How I Cope with My Young Adult’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction

What feelings rise up in the hearts of parents when they discover that their beautiful, intelligent child is using drugs or drinking massive amounts of alcohol? What about when they get that first phone call from the police department saying they have your child down at the station…when you thought he was in his room sleeping. Or when you find that empty vodka bottle under his bed, or the drugs and paraphernalia hidden in places he thought you would never look.

I know these feelings intimately: fear, anger, guilt, panic, sadness, confusion, disbelief… and that only names a few.

How do you manage these feelings? What do you do with them? Their intensity is huge and seems to take over, making you behave irrationally, illogically, hysterically — or maybe they completely immobilize you as you sink into despair, not knowing what on earth to do about your young adult’s drug and alcohol addiction.

This was so not a part of my plan back when I first carried that beautiful infant into our home. We watched her grow, taught her to ride a bike, read her stories, held her close and loved her freely.  How did we get here? What happened?

As the depth of my daughter Hallah’s drug and alcohol use became more and more apparent, my husband and I were devastated. I was riddled with feelings of guilt… How had I failed her?  I was so deeply afraid. How far would this go?  Why was this happening and what could I do to bring peace and healing to my family?

Over time, I have gained some skills that have helped me manage my emotions better. I still have not “arrived” and probably never will, as this is an ever-changing journey. Given the right circumstances, I can quickly fall back into old behaviors and habits.  The difference now is that I have a set of tools that I can pull out and use to get myself back on track. The life I was living in the beginning of this journey was ruled by anger, fear and frustration. I would throw my authority around as the mom to try to bring order where it felt like there was none.

For the sake of myself, my daughter and the rest of my family, I had to figure out how to navigate this rough terrain of drug and alcohol addiction and come out alive and well on the other side with a heart that knew how to give and receive forgiveness and love.

My 5 Best Tools for Coping With My Young Adult’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction:

1. Acceptance
By accepting that our family and our daughter was in the throes of the disease of addiction and there was no other way out than through, I could get to the business of finding my way. Our life is what it is, filled with joy, skepticism, times of great hope, and also dark times filled with deep sorrow.  I had to learn to embrace the process that we had been thrust into.


2. My Support Network of Friends

If you don’t have a support system of even a few people who are familiar with addiction and the recovery process, begin to build one for yourself.  I sought the help of a counselor who has walked with me for several years now throughout this journey. Her help has been invaluable. I found new friends, parents like myself, in my local Alanon groups. There are also faith-centered recovery groups such as Celebrate Recovery that are available to those families who prefer a Christian approach. Not being alone and having someone I could call any time of the day or night when I needed a listening ear, was huge. These were trusted people I could be completely honest with without the fear of judgment or gossip. I kept phone numbers with me at all times so I knew that help was always only a phone call away.

3. Daily Readings
Every day I read about life in recovery on the topics of enabling, co-dependence and drug and alcohol addiction, from my daily readers. A daily reader is a small book that has a topic and page for each day of the year to encourage you for that day. I found that I was recovering too from the effects of the disease of addiction that had hit our family. A few of my favorite daily readers are:

•  The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

• Courage to Change: One Day At a Time in Alanon II

• The Promise Of A New Day: A Book of Daily Meditations by Karen Casey and Martha Vanceburg

Each brings new hope for each new day. When I am wrestling with a particular emotion or feeling, I can look in the back of the book in the index and find all of the pages on what I am feeling. I look those pages up and find new ideas and new ways of managing difficult situations and feelings.

4. “Letting Go and Letting God”
Understanding that there is truly only so much that I can do to save my daughter. Ultimately her recovery is between her and her Higher Power. The vast majority of parents I have spoken to over the years say that it was nothing that they did that saved their child. It was acknowledging that they were powerless over their child’s drug and alcohol addiction that set them free to be able to love their children with healthy boundaries in place.  That concept removed a lot of the weight of “finding the right answer, the key” that would save my daughter.

5. Good Self Care
Eating food that is healthy for my body, exercising regularly, seeing the doctor and the dentist when I need to, allowing myself times of solitude when I need them, and making time to continue to do things that I love, things that nourish my soul.

Beginning to understand that my feelings simply are what they are, was a good first step for me. How I manage them is another thing altogether. I have choices and options and resources that can help me to keep my feelings from dominating my life while still fully acknowledging them. I can be gentle with myself and admit that dealing with my daughter’s drug and alcohol addiction is a rough road and I won’t walk it perfectly…but I will most certainly do the best I am capable of, and that is good enough.

Get Help For the Rest of Your Family

Substance issues affect more than just one person who is struggling. Learn about how to get help for siblings and everyone else going through it.

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