What to Do If You’re a Parent of An Addict

What to Do If You’re a Parent of An Addict

Addiction may seem like an unrealistic or distant issue that you may never cross paths with. Parents of addicts often react in many different ways when discovering their child has a substance use disorder. Understanding addiction and the resources available is the best way to combat addiction.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a complicated brain disease that brings about issues in several aspects of the struggling individual’s life. Addiction can not only affect the struggling individual but their family as well. Without professional treatment, addiction is a cycle that is overwhelmingly difficult to break. Regardless of the substance, addiction can physically alter the brain’s structure, causing behavioral changes and intense cravings. 

When dealing with addiction as a parent of an addict or addiction in a loved one, education can help. Addiction education helps people understand the behavior their loved one is expressing. Addiction is defined as a relapsing disorder expressed in compulsive behavior, often drug-seeking. People in the grips of addiction will act compulsively despite knowing the consequences. Some effects of addiction include:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of interest in hobbies 
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Decline in performance at school or work
  • Higher risk of illness due to damaged immune system
  • Increased chance of stroke and seizure
  • Memory issues and decline in cognitive ability
  • Health effects such as lung disease, loss of appetite, and nausea 

How to Recognize Addiction

Addiction may be challenging to recognize in some people. This is true especially during the beginning of the development of addiction. Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone, regardless of status, race, gender, and career. It is often difficult to recognize since it develops slowly over time. 

People struggling with addiction are often secretive. Most people developing addiction become good at hiding their behavior from their loved ones. Since addiction is difficult to recognize, here are some common behavioral and physical symptoms of addiction:

  1. Glazed or bloodshot eyes
  2. Constricted or dilated pupils
  3. Mild to moderate weight changes
  4. Infections or abnormal bruising on the skin
  5. Alteration in attitude or personality
  6. Shift in social circle or friends
  7. Isolated behavior
  8. Depressive symptoms
  9. Shift in priorities
  10. Financial issues 

Addiction can look different in each person. These symptoms are often the most telling, but they may look different in some individuals depending on the substance. 

Parents of Addicts 

As a parent, you do not want to see your child suffer. Creating a comfortable world for your child is a natural behavior. As the parent of an addict, it may feel natural to fix or protect your child from addiction. For example, you may want to call them in sick for work, hide their keys, or bail them out of jail. Soaking their consequences and making excuses for them is not an effective way to “fix” the situation. 

You cannot force your child into recovery. Addiction is larger than you, and it’s larger than your child. 

Codependent Behavior

Codependency in substance abuse occurs when an addict’s parent or loved one is controlled by the addict’s behavior. In codependent situations, the addict is defining reality. Codependents believe their love, security, and acceptance are “contingent upon taking care of the addict in the way the addict wishes.” Though codependents intend to help and rescue the addict, codependent behavior does the inverse – it helps solidify the addiction and leads to more dependency on the addict. 

Enabling Behavior 

It is common for codependents to express enabling behavior with their addicted loved one. Enabling often occurs when someone indirectly helps feed into an addiction. Enablers prevent their struggling loved one from feeling where addiction can take them. This may result from a parent of an addict continuing to give their child money, knowing that they will use it for drugs. 

Codependent and enabling behavior is very similar. To avoid the fear of loss of love, codependents will act and behave in ways to nurture and protect their struggling loved one. This will, in turn,  protect and nurture their drug addiction. 

What Can You Do as the Parent of an Addict?

Attend NA or AA Meetings 

Parents of addicts, or loved ones of addicts, can use resources such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous to find and attend meetings. The first thing you can do is call AA or NA and see where the local meetings are located. These meetings are especially beneficial for families since you are meeting with other families dealing with the same issues. The purpose of the meetings is to learn from other families and learn how to stop enabling and codependent behavior. 

Set Boundaries and Consequences

Let your loved one know the consequences of their unhealthy behavior. Do not provide money or even a place to live for your loved one who is abusing drugs. Encourage them to join a drug counseling or treatment program. As a parent of an addict, it is beneficial to understand the treatment process and what it takes to recover and live a sober life. Setting boundaries with your loved one can help in stopping codependent and enabling behavior. This step is often uncomfortable and difficult, but if your loved one starts to experience the consequences of their actions, it may encourage them to seek help. 

Tough Love

Once the enabling and codependent behavior stops, it is up to the addict to make a decision. Parents of addicts must understand their powerlessness in the situation. Refusing your loved one a place to live seems harsh, but it may be the difference between your loved one seeking treatment and not seeking treatment. Due to the nature of addiction, the addict may still refuse treatment. In this case, they become homeless or find another living arrangement. At this point, it is vital not to give in to the addict. The family can no longer rescue their loved one. 

Many people struggling with addiction reach a point where they choose recovery since they miss their former life. Only when they truly experience the consequences of their addiction can they come to this conclusion. 

Help For Parents of Drug Addicts 

Luckily, several available resources can help parents of drug addicts. Addiction is a complicated battle to face, and it should not be faced alone. Do not be afraid to reach out for help. There is no shame in addiction. It is a disease that is all over the country, and the best way to beat it is with support.

Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT)

CRAFT uses a relationship-based approach to help families deal with addiction. CRAFT can help family members set new boundaries with their loved one and teach new healthy ways to communicate. Instead of abandoning the struggling individual, CRAFT can assist in improving family bonds and the home environment as a whole. 

CRAFT can also help in encouraging your loved one to try treatment. Research shows that CRAFT engaged about two-thirds of individuals that refuse treatment – to seek treatment. Another aspect of CRAFT that is a helpful resource is the support network it offers for parents. 

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a nationwide organization that provides free support groups to people trying to break free of their addiction. The nonprofit organization also offers a free online discussion group. The available phone coaches are CRAFT-trained and provide support over the phone as help for parents of drug addicts.  

Therapeutic Options

Therapy is a valuable option when dealing with addiction in the family. If your loved one decides to seek treatment, they will most likely begin in a detox program, followed by inpatient treatment. At Rock Recovery, we offer several forms of therapy to cater to the needs of each individual. Some of our therapeutic options include:

  • Family therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Fitness therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy 

Individual Therapy

This mode of therapy is an extremely powerful tool when dealing with addiction. In an individual therapy session, a licensed therapist works with their patient to discuss their feelings, emotions, challenges, and more. Individual therapy can help people work through issues that are feeding into their addictive behaviors. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of therapy used by substance abuse therapists to help patients evaluate their thoughts and behaviors. CBT has proven its worth in substance abuse treatment by assisting clients in coping with depression, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, and more. Therapists that utilize methods of CBT help their patients realize unhealthy behavior and enact change. 

Family Therapy

At Rock Recovery, we offer family therapy to help our clients maintain healthy relationships with their families through treatment. Addiction is often referred to as a family disease. This is because addiction can impact the entire family and even damage family bonds and relationships. We understand the value of having a family support system in treatment and try our best to mend family relationships.

Remember to Care for You 

Maintaining peace in the household and keeping your own life together as a parent of an addict may seem impossible. You do not have power over your child’s addiction. The best thing you can do is maintain power and control over your own choices. Remember to care for yourself through this difficult time. This can mean reaching out to a professional or attending meetings. It is a conscious decision to choose to care for yourself, and it may even help in the process of encouraging your loved one to seek treatment. 

Get Help With Rock Recovery

Parents of addicts face a path that is among the most challenging things a parent can face. Seeing life beyond addiction and suffering can be difficult. At Rock Recovery, we strive to offer the support you and your loved one need to live a healthy and fulfilling life. There is hope, and it will always be there. Please give us a call if you have any questions or are looking for treatment.