Parenting an Addict: Intervention, Treatment, and Self-Care

Becoming a parent is one of the most beautiful gifts and blessings imaginable.  Raising children does not come with an instruction manual, so most parents just do the best they can, warts and all.  Much of parenting is instinctual anyway, relying on common sense and gut feelings to navigate the many twists and turns of raising a child. 

Unfortunately, if a young adult child acquires an addiction or chemical dependency to drugs or alcohol, parents are completely unprepared for the difficulties and challenges that will completely envelop every aspect of their own lives as a result.  The disease of addiction controls the addict, but it also sinks its claws into the addict’s immediate family.

When to Intervene

There are very distinct signs that an adult child who is abusing drugs or alcohol will exhibit.  In their early days of using, it is common for parents to be in denial when witnessing the changes in their son or daughter.  No one wants to admit that their kid might have a substance abuse problem, so, at least for a while, the signs may be purposely ignored.

Acts of enabling, the parents’ constant efforts to clean up the addict’s messes such as paying their debts and absorbing financial losses, taking care of their responsibilities for them, and constantly covering for them, only reinforce dependency and weakness.  Ultimately, parent enabling only undermines the adult child’s ability to fix their own messes and to get motivated to change their behaviors.

When it comes to getting them the treatment they need, the earlier the intervention the better.  Addiction follows a predictable course.  What may begin as recreational experimentation can soon escalate, as tolerance increases and dosing or alcohol consumption becomes more frequent and at higher levels.  Meanwhile, brain pathways are being etched that will demand continued use of the substance, regardless of the negative consequences.  Eventually, chemical dependency may develop, making recovery much more complex and difficult.  Therefore, early intervention can thwart the progression of addiction.

Signs of addiction may include:

·      Physical symptoms, such as eye redness, dilated or constricted pupils

·      Mood swings

·      Increased irritability or agitation

·      Isolating behaviors

·      Avoids activities once enjoyed

·      Secrecy

·      Hanging out with a different group of friends

·      High-risk behaviors, such as driving under the influence or unprotected sex

·      Problems with relationships

·      Decline in academic or work performance

·      Weight loss or gain

·      Lethargy

·      Change in daily habits

·      Changes in personality

·      Sleep disturbances

·      Legal problems

·      Exhibits withdrawal symptoms

If you’re unsure what initial steps to take, you may want to contact an interventionist. Our friend Chris Kling has years of recovery experience and can help those struggling with addiction to make a decision to get help and create a plan for detox, treatment and aftercare.

Addiction Treatment

Once addiction or chemical dependency has developed, it is necessary to obtain professional treatment for your adult child.  It is extremely difficult for someone to overcome an addiction on their own when their brain’s neural pathways have been remapped to demand regular doses of a drug or alcohol.  For this reason, seeking professional help from addiction specialists is the first step on the path to recovery.

Initially, it may be necessary for the individual to undergo detox and withdrawal, the process whereby the body eliminates all the toxins and chemicals associated with the substance.  A medically monitored detox provides constant supervision and both medical and emotional support.

Once detox is completed, the next step is engaging in the various treatments and activities that will arm them with new healthy thought/behavior patterns, help them examine underlying causes or past traumas, learn new coping skills and stress-reduction techniques, and improved communication skills.  This multi-dimensional treatment approach includes:

·      Individual therapy

·      Group therapy

·      Family therapy

·      Addiction education

·      Relapse planning

·      Life skill

·      Relationship building

·      Experiential activities

·      12-step meetings and sponsorship

·      Recreation and holistic therapies

Self-Care is Essential

Being the parent of an addicted adult child is absolutely depleting.  Not only does life begin to resemble a game of Whack-a-Mole, constantly batting down each new problem, but intense emotional distress and chronic stress take a heavy toll.  For this reason, the parent must set boundaries and begin to practice disciplined responses that shift the burden of each challenge over to the recovering addict to manage.  Parents of addicts can benefit from ongoing therapy, as well as participation in Al-Anon, a recovery group for the affected family member of an addict.

Self-care should include eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, and remaining socially engaged with friends.  Parents must be strong in the wake of a child’s addiction, drawing distinct lines that allow them to detach in love. This means learning how to manage normal day-to-day life while still being an ongoing source of love and emotional support.

Scottsdale Cornerstone Healing Center is an innovative outpatient addiction treatment program for men located in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Scottsdale Cornerstone creates customized treatment plans of varying intensity that blend traditional evidence-based therapies with holistic and experiential activities.  Nutrition and fitness are also emphasized as an important component of healing and restoring the body.  Sober living resources are available to provide an additional level of care when combined with the daily therapeutic activities.  For more information about Scottsdale Cornerstone Healing Center, please contact us today at (800) 480-1781.

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