Guide: Helping your Adult Child through Addiction Treatment

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October 17, 2019

Parents who bear witness to the effects of addiction on their children have dealt with unimaginable pain and hopelessness. If you have been lucky enough to help your child agree to treatment for their substance use disorder, you may find yourself feeling unprepared for what’s next. It may be because you’ve previously focused so much time and energy into helping your child get through the days, staying up at night wondering if they’re safe, or even alive. You may not have had the time to consider what your role will be once they are ready to face their substance use head-on. There is nothing that can adequately prepare a parent to help their child reach recovery, but there are important things to consider ensuring your family can heal the wounds of addiction together.

Choosing Treatment, Wisely

If you child has been struggling with substance use disorder for quite some time, you may have already done the research on facilities and treatment options, but have yet to present your child with what you think is best. It’s likely that your child lacks the energy or capacity to take the research on themselves due to the effects of addiction on the brain. If you’re only beginning your research now, it’s absolutely imperative to go with evidence-based treatment that is backed by science and a medical understanding of addiction as a chronic disease. These kinds of treatment centers are the only ones that have proven track-records of success using medication-assisted treatment with FDA-approved medicines that can help your child end their substance misuse of both illicit or prescription drugs.

Along with scientifically-based methods, the treatment center should also offer your child other support and care that addresses the many different facets of addiction. Substance use counseling is helpful to help them learn about the sources of their more profound issues that may have led them to drugs and to recognize behavior and patterns that put them at risk. These kinds of treatment centers acknowledge that addiction is a disease that often involves relapse, like any other chronic illness. By working with your child to recovery physically, mentally and emotionally, they have better chances of long-term success.

Being Involved, Productively  

It’s been shown that people who have their families supporting them through treatment are often more successful than those who go it alone. Positive reinforcement can motivate your child as they face the obstacles of this drastic life change, and your support can help them overcome the massive amounts of guilt they will experience once they are thinking clearly and reflecting on their struggles. Treatment centers that offer family counseling or can refer to a family counselor are invaluable to this process. Family therapy gives the family time with a mediator to discuss some of the more sensitive topics that will come about through treatment as your child works to uncover their past traumas as well as dealing with the consequence of their actions and impact on the family unit.

As treatment is a deeply personal journey, your child will also need space to learn coping mechanism they can employ on their own during the course of their treatment. So, as much as encouragement and involvement are helpful, too much participation can feel suffocating and overbearing. You still want your child to be going through this treatment to better themselves, not just to make you happy.

Recovering Together, Separately

It may not be apparent at this point yet, but as your child goes through the routine of treatment and works towards recovery, you will need to let them go through each step of the process on their own. You’ve helped them come this far, and wanting to be part of the journey is a natural desire, but there are complicated things they will need to work out with themselves and they need to feel accountable for their own recovery. You will have to let go of the reigns as they learn new skills and begin to develop a new life without drugs.

For parents and children who previously had a codependent dynamic, this part of the process can be especially hard, often on both. But with your child so focused on themselves, you may behind to realize that this is when you start to feel like you’re suffering even though you should be elated they are making progress. Sometimes parents go into this treatment process with the idea that their child will be ‘restored to factory settings’ before they began their substance use. The reality is, your child may become someone else entirely as they work through treatment and recovery rediscovering themselves after battling with a severe illness.

Seek Counseling, For You

The treatment and recovery process can change the dynamics in a family system quickly, for better or worse, depending on how these changes are handled. It’s crucial for parents to seek therapy on their own while their child is in treatment. These sessions are a time for self-reflection and growth for yourself alone or along with your spouse. Speaking with someone who specializes in addiction and family support can also help you comprehend the feelings you will go through as you watch your child transform.

Parents also need to learn how to heal from their child’s battle with addiction, and a professional can help set the pace. You want to remain realistic and hopeful about your child’s success with recovery, and grasping a deeper understanding of what that all entails can be helpful for you to rebuild your own life. After being consumed with helping your child, it will take some time to learn how to begin living your life again, but on a new page, with new expectations and goals and a child that is once again healthy and thriving.