Tips For Parents Of Addicts
If you have addict children, the good news is, the situation isn’t hopeless. The bad news is, you’re no longer in control and you’re probably facing the hardest problem you’ve ever faced. This article will give you some tips on how to steer them in the right direction without you getting run over. While recovery is always the addicts choice, as parents, you can help lead them to that choice.
Understanding Addiction: It doesn’t matter what substance your child is addicted to, addiction is the same. It usually begins in the teen years, because that’s when we’re vulnerable to a negative self-image, and when our peers would like to give us one. So, we try a little personality booster in the form of drugs or alcohol. That takes our minds off self-image temporarily, but the fact we “need” something to feel normal only makes us feel worse, and need more the next time around. Unless they hit bottom and become willing to do what it takes to recover, this cycle drives teens deeper and deeper into addiction.
Guilt And Codependency: As the parent, you probably didn’t know until they were hooked. Then they blamed you for “not caring.” You blame yourself for not knowing. Both your kids and you suspect that something you did or didn’t do is the reason they’re addicted. Let’s start with you…GET OFF IT! You’re doing the best you can and guilt is only going to make you less than your best. Let’s move on to your addicted child.
If an addict has his way, everyone around him will feel responsible for his addiction and try to support the addiction out of guilt. Addicts lie and manipulate their loved ones so they can continue and increase their addiction. If parents fall for this, it’s the beginning of codependency, where you become addicted to helping your addict child. For your sake, the family’s sake, and especially for the sake of the addict, you can’t let this happen. If it does, the whole family will go down the drain as the addict uses each one of you until there is nothing left. So, how do you stop it?
Parents With Teenage Addicts: If the addict is still a minor teenager in your house, you have more control over them. Until they just refuse to comply, you may be able to restrict friendships, unsupervised time and time away from home. Even then, a lot can happen when you’re not looking. Any child addicted to drugs should not be allowed to have a cell phone, pager, car, allowance, or lunch money. All of these are vehicles to more drugs. You should regularly search their rooms, clothes, other property, public areas in and around the house for drugs, alcohol, drug equipment. If you allow them a computer, you should invest in software that allows you to go where they go and see everything they write or post in chatrooms and blogs. You should search them when they enter the house and question them closely when they leave the house.
Of course, this will result in you being the worst person on the face of the planet…so be it. Always try the loving, supportive approach, first, offering to get them counseling or other help, but be ready for it to become tough love quickly after that. Confront them about everything. If they’re addicted, it won’t take long before you’re out of options. If you have a year or two until they turn 18 and they refuse to quit, get the authorities involved. This isn’t easy, but has a better chance for success than screaming or beatings. Contact the school counselor or Principle (if they haven’t already contacted you) and ask for advice. Do the same with your police department’s social services agency. Make sure the child knows why you’re doing this.
Parents With Older Addicts: If you have an addict who is over 18 living with you, things are a bit different. All of the inspection and investigation stuff still applies. Obviously, restricting friends is out. Getting the police involved would be a very last resort, because now it’s a matter of permanent criminal record. Still, if your older child continues in an addiction while living under your roof, the whole family is at risk. You don’t have the same control over the older child, but you have one big, all-powerful option you didn’t have before…you can kick them out of the house. Does this sound unloving and unsupportive?
Think about it from another perspective. If you didn’t evict a drug-addicted adult child and drugs were found in the home, you could be arrested, you could lose your job, your other children, your home…all because you wanted to seem supportive. Probably the biggest reason to kick the child out is…it’s best for the child. While you’re providing food and shelter to addicts, they can use money for their addiction that would normally go for food, shelter and clothing. Letting them continue to live there is as if you’re supplying the drugs. The loving thing to do is to put them out and let them fall on their faces in the gutter, if that’s what it takes for them to hit bottom and begin recovery.
The preceding tips may seem hard or cruel, but the addiction is what’s cruel. By being firm and practicing tough love, you have the best chance of saving the life of your child. A wise man once said, “Love is doing what will help a friend, even if it means you lose the friendship.” I know you love your child enough to do what will help, even if it hurts you to do so. That’s what being a parent is all about.