There are few things more difficult for parents to deal with than a drug-addicted child. Put simply, parents of drug-addicted children are often battered by a wide range of difficult emotions–from anger to confusion, disbelief to fear and much more. They may live with the constant knowledge that at any given time they will receive the news that they dread the most but feel is completely inevitable: the news that their child has lost their life to drug substances. It is for this reason that many parents breathe a deep sigh of relief when their child finally enrolls in rehabilitation treatment. They may still keep a wary eye on the situation, knowing that their child’s full and permanent recovery is far from guaranteed, but as time goes on and they continue to remain drug-free and healthy, parents may finally relax in the belief that their child is completely recovered. So what happens when they relapse?
Dealing With a Teen’s Relapse
Even parents who are on constant high-alert may miss some of the early signs of their teenager’s drug addiction relapse. It can begin as innocently as coming home early from school, albeit with very logical-sounding excuses, or even with some apparently teenager-appropriate defensive or irritable behavior. If he becomes very secretive in his behavior or starts hanging out with old friends, it is definitely time to step in. Just because your teenager has relapsed does not mean that it is your fault or that you have failed them, nor does it mean that they are incapable of achieving and maintaining true and lasting recovery. It simply means they need further help.
The best way to deal with a teen’s addiction relapse is to begin with a very calm, open and honest conversation. You may find that simply sitting down to speak with them opens the floodgates, and they have a lot to say on their own. They may say that they don’t want to be addicted again, but they also feel stressed and anxious about the constant pressure to remain sober and fight triggers, cravings and urges. They may say that they don’t see the harm in having a little bit of fun and a few drinks with their friends every now and again. They may even say that they don’t understand what they are doing, or why, but they just can’t help it. No matter what they say, it is incredibly important that you take the time to listen to them, without exposing them to the surprise, anger, worry or other emotions you may be struggling with. Chances are, your addiction relapsed teenager feels a bit alone and conflicted, which means they need help and support from others they know and trust in order to resolve the situation in which they find themselves. Venting your own emotions at them may only serve to drive them away, into their own “solutions”, eliminating the easiest opportunity you have to help them.
Once your teen has expressed how they feel about their addiction relapse, you can ask them some pointed questions that will better help them to understand all the ramifications of their actions. These questions can include: Why do you use drugs or alcohol? How do you feel while you are using drugs or alcohol? How do you feel after you have used drugs or alcohol? Would you like to be free from drugs or alcohol? Of course, some teens may continue to fight against honesty, but many may openly admit that they use drugs or alcohol in order to escape from certain aspects of their life, and that they don’t actually like how they feel during or after using these substances. They may even openly ask for help.
One of the best solutions for handling an addiction relapse is to get the individual back into rehabilitation treatment as rapidly as possible. Some treatment facilities and programs include aftercare services, and a very few may even offer graduate guarantees. In the case that your teen’s prior treatment facility is unable or unwilling to re-enroll him, you may want to consider other, long-term residential treatment facilities. They may simply need more time to handle the many causes and effects of drug use, as well as gain the life skills and abilities that will increase their confidence and self-esteem so that they are far less likely to relapse back into drug use again in the future.
Whatever action you take, it is important to bear in mind that ignoring the problem will not make it go away, and that your patient persistence can result in a healthy, happy teenager who is ready to move forward into a productive, drug-free future.