You realize that your child is drinking or drugging or both. After the shock wears off, you reach out, get referrals, and consult with a treatment center. Somehow your son or daughter goes, or is taken, to an impatient treatment program, and you take your first deep breath in a long time. Aaahh.
It's a relief to know that your child is in a safe place, getting help to detox and to begin the journey of self-examination and healing. Now what about you? What should you be doing while your child is in treatment? What should you NOT be doing?
Your first priority is to support the team and recommendations of the treatment center. There will be many aspects of the program and facility that your teen or young adult will not like. You will likely get phone calls and messages about how terrible the food is, how lumpy the pillows are, how demanding the staff is. Be prepared to hear, "Get me out of here!"
This is normal. Most don't want to be there. Coming to terms with their addiction, the impact on family and friends, and contemplating life without the crutch of their drug of choice is hard, hard work. Be prepared.
Also be prepared to support the decisions and recommendations of the treatment team. You entrusted your child to them because this was a problem too big for you to handle. They know things you don't know, and have experience with kids just like yours. This is what they were trained to do, this is their mission. Help them do their job, so they can give your child the best start to a clean and sober life.
What not to do?
- Do not call the team asking for special privileges.
- Do not tell your child you will intervene on his behalf.
- Do not give in to his pleas, promises, or threats and withdraw him from the program (unless you see signs of gross negligence or have concerns that treatment needs are not being met, i.e. consideration of co-occuring disorders (COD)).
What to do?
- Tell the staff that you support them and their recommendations.
- Tell your child that you trust the staff to be the experts at this process.
-Acknowledge that it is hard for him.
-Express optimism that he can do this.
- In quieter moments, share memories that make you both smile. Share memories that show you see him as more than an addict; stories that confirm that inside he is still the same kind, loving, generous and funny person he always was. Because there are no bad kids, there are just kids who have lost their way.
(In Part 2 of Do's and Don'ts While Your Child is in Treatment, I'll be talking about how to prepare for when your child returns home.)