When I was little, my mom used to make my siblings and I put on jackets whenever she felt cold, even if we weren’t cold at all. She didn’t want us to get sick, so, even though we lived in Southern California and it was barely ever chilly, she always made sure we were protected against the cold. A lot of parents do the very same thing. They would do anything to avoid their children getting hurt, and so they protect us in the best ways they can.
There are many things, however, that are completely out of their control. And I know how frustrating it must be for them to think that their best efforts weren’t enough to protect their kids. This was the case in my family.
I had the best parents a child could ask for. They raised us with love and were always the best example of integrity. And I still became a child alcoholic.
All through my preteen and teenage years, I abused alcohol. I was a good liar, so at first, they didn’t realize I was consuming. But as I got older and started drinking more, it became more evident I had a problem. I watched them suffer for many years, not knowing how to deal with a situation they never thought would happen to one of their children.
When I was in my 20s I decided to get sober. I checked into a rehabilitation center, and even though I hadn’t spoken to my parents or siblings in years, when I told them I was getting clean they supported me and helped me get through the recovery process.
Dealing with an addict child is difficult and heart-breaking. I have been sober for 9 years now, and I would like to share 5 ways parents can help an addict child.
1. Learn About Addiction
Alcohol addiction and addiction in general can come in many forms, and, therefore, there are different treatments. Learning about the science behind addiction can help you find out what the best treatment options are for your child. The information is very accessible. You can find all sorts of online resources to learn about addiction.
Learning about addiction can also help you understand what your child is going through. We tend to think the addict doesn’t want to get better or doesn’t have strong enough willpower. But, actually, addiction takes a lot more than willpower to overcome. It alters your brain’s chemical processes to the point where no matter how strong-willed you are, you can’t stop yourself from consuming. Knowing this can help you let go of the anger and focus on helping your child heal.
2. Do an Intervention, if Necessary
Denial is a part of addiction, and, no matter how evident it is that he or she has a problem and needs help, your kid will probably deny it when you suggest it. As a former addict, I remember doing whatever it took to cover and protect my addiction. I lied about what I did after school and still managed to get good grades. I became a great actor. I hid alcohol in places I knew no one would look. And when my parents did find out and suggested treatment, I got terribly mad, denied it all, and started lying even better.
If this is the case with your child, an intervention might be a good idea. The main goal of an intervention is to help your son or daughter realize there’s a problem and get him or her to accept help. It is an impromptu meeting where the people who are closest to the addict confront him or her with how the addiction has affected their lives and ask the addict to get help. It is best to do it with a professional who can coach you on how to speak with your child. This will help your addict child understand that you want what’s best for him or her, calmly and with love.
3. Connect With Understanding Peers
It’s not easy living with an addict child, and it is often the parents who suffer more than the addicts themselves. Sometimes it can get overwhelming, and connecting with other families who are going through the same situation can help you lower your stress and feel better.
My parents attended Al-Anon and Alateen meetings, and they say those meetings were one of the things that helped them the most when they felt frustrated and sad. It was a safe place for them to share their worries and experiences, get advice and learn and discuss addiction with families that understood them perfectly.
4. Take Care of Yourself
The only way you can help your child is by helping yourself first. Dealing with addiction in your family can be energy-draining. Parents sometimes stop thinking about themselves to focus only on their child, but this can be counterproductive since it can lead to neglect of their own self-care, conflicts with partners, and resentment.
Don’t forget about yourself during these challenging times. Remember to eat healthily, exercise regularly and do activities you enjoy frequently, such as playing an instrument, reading, volunteering, or anything you find pleasure in doing.
5. Remind Your Child You Support Them
When your kid finally accepts treatment, recovery will be one of the most difficult challenges he or she will ever have to face. During this time, regardless of the type of treatment you choose, it is essential to be there for your child every step of the way. There will be times when he or she will feel weak, guilty, stressed, sad, and a whole mix of other emotions. Reminding him that you love him (or her if it’s your daughter), that you don’t blame him, that you believe in him, can lift his spirits in the darkest moments.
Remember not to blame yourself for your child’s addiction. These things happen. We all face difficult situations at times; that’s just life. I know my addiction was really hard on my parents, and it took awhile for me to be able to forgive myself for causing them such pain. But, at the end of the day, if it weren’t for their unconditional love and support, I wouldn’t be where I am today: happy, healthy and successful.
There will be moments when you feel hopeless, lost and frustrated. But addiction can be treated, and your child can overcome it. Never lose hope. If anything, overcoming addiction as a family will make you closer to your child, and it will definitely make you all stronger.
Do you have any questions about how to help your addict child? If you’d like to ask something or make a suggestion, please leave a comment below.
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Author Bio: Andy Macia is now 9 years sober and is an active blogger on the subject of drug and alcohol addiction. He has written this post on the mental health benefits of sobriety on behalf of Northpoint Recovery, specialists in drug and alcohol detox and rehab treatment.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc.
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