Addiction is a family disease and a destroyer of relationships. When one person in the family is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the foundation of the family is often rocked to its core. Addiction not only interferes with normal family life and routines, but it adds extreme stress and an unstable – sometimes even dangerous – environment. When the addicted person is an adolescent or teen, the dynamic of the family can change even more dramatically.
Depending on age and circumstance, not everyone in the family may agree with how the child’s addiction is being handled. Some family members enable their loved ones, still providing money, phones, and other resources despite their substance use. Others may refuse to admit there is a problem until it becomes so bad it’s undeniable. When family members disagree about the best way to deal with their loved one’s addiction, conflict often ensues – dividing the family even further.
It can be a heartbreaking experience, but there is hope. Many recovery programs make healing family relationships a high priority, because family support is so critical to success – especially for young people who need a safe haven to return to. There are many ways to repair the damage caused by addiction if a family is willing to work together to try.
Set Realistic Expectations
A newly-sober teen may feel very positive about the progress they’ve made and eager for a fresh start in a relationship. An excited parent may consider their child “cured” and want to put the entire ordeal behind them. It’s very common to avoid wanting to re-address the past, which is likely full of upsetting memories. But these issues cannot be resolved immediately, even if the teen offers a sincere apology for past actions.
The process of healing takes a lot of time. A family can view any action taken toward rebuilding the relationship as a victory, and these small steps need to be celebrated. Rushing the situation will only cause frustration and threaten your child’s newfound sobriety. Make a concerted effort to take this journey together, one step at a time for as long as it takes.
Work to Rebuild Trust
Someone who is addicted to drugs and alcohol will betray their family’s trust, no matter what age they are. Whether it’s lying about their using or larger betrayals like stealing from their loved ones, a family with a child in recovery is likely facing broken trust that may take a long time to mend. Try to understand that someone who is living with addiction will always put their disease first.
Your child’s addiction and their past actions do not mean that they are bad people, or that you are bad parents. On the contrary, some addicts come from very loving homes but still succumb to addiction for other reasons. For your child to maintain sobriety, and for your family to live harmoniously, trust will eventually have to be re-built. Again, this is a process that will likely take a long amount of time.
Learn Healthy Communication Methods
In recovery, your child will learn a whole new way of communicating their thoughts and feelings. Now that they can no longer turn to drugs or alcohol, they must learn to cope with their emotions and find healthier ways to communicate with others. Families must learn a new way of communicating with their loved one as well.
Communication is a two-way street, and it includes both talking and listening. Many times, when we listen to someone else speak, we aren’t really hearing what the other person is saying – we’re simply waiting for a break in the conversation so we can make our point. Your family can improve communication by showing empathy, listening intently when someone else is talking, respecting others’ viewpoints, and diffusing any heated conversations before they escalate. Yelling, interrupting, or storming out of the room do nothing to improve or heal a family’s relationship.
No More Codependency
Some family members may take on a role where they “need” to look after the person in recovery. They likely filled the same role while their loved one was actively in addiction and tried to shield them from the consequences of their actions. Once your adolescent or teen has moved into recovery and is learning to take responsibility for their own actions, there is no need to make excuses or enable them anymore. The codependent family member may need counseling of their own to learn to break this pattern.
Live in the Here and Now
We cannot change the past, no matter how much we want to. All we can do is look to the future, and live in today. If your child is in recovery, that’s a wonderful thing. Any treatment program would be incomplete without including families, so take every opportunity to heal alongside your loved one. This is an ideal chance to not only heal the family, but perhaps make it stronger than ever.
Sustain Recovery provides adolescents a positive and loving environment where they can address their addiction and mental health needs. Family members are also actively involved in their loved one’s recovery. By providing support groups of their own and other therapy programs, we embrace families and help them move forward. To learn more, contact Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052.