It’s so easy to have high expectations for a teen coming home from addiction treatment, but what teens need to know is how important they are to their own recovery. Failure is not the end, and success is up to them. Substance use disorder creates an enormous amount of stress for a family, and there is no guarantee of the outcome of recovery without effort and work.
Luckily, you know who your teen is and how you can best support him or her. There are many ways for the whole family to work together that can enhance the success of a teen’s recovery.
1. Willingly engage in the process of recovery. Recovery takes the entire family’s help. You’ve survived together through major crises and now have the chance to repair family bonds.
2. See this in a new light. You know that your teen’s substance use was not a passing fad, so “accept” your teen’s addiction. Understand that addiction is a disease, not a choice. Look at recovery as an enduring process, not a single event. Don’t view relapse as a failure, but accept recovery, at any time, as a success. Usually, it is the biggest success in someone’s life that is struggling with addiction.
3. View your teen’s recovery as important. Your son or daughter has a huge burden and deserves to know the freedom of recovery. Offer reassurance. Knowing that he or she has your support can help give strength to make it. A person in recovery needs to accept who he or she is to stay sober. Drugs were a way of hiding and eventually became a way of life. Recovery depends on facing ourselves, head on, while taking it all one day at a time.
4. Respect your teen’s return home by expecting what you would of a house guest. Encourage courtesy, gratitude and other human graces. These attributes will heal dysfunction in the family. Living with a recovering teen is still a challenge, but kindness and mutuality will help everyone.
5. Put expectations aside. Parents usually have big plans for their teens. Right now, maintaining recovery is as big an accomplishment as any. Placing more importance on anything else is stress that your teen might not need for a while. Encourage your teen to resume education and work activities at his or her own pace. Recommend physical exercise, lots of water, sleep and healthy food.
6. Don’t underestimate addiction. Without work, recovery can crumble. Have a plan for relapse. Encourage creating bonds with other teens in recovery. Treatment plans should cover these things. A teen getting back on track can happen just as quickly as he or she relapses. Remember, failure is just another step closer to success.
7. Be resilient and be prepared. Living with a child who relapsed can necessitate outside help and tough consequences. Do this rationally and discuss consequences with your teen. If relapse persists, consider co-occurring disorders which might negate your teen’s ability to engage recovery without counseling and/or psychiatric evaluation. It gets harder to deal with this once your child turns 18.
8. Establish mutual boundaries. Remember, addiction does not respect societal age limits. Up until age 18, parents are in a state of legal bondage to a teen with an addiction, yet your teen did painfully adult things. That makes finding the right boundaries hard. Know the law and make an effort to learn appropriate boundaries with appropriate consequences that preserve the mutual respect among the entire household. A recovering teen needs to learn about boundaries and responsibility, but is often stuck on bad habits. Be patient, but persistent. Use outside help to determine a course of action for broken boundaries or lack thereof.
9. There is rarely a good reason to lose hope or give up. Be courageous. Be resolved within yourself to further help your teen. See this as an opportunity for everyone’s personal growth.