Coping With a Child Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

Coping With a Child Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

The first episode of NBC’s new show American Crime set in Stockton, California, is largely about a home invasion during which war veteran Matt Skokie is murdered and his wife Gwen is brutally attacked. While the first episode is mostly about the initial crime, the rest of the series focuses on the victims, the suspects and their families as they deal with the aftermath of the event and the subsequent trial.

One of the individuals initially arrested for playing a part in the home invasion is Aubrey Taylor, a young woman whose life has been taken over by drug addiction. In the more recent episodes, Aubrey’s family comes to Stockton in an effort to convince her to return home with them and get help for her drug addiction. This portrayal offers viewers a look into the realities families when a loved one is addicted to drugs.

Addiction Is a Family Disease

It’s no secret that addiction can cause harmful consequences for the person struggling with it, but the fact that their loved ones are also susceptible to addiction’s negative consequences is often overlooked. Parents with children, such as Aubrey, who are deep in the throes of substance abuse, suffer a unique pain. Watching your child battle addiction can be extremely hard and draining.

Certain lessons and coping tips may help in dealing with addiction in the family:

  • Remember that addiction is a disease. Like diabetes or heart disease, addiction is a chronic illness with roots based in genetics, environment and social influences. Recovery from addiction isn’t a matter of willpower. A person doesn’t choose to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, just as a person doesn’t choose to develop diabetes. Understanding that addiction is a disease can help eliminate the negative judgment that tears at the seams of the family. Instead, understand and accept that the disease took control of your loved one and that he or she desperately needs your support.
  • Understand that enabling is harmful. Although you love your child who’s battling addiction, some actions you take, like giving them money when asked, may be enabling him or her to continue with their addiction. For example, Aubrey’s dad in American Crime keeps giving her money when she asks him because he believes it’s helping her get back on her feet, but she uses the money to buy more drugs.
  • Realize you probably can’t fix things. When it comes to addiction, because your child is the only who can honestly decide to do something about his or her problems, it’s usually only a problem the person struggling with the addiction can truly fix. Parental interference can sometimes lead to frustration and failure. But while it’s right to encourage your child to seek help, due to the nature of the disease it’s recommended that you seek professional guidance, such as that of a trained interventionist.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. When a child is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it’s common to put his or her needs above yours — an action that can actually be harmful to both of you. Caring for yourself first, both emotionally and physically, allows you to be a better support system for your child in need. This can include finding ways to reduce the stress of dealing with addiction in the family by eating healthy, getting good sleep, exercising regularly, practicing relaxation techniques and engaging in fun social activities. You don’t have to completely ignore your child’s needs, but reducing your stress and anxiety can help improve your overall mental health and better prepare you/ to support your child’s recovery.

When drugs or alcohol take over a son or daughter, a parent is left in its wake and burdened with anxiety and fear. Addiction can damage any type of family dynamic, and without treatment the addiction has the potential to completely disrupt family life and cause harmful consequences that can last a lifetime. Understanding the role family plays in addiction recovery can help both a parent and the child struggling to heal from the damage the disease of addiction can cause. Support from family can be instrumental in helping a child achieve long-term recovery.

By Jenna Mitchell

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