Discovering that your loved one is experimenting with and/or abusing substances can be very difficult and emotional. At Odyssey House of Utah, we have been working with clients and families for nearly 40 years to overcome substance abuse. The following is a set of tips to help you know what to do if you discover that your loved one has made some poor choices:
Tips for Parents
No addict can be forced to give up the drug
- If you decide to give an ultimatum, require treatment, not abstinence. People who engage in treatment will be better able to achieve abstinence because they will be given the tools and support they need to maintain abstinence over the long term.
- The idea of your child wanting treatment in order to be effective is a myth. Most that go to treatment and are successful have been encouraged by external pressure (parents or the court system) to do so.
Start with yourself. Gain knowledge about addiction and find the courage to deal with it
- Your child may feel alone, isolated, alienated, and cut off from others. That is the definition of addiction – an uncontrollable, compulsive drug craving, seeking and use even in the face of negative health and social consequences.
- Roughly 21.6 million Americans aged 12 or older (9.1% of the population) were classified as having a substance abuse problem or addiction.
- Do not give up – you cannot help the other person without helping yourself first.
Do not treat the addiction on your own
- Attempting to do so is the equivalent of attempting to perform a medical operation without the proper training. There are inherent risks and potentially serious consequences. Specialists have spent years in school and in the field and trusting the care of your child with them immensely increases their chances of long term abstinence.
Accept the reality – no matter how harsh
- Denial is very common and allows the problem to continue. It delays the inevitable and only works until the truth becomes so obvious and the crises become so dramatic.
- Understand that facing the truth head on is the best chance you have at beginning the fight against addiction.
Do not let the addiction control your behavior. Do not be ambivalent, at any cost. Do not panic.
- It is hard to do this when you are dealing with a person who cannot take care of themselves, but if you are not healthy and safe then there is little chance you can be strong and effective at helping others.
Try and understand your child and make him/her feel that you care.
- Understand that while your child made the choice to try the drug, they did not choose to become addicted. Their brain is now functioning abnormally and their drug use is out of control. They need and deserve the same care and treatment as anyone else with a chronic illness would receive.
Be patient. Do not look for shortcuts. Recovery can take between 4 to 6 months and often times longer.
- Find a treatment program that treats all of your child’s individual problems together, such as drug addiction, behavioral issues, mental illness and/or life skills.
Do something. To do nothing is the second worst choice you can make.
- Consider a formal intervention
- Enlist a professional to help plan the intervention
- Bring together the people most significant to the user (3 to 6 is best, no children) – the people who are concerned and who have clout with him or her. Only include people who are comfortable with the process.
- Have a plan – decide who is going to say what.
- Make all arrangements for the person to begin treatment immediately following the intervention. Know the details about the treatment facility.
- Identify the objections you might hear from your child and be prepared to answer each one.
- Decide what consequences you’re prepared to follow through with if the person refuses to enter treatment. For a teenager, it might be: “We will file a petition with the court to have you placed in treatment.”
- Be prepared to follow through with these consequences if treatment is refused.
- Tell your child that you care about them but explain your concerns. Bring a list of examples. Be truthful and clear.
- Get a commitment from your child that they’re willing to get help and get them there immediately.
Feel free to visit our Odyssey House Utah Squidoo Lens as well as our Odyssey House of Utah Propeller site for more information on our vocational training program.