Understanding Substance Use

  • How can I keep my younger son safe from my older son's substance use?

    This is often an understandable concern for parents. Younger siblings can and do suffer when there is substance use in the family. It is important to consider a plan for not only your older son with the substance use issues, but also for your younger son as well. Be sure to provide one on one time with your younger son. A child who is doing well can be overlooked and not get the attention they normally would because of all the negative behavior of their older sibling. Do your best to attend you...

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  • I have been told that there is nothing I can do to help my child - they need to hit bottom. Are there other options to this 'tough love' approach?

    Figuring how to support your child is no doubt an overwhelming experience. An experience that can have you questioning yourself, your instincts and some of the fears you might have as well. Please know that you are not alone. Unfortunately, when it comes to supporting families, most traditional treatment services, clinicians and too many so-called experts in general have adopted “one size fits all” tough love approach coupled with a soft hand off to a twelve-step support group. The message heard...

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  • I have been told that I am part of the problem (an enabler) and need to detach from my child. This does not feel right. What else can I do?

    “How To Stop Enabling Your Child,” “How Being Co-Dependent Parent Can Hurt your Child," “Consequences of Co-dependency” ... These are titles of literature parents are given at support groups. Enabling, Co-dependent, Powerless – all words and ideas parents hear often as they navigate the path to try to help and support their child. While these ideas are meant to help families, they are often confusing and at times used in ways that are shaming and discouraging. A parent may be used to hearing “y...

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  • I never thought my child would hurt me like this. Our family has always been close and loving. How can my child behave like this?

    Dealing with a child’s addiction, can be likened to a seemingly never ending roller coaster ride causing deep pain. Often, we find ourselves reflecting back - thinking, I was a good parent; I raised my child with good morals and values. The hurt you feel and is not only understandable but valid. When we begin to understanding our child’s substance use, we also begin to understand the underlying foundation for their use and why it might be rewarding for them in some way whether it be emotionall...

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  • Why do so many people say I throw my child out? This doesn’t feel right to me, especially being so soon in the process. What should I do?

    Thank you for asking this important question. It upsets me when I hear people say to throw your child out (of the house). I understand why that doesn't feel right to you. I have heard the same thing in a variety of support groups and from some "professionals" in the field. This is especially disturbing early in the process, when parents are less knowledgeable, scared, and desperate for answers. Those telling you this may only know five-minutes of your family's situation! When our kids get very ...

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  • What is tough love? Why do so many well intended people, including some healthcare professional, try to convince me that it’s the only way to deal with my kid?

    "Tough love" and words like enabling, detaching and codependency can be tossed around loosely and carelessly by well-meaning people trying to help. Sometimes their definition of tough love comes across directly or implied as throw your kid out, don't give them anything, let them hit bottom, and you can't help them. These words can be twisted so anything you do that's nice for your child is considered enabling. Parents often feel hopeless and powerless when the opposite is true. Parents can help!...

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  • Does my loved one need detox?

    The need for detox depends on many factors, such as the person's overall medical condition, which drugs they are using and the severity of their drug use. For example, it can be very dangerous detoxing -- even live-threatening -- if you just stop using alcohol or benzodiazepines. Discontinuing use of these substnaces often requires medical supervision, tapering, a safe setting, and perhaps medicine. It can take as little as a 10-minute phone conversation with a medical professional who understa...

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  • How much should I divulge, if anything, about my use of alcohol/drugs when I was young?

    It's understandable you might struggle with this decision. Experts don't even agree on the best approach to take. Here are a few points to consider. You know your child better than anyone – even the experts. Trust your instinct as to whether or not to bring up the subject or how candid to be if they ask you. Try to avoid giving your child more information than they have asked for. Depending on the circumstances, it is possibly your child already knows the answer before asking the question. It i...

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