Substance abuse problems can be devastating both for the person struggling with addiction and for his or her family. Watching your child battle with addiction is frightening and frustrating; it’s easy to feel hopeless when faced with the challenge of providing support without enabling your child’s addiction.
Addiction takes over a person’s life. People with substance abuse problems will engage in behaviors they never would have without the disease of addiction. They may lie, steal, start fights and behave irrationally. Faced with these struggles, a parent may be tempted to give in to the addict’s demands or allow a rift to form in the relationship. In some cases, a child’s addiction can have serious financial and emotional consequences for the whole family.
Signs of Addiction
When your adult child no longer lives at home, it can be difficult to tell what lifestyle choices he or she is making. You may be concerned about drug use or addiction, especially if your child appears to be struggling in life. Here are some warning signs to keep an eye on:
- Physical changes, including bloodshot eyes, repeated nosebleeds, unexpected weight loss and a general sickly or lackluster appearance.
- Emotional changes, including mood swings, lethargy, anxiety, lack of interest or apparent changes in personality.
- Social changes, such as abandoning responsibilities, odd behavior, frequently borrowing money or increased isolation.
You may also notice that your child has developed a new social group or that they have stopped doing activities that they once enjoyed.
Of course, all of these signs can also be attributed to other things, including mental illness. This is why it’s important to confront your child directly when you suspect a problem. Reach out to provide loving and honest communication; state your concerns and ask how you can help. Your child may initially rebuke this offer for assistance, but he or she may come around later. The love of a parent is a powerful thing and can help to motivate life change.
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Caring for an Adult Child with Addiction
Helping someone overcome addiction is not something that you can do on your own. However, you can play an active role in helping a person who is struggling with addiction. Here are some things to remember:
You’re not alone. The best addiction recovery programs utilize a network of resources, including recovery professionals and family support. Don’t try to handle this hard work by yourself. Reach out to professionals and others who can help you.
Remember your own self-care. You cannot help anyone if you are struggling as well. Take time to tend to your own needs and, if necessary, seek professional help for your emotional and psychological well-being during this difficult period.
Set firm boundaries. Boundary-setting and communication are crucial when dealing with someone struggling with addiction. You need to make it clear where the rules are, especially when it comes to money, and you need to hold firm to the rules you have established.
Do not shield your child from consequences. Of course you want your son or daughter to be safe and happy. However, bailing your child out of trouble will not help him or her in the long run. Allow your child to suffer the natural consequences of his or her actions, whether that means losing a job or eviction from home. It also means not allowing yourself to take the fall for any of your child’s illegal behavior.
Offer assistance only when it will help a child move forward. This may mean providing your child with groceries rather than money for food that could be used for drugs instead. Provide information and resources for self-help rather than trying to intervene on your child’s behalf.
Don’t blame yourself. Addiction is a complex disease, and many factors are responsible for the likelihood of a person developing a substance abuse problem. Blaming yourself or your parenting will not help the situation and will only make you feel worse. Focus instead on practical things that you can do to help your child, and recognize that there are limits to what you can handle.
Recognize that you cannot “save” your child. Ultimately, a person is responsible for his or her own choices. You can offer assistance and resources within your abilities, but you are not responsible for your child’s recovery.
If you have a child who is struggling with substance abuse, you are not alone. Seeking professional outside assistance is the first step in helping to heal your family and provide your child with the care he or she needs. If your son or daughter is struggling with addiction, finding help quickly is the most important thing you can do.
For more information about our drug rehabilitation services and what we can do to help your family, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.