Father coping with son’s addiction discovers valuable resource

Special to the Sun-Gazette

During this time when deaths among teenagers and young adults are on the rise, many resources are available to parents to give information and support.

The parent blog on the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is one of those resources. In an Aug. 15 parent blog post, a parent asks “Does relapse mean failure?”

The father of a son currently in recovery writes: “He relapsed, does that mean he failed? Will he ever ‘get it’?”

So often, family and friends of someone in recovery who relapsed have either thought or asked the same questions. Part of the struggle, the father said, is that we all generally don’t understand what to expect once our loved one has entered treatment.

What he discovered is that we all need to learn and evolve during the process of parenting a child with an addiction. The first issue he had to address was the fact that so much of what he knew about addiction and addictive behaviors was wrong.

Despite what he knew, the father discovered addiction is a chronic medical disease of the brain. Therefore, when someone uses drugs, that use changes the brain, which could result in compulsive use.

As a result, it may require other longer-term or repeated drug treatments. Since the desire is caused by a chemical change in the brain, quitting “cold turkey” may not be possible.

Community reinforcement and family training — known as CRAFT — is a scientifically proven way to help parents change their child’s substance use.

Relapse is common; it represents a learning opportunity to identify triggers and develop new coping mechanisms for the future.

Finding an effective approach for treatment by identifying programs suitable for the child’s needs often takes some time. And even though your child may not be sure he or she wants treatment, getting them involved sooner rather than waiting until they hit “rock bottom” helps them incorporate the new coping strategies with the structure and healthy social connections they already have.

Second, the father needed to understand that relapse is a part of recovery. It can happen during good times when the person is doing well in recovery or it could be caused by frequent urges to use while in high-risk situations.

Regardless of the circumstances, recovery is a process that includes the possibility of relapse.

Ultimately, the father decided that the only failure is “the act of not trying.”

How many times do we try new activities only to fail the first of many times we attempt them? Failure is trying once and giving up.

Relapse then can serve as an important opportunity to identify triggers and to learn to avoid them in the future. Knowing this, the father can be there for his son, no matter how many times it takes.

If you are a parent of someone misusing or addicted to drugs or alcohol, know that the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is available to answer all of your questions. Visit www.drugfree.org.

The mission statement of Project Bald Eagle: A 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is leading coalition efforts to stem the tide of the heroin epidemic through education, prevention, treatment, enforcement and data monitoring.