None of the parenting books you read told you about what it would be like to discover him passed out and pale at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. None of your plans for celebrating high school graduation included an appointment with a lawyer to discuss options for his DUI. And certainly, none of your parenting chats with friends and family prepared you for the day you kicked your kid out of the house until he agreed to go to rehab.
But you—somehow—managed. Your kid agreed to rehab. He did well there. He’s back. And now it’s…not over.
The word itself wreaks pangs of anxiety in the gut of a parent like you, who has endured the excruciating confusion, uncertainty and high stakes of parenting your addicted child. Having come through to the other side of that first, agonizing encounter, no temptation is greater than to tuck all that ugliness and pain neatly into The Past. To deny the reality that there is no finish line. Your child will always be your child. And for your child, the potential for relapse always casts a shadow. So, in a sense, every call is always potentially the call, the dreaded call in which you learn that he’s relapsed.
That’s all very real. What’s also real is that you’ve learned a lot from your experience parenting your child through addiction. You’ve earned some wisdom. Some clarity about your best role in that situation. Unlike that first encounter, you’re not completely unprepared. Let’s take stock of what you know.
Relapse tends to announce that it’s coming. Not always, and not to your child—for whom the relapse will seem to have descended at random from nowhere—but for a perceptive onlooker, there are signs:
- Not keeping up with sobriety-centered activities
- Becoming dismissive and defensive about those activities
- Fondly recalling the “old days” during active addiction
All of these can occur even in the absence of impending relapse—they’re common. But to the extent that they persist, and occur in combination, they’re pretty good predictors that relapse’s shadow is creeping closer. They can serve as a reminder to keep parenting intentional and non-reactive.
Intentional and Non-Reactive. That probably sounds familiar from any professional guidance you received during your first encounter. Well, it still applies. Whether relapse is increasingly at risk or whether it has already occurred, here’s what Intentional and Non-Reactive can look like:
- Set clear boundaries: zero tolerance, curfews, internet usage, privacy, meeting attendance…it’s all fair game. Your kid is in recovery. That means structure is far more useful to them than sympathy.
- Allow for real consequences: poor grades, lost friendships, lost jobs…even jail time. Your impulse is to protect them. Of course it is. That should be your impulse. But protecting them from immediate, natural consequences only sets them up for much larger, much worse consequences. It blocks them from learning the reality of their situation, when they’re already experts at denying reality.
- Don’t over-involve yourself: What is over-involvement? To the extent that your preoccupation with your addicted kid causes you to neglect yourself, your spouse, your other kids…you’re over-involved. Of course, you’ll repeatedly become over-involved. The key is to be honest about what’s happening, and then take action to adjust.
- Become a connoisseur of recovery support: There is a wide, wide world of support programs out there. A multitude of strategies and techniques. Some of them are amazing—but not for your kid. Some are just shady. Many are valuable, but as puzzle pieces in combination with others. Be open to learning about each, but keep a high bar for evidence to back up claims for effectiveness. To that end, we invite you to learn about Neurologics and its quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG) technology. Neurologics supports recovery in an innovative, personal way, focusing on the actual brain activities that underlie addiction and recovery.
At the end of the day, all of this counterintuitive, seemingly impossible and painful parenting is an exercise in love. Informed love. Love that has learned.
And continues to learn.