There are so much judgment and negativity attached to addiction that it can be hard to separate the truth from the myths. Many people seek advice from nonexperts and come away with a bunch of misinformation and conflicting ideas. Everyone’s experience is different, and old-fashioned morality-based notions about drug and alcohol addiction are still alive and well.
While it’s important to talk to friends and family about what you’re going through, try to take advice from those who aren’t addiction specialists with a grain of salt. Substance abuse isn’t a sign of a bad person, and it doesn’t make you a bad parent.
This disease is caused by a complex interaction between genetic, environmental and behavioral factors that can vary significantly from person to person.
How Can I Help My Drug-Addicted Son?
One of the mistakes parents make is trying to assume the role of doctor, therapist and friend. Being caught up in your son’s problem is unlikely to make the situation any better and will likely cause problems in your own life. The impact this disease has on a family can’t be underestimated. You should never feel guilty because you’re overwhelmed and exhausted, either. Substance abuse breaks the hearts of loved ones as much as it ruins the lives of those directly affected.
The best way you can help your son is by gently persuading him to seek professional addiction treatment. You may not realize it, but anything else is likely to make the problem worse. The nature of this illness means your child is likely to have developed deceptive or manipulative strategies to hide his substance abuse and protect his habit. Don’t take this behavior personally; it’s common in addicts, and they’re usually lying to themselves as well.
Take a Step Back
It’s important not to get too tangled up in this mess. Adult children and teenagers are highly likely to rebel against their parents for no other reason than the sake of rebellion. This can make your efforts feel like a giant waste of time and leave you feeling worthless. If you’re constantly asking about your son’s problem, giving advice and telling him what to do, it will probably go in one ear and out the other. Just let him know you are there for him if he needs to talk and how much you love and care about him.
A gentle approach usually yields the best results, but that doesn’t mean you should let yourself be taken advantage of. If your son is stealing from you or demanding money, cut off these channels immediately. Lock valuables in a safe, and keep tabs on all of your cash and cards. If money has been taken, keep records of the amount and discuss a repayment plan once he’s in recovery. Personal responsibility is necessary for him to heal, however difficult it may feel to say no and not be so involved.
Become an Expert
Drug and alcohol abuse rewire the brain and its reward system so that your son’s primary focus is obtaining drugs or alcohol and getting intoxicated. The level of deception he’s capable of to achieve this is probably shocking for you and the rest of the family. The only comfort can be found in understanding that he is lying to himself as much as he is lying to everyone else.
If you don’t know all the ins and outs of this illness or don’t fully understand the way addiction works, it’s easy for an addict to take advantage of this. Read many trusted sources about how the disease affects the brain and speak to clinical staff about it. The more you arm yourself with knowledge, the more resistant you’ll be to manipulation. Share what you learn with the rest of the family and use this defense to disarm your son and show him that you know best.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
Blaming yourself and blaming your son won’t get either of you anywhere. Addiction isn’t something you’ve done to your children, and it isn’t a choice they have made. It’s normal to feel responsible for your son as a mother or father; it’s hard-wired into you. If you don’t see addiction for the disease it is, it’s much more difficult to remove yourself from trying to work out whose fault it is.
If your child had cancer, meningitis or anemia, you wouldn’t blame yourself or them. Try to transfer this understanding of illness to your son’s addiction. Get to know the mechanism of addiction and you can learn to hate the disease while still loving your child. This will help to build trust and make your efforts to get him into treatment more effective.
Avoid Engaging in Arguments
This one is much easier said than done, and don’t beat yourself up if you do find yourself getting frustrated and raising your voice because you feel so passionately. If possible, you should avoid engaging in any confrontational behavior. It’s usually just your son’s way of trying to provoke a negative reaction from you to justify his bad behavior. If you can avoid falling into this trap, he’s more likely to listen to you when you express your genuine concern and convince him that he needs help.
If your son is older, you can still help him. However, the earlier you catch the problem, the better chance he has of long-term recovery. If your son starts smoking or drinking alcohol between the ages of 13 and 18, his developing mind is prone to becoming hard-wired for a lifetime of addiction. Don’t hope that it’s a phase and expect him to grow out of it.
He needs to seek professional treatment at a men’s rehab to help him develop coping mechanisms and fully understand the long-term implications of continued substance abuse.
What Not to Say to a Son on Drugs
- “I’ll pay for your drugs/debt/alcohol if you promise it’s the last time.”
- “If you quit alcohol or drugs, I’ll buy you a car/pay for tuition/take you on a vacation.”
- “You’re a bad person.”
- “You’ve ruined our lives.” (Even if it’s true)
- “You can’t be helped/there’s no hope.”
- “Going cold turkey is the only way to quit, and I’m going to help you.”
- “Pull yourself together and get over it.”
If you’re upset, worried or afraid, it’s understandable, but don’t unload it on the person with the addiction. Let our trained counselors help you. Speaking about your experience and expressing yourself is just as important as getting help for your son; even the darkest and most negative worries should be spoken. Talking to someone else helps to put things in perspective, which can be a sanity-saver at such a stressful time. Call Calusa Recovery now at 844-254-9664 to make the first step towards getting the professional support you and your son need to start healing.