Advice to Parents of Addicts, from Former Drug Addicts

Advice to Parents of Addicts, from Former Drug Addicts

  • January 06, 2020

Being the parent of a child who struggles with addiction is one of the toughest, more heartbreaking things anyone could go through. You want to do everything you can to take away their pain and suffering, but you don’t want to enable them to continue using drugs or drinking. 


There are many articles online that are intended to give advice to parents of addicted children. These usually consist of the same thing over and over again, don’t enable, tough love can work for some or is disastrous for others, etc. 


But it’s hard to take advice from others who have never experienced addiction in their life. There are unique problems and intense emotions involved when someone struggles with an addiction, and you don’t know what it’s like unless you have experienced it yourself. 


Those who have struggled with addiction in the past or who have had children struggle with addiction gave their own advice to parents who currently have a child struggling. Here is what they had to say:



  • Educate Your Children About Drugs as a Preventative Measure


Many teens or young adults who start experimenting with drugs are pretty ignorant about drug use, the potential for abuse, and what exactly is in these drugs that make them so harmful. 


Maria, who was formerly addicted to meth, explained that the first time she tried it, she had no idea of all the harmful chemicals she was taking. She was addicted to a substance she didn’t know much about, and wasn’t aware of the damage she was causing herself. 


Maria explained that her parents never talked to her about drugs, and she wishes that she were more educated about meth before trying it for the first time. 


If you’re worried that your child might be experimenting with dangerous drugs, have an honest conversation with them about the reality of drug use and addiction. Don’t try to use scare tactics or the D.A.R.E tactic of “just say no”. Because the truth is, your child will probably have a drink or casually smoke here and there when they’re in high school or college. 


Communication is key here. Tell your kids that they will probably feel pressure to try different drugs throughout their life, and if they have an idea of what they could be getting themselves into, it might decrease their chance of trying meth, cocaine, and other dangerous drugs. 


Most importantly, make sure this communication is honest and open. One of the failures of the D.A.R.E approach is that children and teens sense parents will reprimand or punish them if they find out they are experimenting with drugs, so they then hide it. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen.


Just like you want your son or daughter to be able to talk to you about sex and relationship issues, you want them to be able to talk to you about possible drug use. You can’t help them if they won’t let you know what’s going on. 


Additionally, when parents take a zero tolerance approach, this contrasts very strongly with their use of a substance within their peer group. They and their friends are having fun. At the very least, they’re not getting yelled at for using. So a zero tolerance policy simply pushes a divide between the parent and child, driving their use underground. This is when the lying and sneaking around starts to happen. 


You want to avoid that kind of situation at all costs, so have open conversations with your son or daughter. If you’ve already gone the zero tolerance route and that divide is already there, you’re going to have your work cut out for you rebuilding that bridge, but it can be done, so don’t worry.



  • Educate Yourself About Addiction


David Sheff, the author of the book Beautiful Boy, didn’t know how to deal with his son’s addiction for years. His son, Nik, used everything from marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, and later struggled with meth addiction for many years. Nik refused to go to rehab for a long time, but when he finally agreed, David was relieved. 


He thought the nightmare was over. His son went to rehab and was finally clean, he’ll stay sober, right?


Not necessarily. David didn’t understand how common relapse is, especially for meth users, and was shocked when his son went back to his previous behaviors. 


David wished that he was more educated about addiction, and knew just how difficult it is for many to stay sober after participating in dangerous behaviors for years.  More importantly, he wishes he’d known what support strategies he could help with as a parent. Rehab is the beginning of a journey, not a fix in itself, and a good treatment program will involve the family to give them support techniques to increase the chances of a successful long-term recovery.


Many parents also don’t understand that drug use is sometimes fueled by unresolved trauma. Unfortunutely, it’s very common for victims of physical or sexual abuse, bullying, or other traumaitic incidnets to turn to drugs or alcohol when they’re older. It’s very important that you offer support to your child if they have suffered from something traumatic, and encourage them to receive therapy for their addiction and for their unresolved trauma as well. 



  • Sometimes You Need to Focus on Yourself


Nik Sheff, the inspiration for the book Beautiful Boy, explained that sometimes, there’s nothing a parent can do to help their child get sober. This isn’t exactly true. A parent can always help and provide support, but, ultimately, the final decision will be your child’s and you need to focus on your own well-being as much as theirs.


As you’ve probably realized, you cannot force your child to finally quit using drugs or drinking and go to rehab. If you show them support and love, arranged an intervention, avoided enabling them, and encouraged them to get help, you’ve done just about everything you can. Don’t stop, but also realize that your constant focus on them may be the exact thing preventing you both from moving forward.


An empty well has no water. If you expend all your energy helping your child, leaving nothing for yourself, then it puts you in a position where you may actually be hurting the situation more than helping. It’s simply not possible to help someone else well if you aren’t taking care of yourself at the same time.


Nik’s father explained that while his son was struggling with meth addiction, his whole life revolved around Nik and how he can get him sober. Of course this makes sense, you want to protect your child and make sure they’re not suffering anymore. However, the decision to finally get help was up to Nik, and every time his father begged him to seek addiction treatment, he was sorely disappointed. 


It’s important to love yourself throughout this process and to not let your whole life revolve around your child and their addiction. This seems impossible to do since you’ll be worried sick about them every single day, but keep in mind that you have done everything possible to help your child, and that hopefully they will realize they need help too. 


Going through this alone can make this process even more difficult. There are many groups out there for parents of addicts, such as Nar-Anon family groups and Parents of Addicted Loved Ones. Being around a community of people who can relate to your problems and offer support can be the solace that you desperately need. 


Where Your Child Can Seek Help for Addiction

If your child has realized they finally need to seek addiction treatment, or you need some help persuading them, give Shadow Mountain Recovery a call today. We have experienced staff that can help combat addiction to any drug, and we specialize in holistic treatment to treat the mind, body, and spirit. 


If you or a loved one needs an individualized treatment plan to help with meth addiction, call Shadow Mountain Recovery today: 866-768-9790

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