Advice for Parents Whose Child Is Addicted

It can be devastating for parents to discover that their child is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Parents who have dealt with an adult child suffering from addiction commonly experience initial feelings of guilt and hopelessness. It is not unusual for them to feel that they are to blame for the fact that their child is addicted, but this is rarely the case.

Make Use of Counseling and Therapy

Parents should understand that if their child is addicted, it doesn’t mean they are to blame. This understanding only comes through learning about addiction. Many psychiatrists, support groups and treatment facilities offer counseling and therapy to parents and other family members to help them understand addiction and to show them the best ways to deal with it.

A crucial factor in dealing with addiction is realizing that it is an illness. If you have a child who suffers from addiction, researching the illness will help you to handle how it affects your life. If you don’t really understand what your addicted son or daughter is going through, you will find it much more difficult to have positive interactions.

Don’t Let Go of Love and Hope

Addiction causes behavioral changes that can trigger serious disruption in family life. Lies and deception are common symptoms when a child is addicted, and distrust between family members can grow as a result.

Betrayal of trust is difficult to cope with, but it is vital to keep lines of communication open with an adult child who is addicted. As hard as it may be, parents need to continue to show their love and support. This is not the same as endorsing or approving of negative behavior. You can point out that you do not like and will not accept negative and harmful behavior, but do so from a place of love.

Try to persuade your child that recovery programs offer the best hope of getting healthy again. Do your research into the treatment programs available, and decide which ones are best suited to your circumstances and that of the child who is addicted. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that recovery programs of less than 90 days duration are generally less effective than 90-day stays or longer.1

Understand You Are Not Alone

While discovering your child has an addiction or substance use disorder can be traumatic, be assured that yours is not a unique situation. There are more than 23 million people suffering from addiction in the U.S. Because the scale of the problem is so large, there are numerous resources you can turn to for help and guidance.

Feelings of embarrassment, guilt or shame are commonplace, but do not let them prevent you from seeking help. Your primary physician or spiritual advisor could be a good place to start. Another option is to contact an addiction support group, such as Al-Anon, that is likely to have many local chapters.2 You can rest assured that the people you’ll meet in these groups will have met many other parents in your position.

Although your child is addicted and faces a major challenge getting sober, many others with similar situations have successfully tackled the illness of addiction. Recovery is possible; stay positive and hopeful, and support their efforts to heal.


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