Few things can be more devastating for a parent than watching a child struggle with opiate addiction. If you’re the parent of an opiate-addicted child, these tips can help you support your child’s recovery and protect you from the emotional fallout of coping with a loved one’s addiction.
1. Don’t Be an Enabler
If you’re the parent of an addict, you may be inadvertently creating an environment that makes it easy for your child to keep using illegal drugs. This is known as enabling. Parents do this when they pay rent, buy food, cover bills or give cash to their addicted children.
Of course, you don’t mean to contribute to your child’s problem. You’re just trying to help. And it’s okay — even necessary — to offer your child emotional support. But don’t be tempted to help your child financially or materially. If you do, you’re making it easy for him or her to live irresponsibly. By withholding or taking away financial support, you give your child an incentive to get clean and take responsibility for his or her life.
2. Educate Yourself About Addiction and Treatment
Chances are you don’t know much about addiction; you may not have ever known an addict before you discovered that your child was addicted to opiates. That’s okay, but it’s important to learn all you can about opiate addiction — its causes and its treatments. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of what your child is going through and what needs to happen for him or her to get better.
Once you’ve educated yourself about opiate addiction and how it’s treated, you can help your child by researching opiate addiction treatment programs and facilities. If your child has asked for help, you’ll need this information; and even if your child doesn’t ask for help, it’s a good idea to inform yourself so you’re ready when the time comes.
3. You Need Support, Too
You’re probably feeling overwhelmed with concern for your child and you may be wholly focused on helping in any way. While that’s normal, you need to get emotional support for yourself to cope with the reality of your child’s addiction.
One of the best places to get this support is in a support group for the parents of addicts. Meeting other people who’ve been through the same things you’re going through lets you know that you’re not alone. These other parents can also share their coping strategies, help you develop a healthy attitude regarding your child’s addiction and commiserate when things are tough.
4. Rally the Rest of the Family
While it’s important that your child feel that you’re emotionally supportive during this difficult time, it can also be immensely helpful to enlist the emotional support of other members of the family, particularly those with whom your child might be close.
If you feel that your child isn’t taking your concerns seriously, you can enlist other relatives to help stage an intervention or reach out individually to share their concerns. If your child is still in denial about the extent of the problem, hearing concerns from multiple people might be helpful.
Of course, there may be members of your family that do not want to involve themselves with an addict. Accept that this is their right, and concentrate on helping your child maintain strong, loving, emotionally supportive relationships with those relatives who want to have them. Not only will this be helpful for your child, but it can also help you cope emotionally, since you won’t feel as if you’re tackling the problem alone.
5. Don’t Blame Yourself
As a parent, your first instinct when you learn of your child’s opiate addiction may be to blame yourself. You may believe that this happened to your child because of something you did wrong in raising your child. However, do not blame yourself. You can’t control everything that happens to your child.
If your child admits to having an addiction problem and asks for help, that’s a good thing. It means he or she is ready to face addiction and recover. Blaming yourself for your perceived parenting mistakes will do nothing to help either of you, so instead of worrying about what you may have done wrong, focus on the future, and what you can do to help your child get better.
About the Author: Contributing blogger Alicia Williams holds a Master of Science in Addiction Counseling and has worked in Arizona addiction treatment for more than 20 years. She lives in Phoenix.
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