With the nation going through one of the worst drug epidemics in recent years, there have been countless stories about how parents have had to fight to get their children into addiction treatment. Many times, the struggle is in convincing children that they need help and then getting them to agree to enter into a program. As the crisis has progressed, however, there has also been a growing number of cases where adult children have been faced with the task of trying to get their parent to enter an addiction program. According to the NCADD, the problem of older adults suffering from substance abuse has become so common that there are currently 2.5 million with an addiction problem in the U.S.
In addition to the obvious struggles associated with a child confronting their parent about their problem, there is the emotional challenge of trying to support an addicted person.
Although it is no easy feat, helping an addicted parent while still maintaining the support and love needed to get them on the road to recovery is much like the approach taken with any loved one – family or friend – with a few caveats.
Addressing the Issue at Hand
Even if they are a full-fledged adult, a child approaching their parent about an issue as serious as addiction can be a daunting task. They may feel as though they are overstepping their bounds by parenting their parent. However, it is important for them to remember that it is better to address the addiction now before their parent hits rock bottom, which could be a deadly overdose or a lethal drunken accident. Addiction will not go away on its own, and an adult child should try to help their parent sooner rather than later before the situation worsens.
Seek Professional Help
Before they confront their parent, an adult child should seek out the advice of a professional. They can reach out to a mental health professional, addiction counselor, or other addiction specialist who will be able to provide them with the needed support and sound advice on how to navigate the addiction treatment process as well as the best ways to address the issue with their parent.
Approach the Parent
When they finally do approach their parent after they have spoken to a professional, they should go in with the understanding that they might not reach their parent on the first try and that it may take several sit-downs to break through to them — even if the parent’s addiction is obvious to everyone but the parent. Some helpful tips to remember are:
- Timing is everything. When an adult child approaches their parent they should first choose a time when their parent is less likely to be under the influence of a drug or intoxicated. That will increase the chances that the parent will be more focused and alert for the discussion.
- Don’t be judgmental. A child should make sure they come from a place of genuine concern about their parent’s health and well-being when speaking to them, and they should let their parent know that they are still loved.
- Avoid arguing. Accusations or bringing up painful memories, even if they do involve recent events, should be avoided. Instead, a child should try to describe what they have noticed about their parent’s behavior. For instance, a child can bring to their parent’s attention the fact that they are using several pain medications from several different doctors or that they are exhibiting out of character and erratic behavior or that they often drink alcohol throughout the day.
- Don’t act out. A child should try to avoid getting emotionally charged and resorting to dramatic behavior such as flushing their pills down the toilet or pouring all of their alcohol down the kitchen sink when approaching their parent about addiction. This will not help the situation. It will only make their parent upset, which could lead to hostile behavior or the parent drinking or using drugs even more.
- Listen to them. It is important that a child listen to what their parent has to say about their substance misuse. They are misusing for a reason, and although they might not know what the true reason is at the moment, they will more than likely have something to say and want to be heard. Even if a child finds themselves disagreeing with what their parent is telling them, they need to listen. Sometimes just being that supportive ear and even letting an addicted person vent can help the addicted person take that step needed to work towards their recovery.
- Offer them help. A child should make sure their parent understands that they are offering help to find the right treatment program. A child must remember that their parent may be afraid of rehabs and resistant to detox because of misinformation they have heard about programs or just plain fear of the unknown. It is important to reassure their parent during this time that they won’t be alone through the treatment process and that they will be well taken care of when they enter a program.
Don’t Forget Your Own Well-being
Having any family member battle addiction is a very difficult experience, and when a parent is involved, it can be even harder. An adult child going through this situation must remember to take the time to take care of themselves too. They should ideally be talking to a professional who specializes in family therapy and addiction on a regular basis. They need to make sure they are dealing with the fact that their parent has a serious problem and that it has greatly affected their life. There is a lot of stress, both emotionally and financially, that surrounds a loved one’s addiction, and an individual must make sure that they are addressing that stress for their own mental health and well-being. Through talking with a professional, a child will learn how to cope – in a healthy way – with their parent’s struggle with the chronic disease that is addiction.
Never Give Up
Even if an adult child goes through times when they think their parent is beyond repair, they shouldn’t give up. It is never too late for anyone to seek help, even if they have been misusing substances for years. There is nothing to be ashamed of as a child of a person battling addiction.
Addiction is a family disease, and treatment programs run by qualified professionals can provide the help needed to address a parent’s addiction as well with the best options for maintaining a life in recovery for both parent and child.