Parenting, Addiction, and Recovery
Parenting is never easy—especially when you know your child is suffering. If your adult child has a drug or alcohol problem, you may feel powerless to help and afraid of what the future will hold.
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we believe recovery is possible for all those who desire it and that loved ones have an important role to play in the recovery process. Here, we offer tips to help you support and encourage your adult child while taking care of your own mental health.
Stop Blaming Yourself
Your son or daughter isn’t struggling with addiction because you were a bad parent. Addiction is a complex illness with both genetic and environmental risk factors that scientists are still working to fully understand. Individual choices also play an important role.
Every parent has regrets, but you are not to blame for what has happened. In fact, getting caught up in a cycle of blame is the worst thing you can do now. What’s happened in the past is done. What your child needs is your guidance and unconditional love in this moment.
Get the Facts
Addiction is often misunderstood by the general public. Taking the time to learn about the causes of addiction, treatment options, and what to expect from the recovery process will help you more effectively support your child. We encourage you to review these previous posts from our blog:
- Understanding Addiction as a Chronic Disease
- Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction
- What Is Withdrawal?
- Paying for Addiction Treatment
- Addiction Resources in Central Pennsylvania
Our FAQs page also provides important information about what to expect from our Pennsylvania residential addiction treatment programs.
It’s easy for good intentions to lead to enabling your child’s addiction-related behavior to continue. Examples of actions that keep your child from experiencing the natural consequences of their addiction include:
- Giving them money or paying their bills
- Bringing over groceries or home-cooked meals
- Allowing them to live with you rent-free and without cooking, cleaning, or otherwise contributing to the household
- Providing free babysitting for your grandchildren so their parents can go out partying with friends
- Hiring a lawyer when they’ve got addiction-related legal trouble
- Lying to others who ask about their addiction-related behavior
- Making excuses for their past mistakes
When Mom and Dad are always there to save the day, it’s easy to deny that a problem exists. Your son or daughter can continue to make excuses for their drug or alcohol use—insisting they just enjoy having a good time or that they need to drink to relieve stress. They can say things aren’t that bad because they’ve still got a roof over their head and haven’t been convicted of a crime.
Just like when your son or daughter was younger, they need boundaries and limits. Holding your ground won’t be easy, but it’s a necessary part of the recovery journey.
Consider an Intervention
If your past efforts to convince your child to seek treatment have been unsuccessful, an intervention may be a more effective approach. This is a structured meeting where a group of concerned loved ones—including parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses or romantic partners, and close friends—describes the behaviors they’ve witnessed, presents treatment options, and outlines the consequences of refusing to seek treatment. Often, a healthcare professional such as a licensed counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist is involved in the intervention planning process to increase the odds of a successful outcome.
Be Willing to Wipe the Slate Clean
Addiction causes people to say and do things that are out of character yet extremely hurtful. If your child is seeking treatment, the greatest gift you can give is your forgiveness for their past mistakes. Let your child know that you understand their actions were motivated by the disease of addiction.
Wiping the slate clean also means taking part in any recommended family therapy sessions. These sessions are not intended to place blame or accuse anyone of wrongdoing. They are about learning effective communication strategies and ways to strengthen relationships within the family unit.
Addiction is considered a chronic illness, which means that relapse is often part of the recovery process. Do not get discouraged if it takes multiple attempts to convince your child to seek treatment or if your child has a relapse after a period of sobriety. Finding an effective treatment approach can take time, especially if your child has co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression or severe anxiety.
Continue to show your support and give your son or daughter a safe place to express how they feel. Ask open-ended questions and listen without judging, shaming, or blaming. Stress that you believe they are capable of lasting recovery and that you’re willing to work with them to find a suitable treatment option.
Find Support for Yourself
It’s admirable to want to help your child who is struggling with addiction, but you need to take care of yourself too. Consider seeking out support groups such as Al-Anon, seeing a private therapist, or talking to a spiritual leader about your feelings. Self-care is not selfish. Addiction affects the entire family unit, and it’s vital that you care for your own mind, body, and spirit so you have the strength you need to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.