On this episode of the Hope for Parents with Struggling Teens podcast, we’re going to tackle the heart-wrenching and all too familiar topic of substance use and addiction.
Today I’m talking with Brittany Johns AMFT. Brittany carries valuable expertise from her years of experience helping teens through substance abuse and addiction.
What can you do to help your teen who is using? Some therapists who speak and write on the topic will list off a litany of options, from ripping through a teen’s room to find paraphernalia to speeding them into an inpatient program - but we’ll show you how there may be a better approach.
If you discover your teen is using, we encourage you to become calmly curious - I know that’s hard - but set aside your notions and observe. Listen. Unless it’s a life-threatening emergency (like an overdose or an unsafe heroine-related situation, for instance), it’s often true that checking your teen into a program this week versus next week may not make a big difference. Giving yourself more time to research and your teen more time to absorb the idea may set them up for more success once they begin.
Substance use and substance abuse aren’t necessarily an addiction, so get as much specific information as you can over the months following the discovery of substance use.
Brittany and I also discuss the “scared straight” tactic versus an empathic approach and why being patient and safe can more effectively open the door to future honesty and trust from your teen. I know it’s scary, but focusing on developing the relationship instead of the initial fear this topic can cause will help you navigate this difficult situation.
And, is “hitting rock bottom” a real thing? Many of us long for a “rock bottom” experience to happen in our teen’s life so they’ll turn in a different direction, but I think the only absolute “rock bottom” is death. Addiction, by definition, hijack’s a person’s executive function and rationality, so hoping they’ll come to their senses after a crisis is often a letdown. “Rock bottom” moves.
However, treatment programs can still be effective even when a teen isn’t totally cooperative. It can often plant a vital seed that stays in their mind for a later date.
In the meantime, practice self-care, and if your child is an addict, try to play the long game. Focus on yourself and your marriage. Try your best to be a pillar of stability, which means not spending your last dime or selling your house for a “Hail Mary” treatment program. Ensure you’re setting healthy boundaries, which ironically makes it more likely for your teen to decide to get the help they need in the future.
I hope this episode is informative and clarifying for you.
We offer a focused, post-care - “step up” program where the teens see a therapist, and then a specialist does checkups and stays in touch. Feel free to connect with us at www.InspiredSolutionsCounseling.com if you need more support.