It can be extremely difficult to place your child in treatment for addiction. In addition to the emotional pain associated with having one of your children suffering from such a frightening disease, the process of finding the right program, getting the addict on board with treatment and actually getting him or her to the facility, is emotionally and physically exhausting. The truth is, however, that getting your son or daughter to treatment is the first step among many on the road to recovery.
Addiction and Families
Addiction does not only affect addicts. Everyone close to your son or daughter has been or will be impacted. This means that the following people are all potentially affected by your child’s disease:
- Your spouse
- Your other kids
- Your child’s friends
- Your parents and siblings (grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.)
- Community contacts (neighbors, church friends, sports teammates, etc.)
The circle of potential impact can be quite large, and anyone within it is at risk. Many bystanders, friends and loved ones feel guilty that they didn’t do enough to help. They may feel angry with the addict. They may feel betrayed. Depending on the circumstances they may be right. Addicted young people can become incredibly resourceful when it comes to feeding their disease. It is not at all uncommon to find that they have stolen from those they love. Some find drugs in relatives’ medicine cabinets. The possibilities for collateral damage are nearly endless and unless you and the others involved confront this head-on you all remain at risk for ongoing repercussions.
There are also commonly shared underlying symptoms experienced by families touched by addiction. There may be a genetic predisposition toward substance abuse in your family. There may be shared trauma due to abuse, neglect or tragedy. Addiction rarely impacts only one member of a family. Thus it is of the utmost importance that even as your child is in treatment you start working toward treating your whole family in appropriate ways. This might include something as informal as casual conversations with your other children or something as formal as organized family counseling. The good news is that there are many excellent recovery resources available to families. We can help you find the best ones out there.
Visiting Your Son or Daughter During Treatment
Removal from familiar, day-to-day triggers and stress is an important benefit of inpatient treatment. There will be opportunities for you to visit. Depending on the status of your relationship with your son or daughter these visits can either be encouraging or extremely difficult. Here are a few things to consider as you plan your visits:
- Focus on listening to your son or daughter
- Don’t spend time updating them on the drama going on at home
- Share any new things you have learned in your own therapy
- Assure your son or daughter of your continued belief and support
- Offer to attend any individual or group counseling sessions that you can
- Don’t fix blame, make excuses or issue threats
The time your son or daughter spends with you during visits should be focused on your support, his or her feelings, insights and needs. Be an active listener. Do not interrupt. Don’t expect too much, but don’t get in the way, either. Many parents benefit from pre-visitation meetings with counselors. These can be extremely helpful.
Preparing for Life After Rehab
As momentous as treatment feels, it is truly just the beginning of a long journey for both you and your child. Understanding and preparing for that reality is critical. When inpatient treatment ends the primary role of recovery support may fall to you. Intensive aftercare is as important as anything done during rehab. The following are just a few examples of ways you can encourage your son or daughter’s ongoing sobriety:
- Remove drugs and alcohol from your home
- Intentionally replace times and events previously associated with substance abuse (parties, family events) with carefully planned sober celebrations that are exciting and fun
- Attend Al Anon meetings and learn from other family members of addicts
- Discover the best support group meetings in your area and plan to attend them with your son or daughter several times a week
- Work with your counselor on identifying any behavioral habits of yours that may trigger drug use cravings in your child
- Create a culture of openness, sharing and positivity in your home
- Make sure the other members of your family are on board with this program and not doing anything to undermine it
- Attempt to find healthy, productive and enjoyable ways to keep your child occupied and engaged in life (avoid boredom, too much TV, etc.)
As is the case throughout life, there is always more to learn. Addiction is a disease with many layers. Demonstrate with your words and your actions that you are committed to the long-term recovery of your whole family.
24-Hour Family Recovery Helpline
If you have additional questions about what to do once your child enters treatment please call our toll-free helpline right now. Our staff members are standing by 24-hours a day with free, confidential, understanding advice. Don’t let pride, anger, frustration, denial or hopelessness keep you from engaging this process with all of your strength. Your child is counting on you. So is the rest of your family. Call now.