What happens when your son or daughter knows that drugs are ruining their life, putting them in constant danger, placing them at risk of a jail sentence, and is yet still afraid of stopping their drug use? How can you talk to them in such a way that they become aware of their problem and the damaging effects it is creating for self and others, and so that they become willing to take action in order to resolve it? There is a way to talk to them–a way to help them without enabling them, and without cutting off all communication with them.
Talking to An Addicted Son or Daughter
When an individual initially discovers that their son or daughter is abusing or addicted to drugs, their first reaction is often shock and disbelief. It can take great courage just to confront your child about their drug use, and to do so without begging, threatening, screaming or yelling. Even when you manage to speak calmly with your child, the response you receive for why they don’t need or won’t get help can further complicate the situation. They may insist that they aren’t taking drugs at all, that they aren’t abusing or addicted to drugs, that they can stop anytime they want, that they don’t need help, or any other manner of excuses. Assisting them through these various excuses to the point where they recognize the truth and are willing to do something about it begins with understanding what normally lies at the heart of the excuses.
Regardless of what they actually say, a drug abuser or addict usually recognizes that they have a problem and need help. More importantly, they often want help. What stands in their way is the fact that they may have tried to stop on their own, failed, and gave up hope that true sobriety is actually possible. They may be aware of the relationships their drug use has destroyed, and they may not believe these relationships are repairable–which causes emotional discomfort that further drug use helps to mask. They may believe that they have ruined their lives to the degree that they will never be able to live a normal life in the future, so why even both going through the pain and discomfort of withdrawal and recovery if it will all be for naught?
In order to successfully talk to a son or daughter about their drug addiction and getting help, one will have to be willing to understand their situation and their concerns, and follow some basic guidelines:
● Be the child’s friend. A mother or father may have the impulse to scold their child about their drug use or beg them to seek help, and their child knows this. They also know that a friend will simply listen and understand, and the truth is that most people will more readily accept help that is being offered by a friend.
● Ask about and understand the problem that the drug abuser or addict feels is being resolved through their drug use. There is always some physical, mental, emotional or spiritual problem that a drug abuser or addict feels that they cannot cope with or resolve on their own, and that drug use aids them in dealing with. Understanding this problem can help one to guide their son or daughter into seeing that drug use is actually making it worse, and there are some real solutions they can avail themselves of.
● Be supportive without enabling further drug use. The individual is already struggling with something that they know deep down isn’t good for them, and that they cannot resolve on their own, so is therefore seeking to explain away in any way they can. By acknowledging their affirmation that they really do feel drugs are helpful, one is not fighting their son or daughter’s driving compulsion to continue using drugs. However, one can also firmly hold their position that further drug use will not be tolerated, and their support is offered for the recovery process.
● Understand the fear associated with thoughts of withdrawal. Withdrawal can not only be physically uncomfortable or even painful, it can force the individual to confront their life problems without the aid of the drug substances they have come to depend on. This is no small thing, and is likely one of the key reasons for an individual’s refusal to participate in treatment.
Once you have your son or daughter openly talking with you about their drug use and the problems they feel their drug use is solving, you can acknowledge that it really is a problem and you can empathize with how they feel about drugs solving it. You can then ask them if they can think of any other possible solutions, gently pushing them to keep looking until they find even one. They may realize that some relationship they have is dangerous for them, or they need a different work or living environment, but whatever their non-drug solution, you should acknowledge it as a good step. Then you can move on to educating them in the truth about drugs and their effects, and how rehabilitation treatment can assist them in restoring a healthy, happy and productive future.
When considering recovery, your son or daughter may express concern, which can again be resolved through further education. If they are concerned that coming off opioids will cause them to experience more pain, show them how taking opioids can actually increase pain. If they are concerned that opioid withdrawal will be extremely painful, show them how it doesn’t have to be. Whatever their concern, be prepared to educate them in that concern so they realize it isn’t an issue. It can be helpful to point out to them that sometimes improving one’s diet and exercise can greatly improve their overall physical and mental comfort, even when working through drug withdrawal and detox.
Finally, present your son or daughter with treatment options, and encourage them to take advantage of them. They may still hesitate, but this only means that they need to communicate more about their concerns to a good friend who will really listen and understand them, and then who will provide them with more information and education so that they will truly understand the benefits of sobriety. You may even consider enlisting the help of a professional addiction counselor, who can also provide more information where needed. Patience and persistence will be highly rewarded when your son or daughter finally takes back control of their life and moves forward into a better future.