ARTICLE OVERVIEW: To related to an addicted child, you need to show love and compassion without enabling. This article explores many issues that parents go through when a son or daughter experiences addiction. We outline where to go for help, what to avoid, and how to generally get through the difficult time.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Common Emotions
- What NOT To Do
- Why Is Relating So Difficult?
- The Secret: Compassion without Enabling
- Where to Get Professional Help
- 5 Things to Avoid
- An Extra Tip
- Your Questions
An Entire Range Of Emotions
Parents of addicted children often feel a whole range of emotions. Finding out that your son or daughter has a problem with drugs or alcohol can be a shock!  Common emotions such as:
- Anger – or outrage!
…all of these can come tumbling out when you find out about your son’s or daughter’s addiction. But it’s important to be guided and directed by a higher level of emotion: empathy. For this reason, it is important that you learn how to deal addiction in the way that EXPERTS RECOMMEND.
This article provides parents of drug or alcohol addicted children with information and resources about the who/what/when/where and how to solve the problem. So, continue reading to learn more on the topic of relating to your addicted son or daughter. Then, your questions and/or personal experiences are welcomed at the end.
Relating To An Addict: What NOT To Do
Becoming aware that your child has a problem with addiction is definitely not a pleasant thing to hear… for any parent. Some addictions come as a need to experience the unknown. Behind others is the need to avoid pain and/or dissatisfaction. Still other kids that cope with addiction have trauma at the source of their pain.
Regardless of the reasons, the first mistake parents make is the practice of “chasing the blame”. This comes as the natural need for parents to assign some bottom line responsibility for the problem. It is a search for the cause. It is a reaching out for understanding.
But the truth is this: When the problem of addiction has developed, attaching blame to an individual would only mean wasting time. Instead of looking for the person to blame, parents of drug addicts should accept the fact that their child has become an addict. Then, you can think about alternatives for help.
The main difficulty for every parent? To face and accept the fact that a family member has addiction problems. Then, move forward. Denial can only set you back.
Why Is Relating To An Addict So Difficult?
Talking about the skeletons in the family closet can be extremely difficult! It’s difficult to communicate with adolescents in the best of times…let alone when your kid needs you the most. So, rest assured that most parents find it difficult to relate to their child’s addiction for many reasons. You’re not alone in struggling with what to do or say.
Some common reasons that get in the way of a healthy relationship exist because:
- Parents are in denial about the child’s addiction problem.
- Parents are preoccupied with the shame, guilt and other stigma of addiction.
- Parents lack education about the science of drug addiction.
- Parents do not consult or ask for professional help.
- Parents do not know how to communicate with their children who face addiction problems.
- Parents do not know how to set boundaries and limits for themselves and their children.
Ask yourself, “Do I meet any of these criteria?”
Knowing where you stand in relation to these main barriers is a good beginning.
The Secret Of Relating To Your Addicted Child
Q: So, what is the secret of relating to your addicted son or daughter?
A: The key is to learn how to show your love and compassion without enabling your child’s addiction.
Usually, you learn do this with professional help.
Naturally, most parents wonder what to do when they find out about their son or daughter’s addiction problem. We think that the first step you need to take as a parent is to ask for professional help. Of the utmost importance is to accept the presence of the problem and then DO NOT TRY TO FIX IT ON YOUR OWN.
This is what mental health professionals are for.
Where to Get Professional Help
But, who can you ask for help?
Specially trained, certified, and licensed professionals that diagnose and treat addiction are found all over the country. These a specialists can help determine the severity of your child’s addiction and the need for further treatment. They can serve as interventionists, counselors, and support. Some are medical doctors, some are licensed therapists. All can help your child.
Addiction professionals include:
1. Certified physicians who specialize in addiction.
These are MDs who have received special continued education and certification in addiction medicine. You can use the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) website to find a physician near you. 
These are also MDs who specialize in treating mental illness. Psychiatrists can be very helpful in cases of dual diagnosis, or co-occuring mental health problems … such as depression or anxiety. Both are frequently present in teens. You can use the American Academy of Child & Adolescent (AACAP) website to find the most suitable child and adolescent psychiatrist in your area.  Or, ask your family doctor or health clinic for a referral.
3. Individual, family, and addiction counselors.
Psychotherapy is at the core of addiction treatment. Find a licensed therapist near you by searching the directory at the American Psychological Association. Special filters exist for age. 
4. Addiction treatment centers.
After a mental health professional screens your child and determines the need for further substance abuse treatment, check out local or national treatment centers. You can start your search by contacting the following referral hotlines:
- Government’s Treatment Locator service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- SAMHSA online treatment locator on their website
- Call our confidential hotline, listed on this page
5. Support groups.
12 step and self-help groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or SMART Recovery are an excellent free resources where you can how to cope as a parent.    You can also attend peer-to-peer addiction support groups like A.A. or N.A. to learn about addictive thinking just by listening to other people in recovery telling their stories. These groups usually hope an “open” meeting at least once weekly for everyone, regardless of your personal experience with addiction. All that is required of you is to sit and listen.
6. Education for addicted patients and families.
In order to educate and better understand what is going on with your addicted son or daughter you can find useful information online. A few places to start? We recommend you start with the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Patients & Families, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Parents. These are excellent sources to begin with.  
Top 5 Things To Avoid When Talking To An Addict
Here are some behaviors you should avoid when relating to your addicted son or daughter:
1. The worst choice is denial.
Some parents simply close their eyes in front of their son’s or daughter’s addiction problem when, in fact, the worst choice is to do nothing and let your child dig deeper into their addiction. Therefore, learn the signs of drug addiction.
2. Do not try to fix the situation on your own.
Addiction is not something that can just go away or vanish with time, it is a disease which is complexed and has many aspects. In order to educate, plan and take further steps always ask for help from professionals that are trained in this field and can explain to you what to do about it.
3. Blaming and criticizing your addicted son or daughter does not help.
Learn to listen to your child. Try to hear what do they have to say. If you see or consult a family counselor or psychologist, try to carefully listen and apply their suggestions. Instead of just searching for answers about what to do … start really listening! Sometimes a solution-oriented way of thinking might get you stuck into one alternative, but the truth is that there is not a magic wand or a single answer or methodology that works for everyone.
4. Let your addicted son or daughter know that you care about them, but avoid enabling.
Enabling behavior is something which we all carry from birth, it comes from the natural instinct to love. However, enabling your addicted son or daughter is not in their interest, nor yours.
Most enabler parents are not aware what they are doing because their motives come from the need to help their addicted son or daughter.  When an addict is actively using drugs he/she needs to see that they are powerless to control their use and parents can help them realize this by setting boundaries. Boundary setting can be difficult…another reason why we recommend that you seek professional help.
5. Do not forget about your own life.
Parents want to do everything in their power to help their addicted son or daughter. Most of the time, they neglect their own lives and forget about daily tasks. As a parent you need to remember that every time you pause your life you are giving the addict control. So, make your self-care top priority!
An Extra Tip
There is a proverb that goes like this: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”
The more you educate yourself and learn about the addiction problem your child is facing, you increase the chances of succeeding and going through this nightmare to the other side. Seek help from groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, spiritual or religious affiliations, addiction recovery centers, or your own circle of friends. Talking about addiction is not shameful, it’s needed. And the more people who surround you with love, the better.
Did we answer all your questions?
If you have any additional questions or want to share your experience you are welcomed to do that in the section below. Every personal experience about relating to your addicted son or daughter is valuable and might help others. Please let us know what you think!
Feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below. We try to respond to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.