Placing a teen in alcohol or drug rehab is one of the most difficult things a parent will do. While you’re probably relieved that your child is finally getting help, you may also be worried about what the future holds. As a parent, there are actions you can take right now to give your teenager the best chance for recovery from addiction. There are also strategies that will allow you to help yourself and your family weather the challenges of the rehab process.
Helping a Teenager in Rehab
Addiction can have a devastating, long-term impact on your teen’s life. This is why it’s essential to do everything you can to help your adolescent overcome it. As much as therapy aids in recovery, the support and guidance of parents is just as important. In fact, in can be one of the most critical factors in your teen’s long-term success.
- Learn about addiction. Substance abuse is a broad category that includes alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drugs. Each substance has its own impact on your child’s physical and mental health. Help your teen by educating yourself about his specific addiction, so you’ll understand more about the recovery process. By doing this, you’ll also be prepared in terms of what to expect in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
- Ask questions. It can be overwhelming and a bit scary to have a teen in rehab. Don’t let your anxiety or sense of overwhelm prevent you from being the best advocate for her. Never hesitate to ask questions about the treatment process or recommendations that confuse you. If you’re concerned about a particular course of treatment, request a second opinion.
- Don’t allow your teen to be in charge. Adolescents can be headstrong and manipulative. Your teen may try very hard to convince you that he should leave rehab early. He may insist — and be quite compelling in doing so -– that he’s “learned his lesson,” or vow to never speak to you again if you don’t comply with his wishes. Expect all sorts of tactics, including crying, threats, cold silences and begging. Listen to your teen, but then explain that you love him and have placed him in drug rehab treatment to save his life.
- Be active in your teen’s therapy. Drug and alcohol rehab for adolescents typically includes family therapy. Make it a top priority to actively participate in your child’s recovery by attending all sessions, even if you need to set aside other commitments to do so. During therapy, you’ll learn how to work with –- rather than against — your teen to give her the best chance for recovery success.
- Have a plan for discharge. Addiction is a chronic condition, and alcohol and drug rehab treatment is just the first part of the recovery process. Work closely with the addiction center’s team to create a plan for your teen’s re-entry into the real world. Set clear house rules before discharge. Rules can include strict curfews, regularly scheduled chores, and expectations regarding school and behavior. Outline the consequences for violations, and, just as importantly, follow through on them. Make sure your spouse or partner is aware of the house rules and is willing to enforce them
- Be alert for signs of cross-addiction. Your teen may be recovering from an addiction to one particular substance, such as alcohol or steroids. However, he may be vulnerable to developing another addiction. Know the signs of addiction to other substances so you can be alert for them when your teen returns home. Don’t store prescription drugs, including painkillers and ADHD medications, in easily accessible places. Always dispose of extra pills properly after you no longer need to take them.
- Be patient. Recovering from any addiction is a long-term process. Your teen will go through different stages along the way. Sometimes she’ll feel positive, other times she may act depressed or pessimistic about her addiction or her recovery. With the guidance of alcohol and drug rehab specialists, she’ll re-learn how to think and feel without drugs or alcohol adversely affecting her brain.
Helping Your Family
One of the biggest obstacles for parents with addicted teens is caring for the rest of the family. The following tips can help everyone cope:
- Seek professional help for yourself. Some parents feel shame and guilt over a teen’s addiction; others harbor anger and frustration toward their addicted child. Many moms and dads weigh themselves down with derogatory statements like “I should have done this…” or “I was a bad parent.” Therapy is a safe place to express those often overwhelming, negative emotions. Your therapist will talk with you about how you’re feeling and help you find healthy ways to cope with negative and conflicted emotions. When you’re emotionally healthy, you’ll be better able to guide and support your teen -– as well as the rest of your family — through the recovery process.
- Make time for yourself. Addiction is an all-consuming condition for addicts as well as their closest family members. While it’s natural for you to feel stress and anxiety when your child is in alcohol or drug rehab, it’s not healthy for you to ignore your own needs. Schedule time to indulge in activities that nurture your own soul. For example, take a long hike, give yourself a brief getaway, or just spend time working on a home project you enjoy
- Don’t ignore your marriage. It’s possible you’re focusing so much on your teen’s addiction problems that you neglect the relationship with your spouse or partner. Reconnecting with your significant other can be as simple as setting a regular date night, away from the strain of managing an addicted teen. However, if you’re unable to resolve conflicts, consider seeking marriage therapy. A skilled therapist will help you identify the primary problems in your relationship, and help both of you find effective and healthy ways to work through them
- Spend time with your non-addicted children. It’s easy for a family to get so wrapped up in a teen’s addiction that other children in the home are neglected. Commit to spending regular quality time with your other children. Allow each child to choose an activity he or she enjoys, whether it’s going to a favorite fast food restaurant or spending time at a park. Connect during the course of normal days as well, doing simple things like walking the dog or packing lunch together
- Break isolation. Substance abuse, along with the shame and stigma that inevitably accompany it, often causes families to withdraw from the world. While isolating from others may feel safer, it is detrimental. Enhance and rebuild your connections with friends and others by taking part in social activities like attending a class, going to church, or volunteering. By reconnecting with your community, you’re giving yourself and the rest of your family a sense of belonging that may have been missing.
Your teen can have a successful, lasting recovery, but he or she will need your love, support and guidance. It may feel like a daunting –- and at times, even a futile –- endeavor, especially if you try to go it alone or ignore the suggestions listed above. Talk with your child’s alcohol or drug rehab counselor to learn more about being a positive part of the recovery process.