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What Can I Do To Help?

First and foremost, it is necessary to educate yourself on the disease of addiction: what goes through the mind of an addict, why it is so hard for them to overcome it, how to approach them to talk about it, what are the factors that led to the addiction, and how to handle your own emotions going through this trying time. Ignoring the situation will only make matters worse, and they may not realize that you know there is a problem to begin with, so it’s important to speak up and let them know there has been a noticeable shift in their behavior. When your parent is sober, make a time to sit down, talk with them, and express you feelings. Your parent may be avoidant of the situation due to its delicate and difficult nature, but try and be persistent about it. It is possible to get through to them, but it can just take time and patience.

How to Ask Questions and What Questions to Ask

In order to understand what your parent is going through, and so you can better devise a plan on how you may be able to help them, its important to ask questions. But its also important to know that you can help, but ultimately you can’t force someone to help themselves get sober if they don’t want to help themselves first. When you ask questions, don’t come from a place of telling them what they are doing wrong, speak sensitively and from the heart. These are some questions you can start to ask:

  • When did you first begin drinking alcoholically or abusing this drug?
  • How much do you use or drink in a day?
  • If it is a drug, where do you go to buy it?
  • What feeling are you trying experience when you do it?
  • What feeling do you have when you are sober from it?
  • Do you want to stop using or drinking?
  • Can you picture yourself never using or drinking again?
  • Is there anything I or someone else can do to help you stop using or drinking?
  • Is there a trigger that makes you want to use or drink?
  • Have you used this in the past, or was this the first time in your life you started doing it?
Do’s of How to Talk to Your Parent

Talk from “I statements,” such as “When you use drugs or drink excessively, I feel…” Talking with an adult you feel comfortable expressing your feelings with in order to gain perspective on the problem regarding events or psychological challenges that may occurred in your parent’s past can be important in understanding what may have been a precursor to their alcoholism or drug addiction. Talking to a family member will help you feel less alone in this difficult situation. If your other parent is sober, it is important to talk to them as well. Sharing feelings is imperative, and you can share them without your parent feeling like you are attacking them.

Staging an Intervention as a Last Resort

If all else fails, and your parent refuses to talk to you or acknowledge your feelings, it’s time to stage an intervention. But you can’t do this alone; suggest to your other parent or other family members the importance that your parent gets help. For an intervention, an interventionist is important to mitigate the frustrations that will most likely arise. Invite family members and those who are close to your parent to come to the intervention. The attendees of the intervention should all write letters speaking from “I statements,” explaining how certain situations have made you feel and how you miss the times before the problem manifested and how those good times made you feel. Pick a time and a place where the intervention will be held, and don’t tell your parent. If they know that there will be an intervention, they might avoid it at all costs. Before the intervention takes place, pick an inpatient or outpatient facility that you believe will be the most helpful to your parent. If they like surfing, perhaps pick an inpatient treatment center that offers surfing as a form of experiential therapy. If your parent works or goes to school, an outpatient treatment center may be more suitable for their lifestyle. If they choose not to accept treatment, set boundaries with your parent. Tell them if they do not get help, you cannot be a part of their life anymore. But if they accept help, make sure you and all their loved ones are supportive through the treatment process. Additionally, family therapy can be extremely helpful in working through feelings and emotions that have come up or will come up in the future as they continue to receive treatment. Lastly, in the unfortunate circumstance that they relapse, make a plan of action of what you and your family members will do.

What You Can Do For Yourself
  • Keep yourself busy with productive activities, such as sports, afterschool clubs, or taking up a new hobby. Being engaged with other things outside of home can help you take your mind off of what your parent is going through. It can also be a way to relieve stress and channel it into a positive experience.
  • Educate yourself about what your parent is going through with programs for family members of an addict, such as Al-Anon or Ala-Teen. Also, individual counseling and therapy can help with emotions that may be coming up that surround this situation.
  • Remember to just be a kid, just because it seems that you are in a position where you are the parent and they are the kid, does not mean you need to assume this position.
  • Remind yourself that this is not your fault. Nothing can make a parent use or drink, this was their decision, whether they were conscious of it or not.
  • Keep in mind that just because your parent is an addict or alcoholic does not mean you will end up being one too. Making healthy choices for you instead of getting wrapped up in your parent’s bad choices is critical.