Recovery is a life-long process and requires commitment, introspection, and most importantly, courage. Long term recovery requires that addicts identify their substance abuse triggers and then change their behavior and this requires the entire family to work together. It is important to let your teenager know that you support his or her efforts and respond with empathy to their struggle. For parents, this means allowing your teen to explore his or her feelings toward each parent and siblings, and to express feelings of ambivalence about abstinence.
Family therapy is necessary to identify issues and uncover the psychological, social, and spiritual reasons that led to a teenager turning to drugs and alcohol. Family members should explore their part in the family dynamic and specifically in the addiction of the affected teenager or young adult. This therapy is a vital factor in the continued sobriety of a recovering addict after treatment. It is often extremely helpful for parents and siblings to go to support groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen so they can express their own feelings in an environment that is specifically meant to support family members.
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It is after treatment that a supportive family will make the most difference. Family members should be encouraged to seek their own support groups and explore any codependent behavior that may have contributed to the overall situation. Sharing these thoughts and feelings as a family helps to strengthen the family bond and goes a long way toward rebuilding trust between the recovering addict and the rest of the family.
In order to remain sober and clean, it is important for teenagers to concentrate on finding a direction they wish to take in life. Identifying strengths, values, goals, and interests that are healthy is the first step, followed by figuring out what concrete steps can be taken to reach life goals. A strong sense of self and self-confidence are the best protection a teenager can have against future relapses. Parents should help their child imagine their life without drugs or alcohol, and they should encourage their teen to create a healthy, positive vision of their life.
Parents should encourage their child to express his or her feelings about making life changes and to value the underlying reasons for these changes. They should try to support each small change and each step toward a healthy, productive life. One of the hardest accomplishments for a parent is to avoid making their teenager feel guilty if they fall off the wagon; help them climb back on as soon as possible!
Parents should be aware that people in recovery often have thoughts about drinking and taking drugs. Help your teenager without being judgmental or angry remember the problems that their substance abuse created in their life. It becomes much, much easier to remain sober once an addict integrates the fact that staying sober and clean is preferable to what happens when they drink or take drugs despite any circumstances or difficulties they are experiencing. Staying sober is a day-to-day process, and the more support a teenager receives, the easier it will be to commit to that sobriety.
Though teenagers may feel that they began drinking or taking drugs in a social environment as experimentation, continued use and addiction indicates serious psychological problems. In order to stay sober, an addict must identify addiction triggers and form various recovery tools that they can use on a daily basis. This requires that the recovering addict learn other ways of dealing with their problems and develop a set of recovery "tools" they can use instead of turning to drugs or alcohol. These tools form a concrete plan of action to concentrate on before any cravings become a full-blown relapse. The more a teenager feels free to share the details of their struggle with family members, the stronger and more confident they will feel in their ability to remain sober. Help your teenager understand that maintaining abstinence in the face of difficulties will ultimately help them grow as a person, and that growth will help them manage their addiction.
Parents should remember that addiction is an illness. When a person is sick, family members who take action and offer support can often make the difference between recovery or death. Addiction is no different. Just like any disease, parents should educate themselves about the warning signs and the symptoms, and they should know exactly what steps to take if their son or daughter exhibits any of these signs. This plan should include emotional and physical support, doctors and counselors to contact, and any constructive steps that can be taken to help the addict avoid a relapse or recover from one. The faster a parent can identify any symptoms, the faster they can take action to help their child.