If you are here, it is likely you have a loved one that you suspect of alcohol or drug use. Unfortunately, most people have been affected by drug use or know someone who has. Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are so complex because they affect every part of a person; family and social relationships, job/ school performance, physical and psychological functions, etc. The effect on the family is of particular interest to me and in my opinion, far under discussed. I would like to discuss the role of the family and what family members can do to support the person without supporting the addiction in future blogs.
This particular post is a follow-up to my blogs on signs that your teen is using and how to talk to your teen about their drug use. However, this list can be applied to both adult and teen discussions addressing drug use. I know this is a very uncomfortable thing to discuss and it would be much easier to ignore the signs, but Mom/ Dad/ Grams you are doing the right thing. The list of expectations below may seem negative but please understand that my desire is to prepare you for this discussion because it is so so so important to the healing of your loved one.
Here are 5 expectations of what might happen when addressing drug use:
- Your Teen might lie. I’d say he or she will lie. Perhaps not about whether they used drugs or not. But certainly about how much, how often, and/or when it started. Do your best not to take this personally; this lie has to do with the love of the substance not with a diminished love for you. Mom, Dad, you know when your child lies; you always have; that feelings in the pit of your stomach; the way Jr cannot maintain contact; the slight change in his voice. Do not let rationalization or your idealization convince you otherwise. If your teen is using drugs and they do not want to stop, they will lie. If your teen is using drugs and they don’t think it is a big deal, they will lie. If your teen is using drugs and they are ashamed, they might lie.
- Your teen probably likes it. If your teen didn’t like drugs, you wouldn’t be having this conversation because A. They would have never experimented or B. They would not have continued use after experimentation. Why? Because using drugs is uncomfortable.
- The Blame Game. I am not sure how many addicts you have interacted with but I have personally and professionally known many! Not only are 1 and 2 common characteristics, but the blame game is a classic. If your teen is honest with you it will be accompanied with blame. Blame of you, blame of your other children, blame of the neighbor, etc. From their perspective this is simply not their fault.
- You will be met with defense. How dare you?! How dare you ask me if I am doing what I am doing? Really. Your teen is very likely to be defensive during this discussion BUT hopefully it will give opportunity for a less defensive discussion in your near future.
- They will seek sympathy. Not only will they want you to feel sorry for their situation but they will do all they can to split any parties to do so. Like when they were younger and they asked the other parent until they got the answer they wanted, they will do their best to separate the opposition. Remember you are stronger together. Your using teen will want you to feel sorry for them for bringing up the topic of drug use. Your teen will want you to feel sorry for them for accusing them of drug use. Your teen will want you to feel sorry for them. You may in fact feel sorry for them.
I wish you all the luck in the conversation you have ahead of you and in getting your teen the help they really need. Remember that the sooner this conversation happens the better. The longer this use continues the greater the consequences for your teen and family.