also provide other helpful resources.
The following groups offer support for parents of addicts.
- Addict's Mom is a support group for mothers of addicts and also sponsors other group including Addict's Dad for fathers and Addict for the person with the addiction.
- Nar-Anon Family Groups offers 12-Step programs for families and friends of addicts.
- Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL) Group offers both online and offline groups with an extensive network that provides emotional and practical support.
Bill Dinker, Director of Admissions at Discovery Place and a nationally recognized substance abuse recovery expert, insists nonprofit organizations are best for treatment. He quotes medical research for the efficacy of the 12-Step approach.
Most areas have local treatment resources available. Consider the following, as well:
- See the Addiction Resource Guide for a directory of treatment facilities that range the spectrum of addictions.
- Consider same-sex treatment centers which, Dinker says, beat co-ed programs that may have issues with guest interaction. The Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center Directory can direct you here.
- Long-term care may be necessary. Dinker quotes medical research that supports a minimum 90-day treatment plan. Long-term treatments offer your child the best chance for withdrawal. Try Addiction Connections Resource (ACR) for resources. They connect you with substance abuse prevention programs, addiction treatment centers, halfway houses, support groups, therapists, and other persons and/or organizations, all of whom provide extended treatment.
- Treatment is an expense few can afford. If you find yourself in that position, try Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which helps you find state-funded treatment centers.
Tell Family and Friends
Addiction has nothing to do with how you or anyone else has treated your child in the past. It is debatable whether addiction is a disease or brought on by peer pressure or experiences. Either way, your child owns his responses. Assure siblings and other family members addiction may be stigmatized, but it happens to people from all walks of life. Encourage friends and family not to fund the habit with money or a place to stay. This may help the addict stop her behavior.
See Addiction as a Disease
The Addict's Mom says seeing addiction as a disease helps you in three ways:
- It helps you move on. You are not responsible for your child's abuse and are powerless to cure it.
- It helps you persist against negative enabling since parents of addicts tend to revert to negative enabling to assuage their guilt.
- It helps you accept your child for who she is.
The following additional resources may also help.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) offers more than just suicide prevention. It can also help with a host of issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, and can connect individuals with a nearby professional.
- Children with addiction often deal with depression. If that's the case, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America may be your best bet.
- Awesome Library links to news, fact sheets, and other addiction lists.
- The Partnership at Drugfree.org is an organization that provides information and resources on teen drug use and addiction for parents to help them prevent and intervene in their children's drug use or find treatment for a child who needs it.
The sooner substance abuse is treated, the better. Recovery needs admission not delusion. Love your child but refuse to allow him the power to dismantle you. Have him know he is accountable for his future, and his only viable option is sobriety. The recovery process tends to be gruesome. It is hugely difficult for an individual to withdraw from the obsession. Most tend to bounce back and cycle through intense moments of depression and pain. The individual is going to need to learn how to sustain his mood, problem-solve, and make friends without reverting to drugs. This takes time, self-discipline, and buckets of support from parents and loved ones.