Adolescent substance abuse affects the entire family. No one in the home is immune to the devastating consequences of living with someone abusing drugs or alcohol. The Insight Program, as is the case with most programs, provides ongoing support for parents primarily through meetings and counseling. Family recovery is necessary in order to support the substance abuser and heal the wounds caused by this disease. Enthusiastic Sobriety™makes recovery attractive for young people. It also helps parents navigate the pain and confusion that comes with the realization of a drug problem at home.
When a person is suffering from substance abuse the signs are usually obvious. The user will show symptoms through behavior ranging from isolation to getting arrested. The behavior of an individual with a drug or alcohol problem changes. The key to recovery is recognition of unmanageability in the user’s life that happens as a direct result of substance abuse. But the question remains: what is family recovery? What about the parent? How is the parent’s behavior self destructive? What can a mother or father do to change?
What Is Family Recovery?
Family recovery begins with the substance abuser and the parents. Other members of the family are as important but the parents and the teenager/young adult must begin the process. The first step for a parent to heal is actually similar to that of the substance abuser. Denial has to be broken. There has to be some admission that whatever is being done is not working. The lack of effectiveness of these attempts creates a level of frustration and fear that makes life unmanageable. When a parent starts to come to terms with these issues the recovery process begins. Just like an addict has to be aware of powerlessness over drugs and alcohol a parent must surrender to feeling defeated and ineffective.
It is essential for parents to find people who empathize. The world is full of people with “good advice.” When it comes to being a parent of a child with a drug problem “good advice” is terribly inefficient. Guidance without empathy can actually be detrimental. When a parent is able to speak with a peer who has found some solutions to deal with substance abuse in the home, he or she begins to feel hope. For months, and sometimes years, parents experience feelings of anguish and desperation. The combination of counseling with the fellowship and understanding of other parents provides a positive direction for the entire family.
Some Logical Steps To Take
When there is the discovery, or suspicion, of a drug or alcohol problem with a teenager or young adult in the home there are a few simple actions a parent can take:
- Call an expert Too often people listen to the advice of friends or family members who have no idea (other than an episode of Dr. Phil or Intervention) of how to approach a suspected young person
- Trust the professional When you find a counselor or program whose message resonates, let go and follow the direction given. The professional is objective and will not make recommendations based on emotion
- Make sure there is support for you No matter how good a counselor is, people need empathetic support. If the program doesn’t provide support groups for parents either find a program that does provide this support or find a group that complements the counseling you are receiving
Recovery works best when the whole family is engaged. Far too often the substance abuser is attended to while the parents are neglected or forgotten. Parents’ needs must be met. Make sure you are asking for help and listening to those who have experienced circumstances like your own. It is from these people that you will find solutions that work. Who knows, you may also develop some meaningful and lasting friendships.
Future posts will focus on specific questions parents have when dealing with a teenager or young adult in the early stages of substance abuse treatment.