If your son or daughter has begun abusing drugs or alcohol, as a parent it can be a frightening and overwhelming time. For many families, there can be a sense of powerlessness and uncertainty about how best to support them.
Being there to support your child is an important part of their recovery. Below are a few ideas of how to get started:
Invite open communication:
Talking with your child about their alcohol and drug use and how it is impacting them, your family and others around them can be really uncomfortable, but it’s a necessary first step. Be clear on your own expectations within the family home, but be aware of how communicating these may be received.
Address the behaviour rather than the person:
Judging your loved one will potentially lead to further conflict, however, it is reasonable and necessary to discuss the impacts of their behaviours. An example might be: “When I see you come home under the influence and I know you’ve been driving, I really worry about your safety.” Remember to give the young person a chance to share and be sure to understand and empathise with their perspective.
Offer to help them look for support services:
One way you can support your child or young adult is to help them research different recovery programs and support groups. Assisting them to find groups where they can meet others who have lived experience of recovering from drugs and alcohol.
Ask the young person what support they need:
Keep the lines of honest communication open and check in with your loved one about how you can best support them. In asking how you can do this, Consider their physical, emotional, psychologically and relational supports and how you can meet them. Don’t assume you know what they need – ask them.
Don’t ignore your own needs or that of other family members:
It’s normal to worry about your child when they are using drugs and alcohol, however continuing to put their own needs above your own could lead to resentment on your part and be detrimental to your own mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, focusing solely on the drug and alcohol using member can create unnecessary tension and resentment amongst their siblings and lead to a strained family life.
Invest in your own self-care:
Self-care is equally important as supporting your loved one in their recovery. Find someone to talk to about how this is impacting on you, whether that be a friend or professional support such as a counsellor.
Participating in family recovery support groups can be a positive and helpful experience, not only are you participating in your own parallel healing experience but you will also meet other parents and family members going through similar challenges. This leads to a sense of connection and you feeling less isolated and alone in the experience.
Above all, remember to engage in activities that bring you peace and joy as this will lead to an increased capacity to be present to your loved one as they start their recovery journey.
Keep in mind, your child is likely just as afraid of what’s happening as you are, the difference is that won’t be able to communicate that. By offering them the support and guidance to overcome their addiction, you are giving them a second chance at a happy healthy future.