When I first discovered that my daughter was using marijuana and alcohol, I was blindsided. At first, I tried approaching her as a concerned parent. When that didn’t work, I resorted to yelling, threatening, punishing and even having the police at our house to lecture her when she broke curfew. No matter what I did, things kept getting worse. I finally realized that I was having about as much success as someone standing on railroad tracks trying to stop a fast-moving train. That was the point when I became desperate enough to seek help from adolescent addiction professionals.
I joined a support group for parents who were dealing with their children’s substance use. I thought I would feel ashamed when I reached out, but instead, I found understanding, support and a sense of renewed hope. Once I began to apply my newfound knowledge on different ways to communicate with my daughter, things began to change for the better. Below are some valuable lessons that I learned.
Reasoning with a teenager struggling with substance use may feel difficult — but if you react with anger, it may only fuel the fire. Doing so may you take the focus off of the substance use and put it onto your response. Now, the focus may shift on your anger rather than the situation at hand. This may make it more difficult to get through to your teen.
Your teen should understand that using substances comes with specific consequences. However, it is important that you don’t make hollow threats or set rules you cannot enforce. It is also important that your spouse agrees with the rules and is prepared to enforce them. Parents standing as a united front is crucial when you are treating addiction.
Learning how to talk to my daughter about her addiction was like learning a new language. My greatest teachers were my parent support group and the substance use counselors that partnered with me to support her. The Internet was also a great tool. I never would have been able to navigate my way through those difficult times without learning new ways of communicating, and learning to apply them with the help of others.
Perhaps your teen has been arrested or expelled from school, or has been caught driving under the influence. Events like these can be a good opportunity for you to have an open and honest conversation with your child about entering treatment. Facing real consequences such as these can serve as a wake-up call for your child.
Any intervention, whether it be formal or informal, is an attempt to convince someone with addiction that they need help. It is time to make a change, and the goal is to get your child into recovery. Going it alone, however, can be difficult. Enlisting the intervention assistance of adolescent substance use professionals can dramatically increase the odds that your teen will become willing to accept help.
When my daughter began struggling with addiction, there were days where I felt like I was losing hope. Toward the end, my daughter was struggling with addiction to crystal meth. It was important for me to keep moving forward and expanding my knowledge and circle of support. Nothing changes if no one changes. It had to start with me.