5 Lessons for Parents of Young Adult Addicts

None of us ever think that one day our child or children may be addicted to drugs or alcohol. But youth transitioning into adulthood have some of the highest rates of alcohol and substance abuse. For instance, rates of binge drinking in 2014 were 28.5% for people ages 18 to 20, and 43.3% for people ages 21 to 25
While the motivation and reasoning behind substance use in teens and young adults varies a great deal depending on their family, school and social life, and personal mental and physical health problems, nearly 1 in 5 use illicit substances. Of these, only 150,000 per year ever seek out professional help for recovery.
As parents, it is our responsibility to take steps to help our children fix themselves. If you are the parent of a young adult with a substance abuse problem, these 5 lessons can help you to make the right choices.
1. Things Have to Change – Most people don’t become addicted because they are happy, well adjusted, with great social relationships and lives. While you are most likely not a direct cause of their addiction (you may be if you have mental problems, relationship problems, have suffered from domestic abuse, are frequently not there for your child, etc.), addictions are most often the direct result of emotional and psychological problems such as stress, anxiety, fear, trauma, depression, or another strong emotion. Substances like drugs, alcohol, pain pills, and even the high from paint or glue can provide a form of escapism, in which young adults don’t have to face their problems but can simply enjoy life without worrying. Problems can stem from nearly anything, including trauma, bullying, overwork or stress from school workloads, high-expectations at home, traumatic family environments (for example, if you’ve been through a divorce, a family member has died, etc.), anxiety or depression, emotion unavailability at home (parents are always working/busy), and much more. The important thing is to recognize that if your child is addicted, there are most likely problems in their life, and you will have to take steps to correct those problems to help them move forward. Whether correcting those problems is seeking out relationship therapy, moving your child to a Recovery High School, or taking them to therapy to work out problems entirely depends on the original problem.
2. You Play a Role in Their Addiction – You are not to blame for your child’s addiction. However, you do play a role in it and in their recovery. Parents can function as enablers and codependents as easily as they can function as helping hands and guides, and it is crucial that you recognize this as a fact so that you can step back, review your behavior, and make better decisions as you move forward. Enabling behavior, where you allow them to continue using to avoid confrontation, rejection, shame, community disapproval, or other negative emotions, is harmful to both you and your child. Enabling behavior can be lying to their school, doing their homework, allowing them to go out with friends who use or drink, allowing them access to pain pills or medication, giving second chances they don’t deserve, loaning money, and otherwise giving them the tools to continue their addiction. If you recognize that any of your behavior is allowing your child to continue their addiction, it is important to step back, create rules and guidelines for yourself, and to move away from that behavior.
3. You Need Help Coping – Addiction often brings out the worst in teens who are already going through tumultuous emotional and hormonal changes. Addicted teens can express apathy, anger, reckless behavior, poor decision making, and a host of other problems. Parents are often driven to the limit, and if you find yourself saying “I just can’t take it anymore”, you’re probably right. Organizations like Al-Anon and Families Anonymous exist to help you cope with addicted family members, and you will meet others who share similar experiences, which will help you with coping. Finding an outlet will enable you to be a better parent, because you can focus more of your energy on offering the non judgemental support and care that your teen needs to recover, and less on being angry, stressed, and frustrated. The more stressed you are, the more difficult it is to make the right decision for your child, and the more difficult it is to avoid reacting with anger. Take the time to find a group you can talk with, take steps to find a physical outlet such as swimming or walking, and ensure that you are in a physical and mental condition to make better choices for your child.
4. Loving Unconditionally Is Always Right – While organizations like Tough Love recommend using harsh treatment, consequences, and other ‘tough love‘ tactics to punish teens who turn to drugs, studies show that it doesn’t work. Instead, tough love policies often break down existing emotional relationships, forcing the teen to look for confidence and consolidation outside of the family. By creating an open family structure, where teens are encouraged to be honest without fear of reprisal, you can maintain a relationship without enabling, so that when they are ready to ask for help, they know they can rely on you. While it is important not to take responsibility for their problems or to allow them to use, creating a structure where you can express disapproval without anger, and while showing that you love your child is always the right choice.
5. You Cannot Save Them – One of the most difficult things you can face as a parent is that you can’t do anything about your child’s addiction. While you can help them to make better choices, give them the information they need, offer love and support, and even pay for rehabilitation, you cannot stop their addiction. Getting better is up to your child, and it is a process that requires work and dedication on the part of your child. Until they choose to take the steps to get clean or sober, work through their problems, and commit to a new life, there is nothing you can do but offer support. There’s no fast fix, no easy way to get over addiction, and no way that you can make decisions for your child. Recognizing that, loving your child anyway, and giving them emotional support when they need it is the best you can do.
Millions of young adults are addicted to substances, but not enough get help. If your child is using, you can work to get them into a treatment facility. If you can build trust with your child and get him or her to admit to their problem, you can ask them to get help and ask them to seek out treatment. Many teens are aware that they have problems, and may be open to working to correct those issues if they trust you to help them and not punish them.
If you are unsure of what to do or where to go next please contact us at Oceanfront Recovery today to discuss our drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs. We can help you determine the best steps for your child and how to move them towards getting help, One of our professional, experienced, and compassionate admissions advisors will speak with you at 877-279-1777 today in complete confidence and answer any questions you may have.