Expert Advice for Parents of Addicts

At Turnbridge, we recognize that addiction is a disease that not only affects a user, but also his or her entire family. Living with an addicted son or daughter is in no way easy. Perhaps that is why you are here. As a parent, you’ve probably spent most of your nights sleeping with one eye open – prepared to jump out of bed to go find your daughter, get your son out of trouble, or catch your teen sneaking out. You’ve had to hide your cash, your jewelry, your prescriptions from your child. You’ve also had to hide your worry and inner turmoil from outside family and friends. It’s been a long time since you’ve been able to breathe.

Now, it’s time. In this article, we outline our best advice for parents of addicts: not only on how to help your son or daughter into and through recovery, but also on how to help yourself through this difficult time:

  • Get educated.

Whether you have just discovered your child’s drug problem or have already placed your son or daughter in a drug rehab program, the importance of education is paramount. There are many misconceptions surrounding the disease of addiction, and as a parent of an addict, it is ever-important to understand that your son or daughter did not choose this path. While he or she may have made the initial choice to use drugs, your child did not choose to become an addict. Addiction affects a user’s brain, how they think and feel, how they make decisions, and how they handle impulse and self-control. By educating yourself on this disease, you can further educate others and diminish the stigma around substance addiction.

By educating yourself, you will also get a better understanding for your son or daughter’s journey. What triggered this drug use to begin with? Know that as a parent you did not cause it. Is there underlying mental issues that your child is facing, too? What is the best type of addiction treatment for your teen?

Finally, educate yourself not only on the signs of addiction, but also on how you, as a parent, can address them. By reading up on addiction and talking to addiction specialists, you can also prepare yourself for what to expect. One great resource is the NIDA website. If you just caught your son or daughter using drugs, you may also read our “What to Do” article here or view our infographic on early addiction and intervention.

Turnbridge’s family education weekend is another great resource for parents of addicts, helping families to understand the addiction illness, address their own feelings and trauma, and begin a path towards wellness.

  • Stop enabling.

As a parent of an addict, you must ask yourself, “Am I helping or am I enabling my child’s addiction?” Because there is a very fine line between the two.

Helping your child through drug addiction means that every action, every rule, every conversation, every effort you put forth is contributing to a healthy and sober life. It means acting in your child’s best interest and paving the path for recovery. Enabling, on the other hand, means making it easy for your son or daughter to continue using drugs. Often, enabling is unintended yet disguised by good intention. Do you bail your son out of trouble when he needs? Do you give your daughter money to buy lunch or gas? Do you make excuses when your son or daughter can’t attend a family party or make it through the school day?  Enabling often comes in the form of a parent offering help when their child should take care of it on their own. If you think you might be enabling your teen or young adult’s addiction, read the signs of enablement on Nomoreenabling.com.

  • Establish trust.

As your child’s drug use progressed, you may have found yourself getting angry, distant, and sad. Rightfully, you are experiencing many challenging emotions. However, these negative emotions (combined with your teen’s negative behaviors) can create a great sense of distrust and dishonesty in your relationship. As a parent, it is up to you to set the stage for positive and productive conversations, for openness and forgiveness. By doing so, your child will gain more trust in you, confide in you, and listen to what you have to say (and also what you say is best).

  • Encourage treatment.

Try not to focus on your child’s mistakes or the poor decisions he or she has made. Rather, remain optimistic and help your child see that he or she can do better. Encourage your teen to recognize his or her potential, make positive changes, take positive actions, and build a healthy life.

Through encouragement, you can also help your child take the positive (and necessary) step into a drug treatment program. As a parent, you can research the types of drug treatment facilities and talk to your son or daughter about the different options. You can listen to his or her needs, goals, and find a treatment program that aligns with them. You can also find a young adult treatment center that will allow you to stay involved, understanding that family support is a major component of recovery.

If your son or daughter is already enrolled in a drug treatment program, it is important to recognize that your work as a parent is not necessarily done. Rather, this is the time in which you must also take measures to rehab your life and your relationships. Your child’s addiction, undoubtedly, has taken a toll on you too. This is the beginning of your child’s and your recovery journey – it is also time to make the most of treatment. Here is Turnbridge’s expert advice for parents of addicts in treatment:  

  • Take care of yourself.

You have just made a major decision for your child. Now it’s time to focus on you. Get enough sleep. Leave yourself time to relax, exercise, and nourish your body and soul. Keep self-care a part of your routine, to keep your head from spinning. Your child is safe in a treatment facility; you can breathe.

As a parent of an addict, you should also look into therapy, meetings, and family support groups. Keep going to meetings until you find one that you like and feel comfortable in. Meetings and support groups are a great opportunity for you to hear about other families’ experiences with addiction, and to get firsthand advice for parents of addicts. If your child’s treatment facility offers workshops or family programs, go. And go often. Get support. Talk it out. Learn what to expect and how to cope with your child’s addiction. Remember, Turnbridge offers family support programs and parent support groups for both our young men’s and women’s programs.

  • Remember the 3 C’s.

We cannot emphasize the three C’s enough. As a parent, it is essential to know that you did not cause your child’s addiction. Addiction is a disease of the brain. You also cannot control it or your child’s behaviors alone. Even as a parent, you are not powerful enough to make your child do something. He or she has to desire that change on their own. However, you can change. You can make lifestyle changes, attitude changes, and find support for you.

  • Re-strengthen your relationship with your child.

Throughout your child’s drug use, you lost trust. You became distant. Your relationship with your son or daughter changed. Your teen became deceitful and manipulative. He or she lied to you on multiple occasions, and did not listen to your requests. More than likely, you are missing the “old days” with your child now.

In his or her addiction treatment program, your child is learning how to strengthen his or her sense of self. Your child is also learning healthy lifestyle habits and how to become the best person he or she can be. He or she is learning how to build meaningful, trusting relationships without drugs behind them. All of this will lead to a better relationship with you.

As a parent of an addict, you should take initiatives to do the same – to rebuild and re-strengthen your relationship with your child. This is not just a new page, but a new chapter; a new book. Communicate with your child. Let your child know how much you support them. Be there, always. But be firm, be productive, and stay positive. This will help both yours and your child’s recovery process.

To learn more about Turnbridge, explore our young adult rehab programs, or receive more expert advice for parents of addicts, please call 877-581-1793. If you would like to join our family education program, please visit www.tpaddictiontreatment.com/family-education-program.