Helping an addicted child can put parents on an emotional roller coaster of doubt and fear. Charged with the responsibility of caring for your son or daughter and keeping them safe, you may understandably feel heartbroken every time they come home drunk or high—and that’s on the nights they come home at all. Many parents feel like failures for raising an addicted child; however, it is not your fault. The best you can do is to learn more about their condition and how to help them without enabling their substance use.
The Dangers of Enabling
Many parents struggle with feelings of guilt, not only because of their child’s addiction but because of their own emotional responses to it. Realizing that addiction hijacks the sufferer’s brain, you may beat yourself up every time you find yourself becoming angry or blaming them for their disease. While addiction may alter the sufferer’s brain chemistry, there is no need to feel guilt over holding someone accountable for their actions. Practice forgiveness when necessary, but also realize that helping an addicted child demands that you learn the difference between forgiveness and enabling.
Enabling is doing something for someone that they could do for themselves, especially when doing so makes it easier for them to get away with using drugs or alcohol. Helping an addicted child is impossible if you allow them to use drugs and alcohol without consequences. Do not pay their bail, do not give them money if you doubt their reasons for asking, and do not allow them to break the rules of your home without due punishment.
Addictive substances are incredibly dangerous, especially today when many drugs are laced with fatally potent substances such as fentanyl and carfentanil. National overdose death rates rose six times from 2002 to 2015, with another sharp uptick in 2016 as the opioid epidemic hit its stride. Enabling your addicted child in such a dangerous time for drug users will only raise their chances of becoming one of these statistics. Immediate action must be taken, and this action will likely involve a demonstration of tough love.
Learning to Show Tough Love
Many parents fear that tough love will only push their child away, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that the enforcement of family policies regarding substance use is an important part of the family bonding that ultimately makes helping an addicted child possible. Moreover, do not practice discipline sporadically. Enabling your son or daughter one day then bringing the hammer down the next day will only create confusion. Proper tough love requires balance and consistency. Otherwise, you may do more harm than good by failing to define the rules.
Once rules are set, they require enforcement. This is where many parents will fall short when helping an addicted child because they fear the potential consequences. For instance, you may tell your child that if they use drugs in the house again, they will be kicked out and cut off financially. When the time comes to do this, however, you may fear the results of following through on your promise. What if they resort to living on the streets, or at a speed den? Can you enforce the rules knowing that your child’s life may become more difficult, exposing them to potentially dangerous circumstances?
Proponents of tough love will tell you that this is one of the most important parts of helping an addicted child because consequences can help them hit rock bottom. Things will get temporarily worse for them, but they may just get bad enough that your son or daughter finally asks for help. While tough love may initially seem like the wrong move, it just might be the spark that lights a fire under your child and keeps them from becoming one of the countless addicts and alcoholics who die every day for lack of proper assistance.
Setting Up an Intervention
If you really wish to help your child before things get too bad, seeking immediate intervention assistance might be one of your best options. Let a professional trained in the art of helping an addicted child walk you through the necessary procedures for getting them into treatment. Understand, however, that this procedure may still require a demonstration of tough love if your son or daughter denies your offer to help them seek treatment.
Nonetheless, even if your child responds to the intervention negatively, your loving pleas will not go unheard. Your words may not sink in immediately, but a proper intervention will get the message across that your child is loved and that you only want the best for them. Setting up an intervention gives you the opportunity to show your love without enabling, to tell your child about the life you see for them if they are able to get sober. They can then enter treatment at a facility offering life skills focus so that they may get their life on the right track after overcoming their drug or alcohol problem.
For more information about treatment, intervention assistance, or general advice on helping an addicted child, please contact Aspire Health Network today. We will do everything in our power to help you get your son or daughter on the right path, allowing you to dry your tears and mend your broken heart as you watch your child blossom in recovery.