Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned for Parents & Friends


When they’re young, before any trouble surfaces...

  • Be aware of any mental health issues with your child, especially related to anxiety or depression. 

  • Participate in the diagnosis and treatment; do your own research.  Remain aware that misdiagnosis can happen (e.g., anxiety misdiagnosed as ADHD can only aggravate the issue), and watch very closely for the effect any treatment has on your son or daughter. 

  • Pay very close attention to who your child develops as friends.   This was not as important as when we were growing up; it is terribly important now.  While the friends your child develops at a very early age will not be drug users, they can instill patterns of thought that can become destructive later on.

  • Do not be deterred by any stigma whatsoever; your friends do not have to know if you do not want them to, and this is far more important than what your friends think anyway.

  • Understand what your child’s school has in the way of drug prevention programs.  If they are not robust, demand that they become robust.

  • Have frequent conversations with your child regarding the risks of drug abuse.  In particular, ensure they have some understanding of the science of addiction.


At the initial indications of substance abuse...

  • This can be evidenced by behavior or by your knowledge of what his or her friends are doing,

  • Do not be in denial; do not wish it away.  When we grew up, if someone was using marijuana, it was no huge deal.  It is now, as it an easily lead to other substances that are far more harmful, particularly if there are even mild mental health issues involved. 

  • Take whatever action, however unpopular it is with your child, to separate them from these friends, and explain to them why.

  • Get in touch, and stay in touch, with your school’s authorities, especially law enforcement that may be present at your son or daughter’s school.


When things start to get rough...

  • Do not let hope conquer reality!  If they are addicted, this is no longer about “choices.”

  • If your child us using drugs to self-medicate, then you need to forcefully intervene before a disaster occurs.

  • If there is any way you can get them into some kind of in-patient treatment before it’s too late, do it. 

  • Do not fall prey to the notion of a 30 day program—recovery takes much longer than that.  They will bitterly resent this intervention and will try to make you feel bad.

  • Do not listen to their rationalizations, and do not be deterred by their anger towards you when you intervene.  They are not themselves any more, and you are doing what is best for them.


When your loved one is in treatment...

  • Give them all the love and support you can.  Keep in contact with them.  Visit them. 

  • Stay firm with your loved one.

  • Let the treatment specialists do their job, and stay in close contact with them.  Listen to complaints your loved one may have about their treatment, and pass them along to the treatment facility, but do not promise to resolve them. 

  • Learn as much as you can about the true nature of the disease and the psychology of the addicted person.  Attend education sessions when you can.

  • Find a support group – you will learn a great deal from others who are, or have been, in your situation.

  • They will tell you they are ready to leave when they are not even close to being ready to leave. 

  • Stay true to the fact that you are doing your best for your loved one.

  • Exhaustively continue your research into treatment, treatment facilities, and especially transition support, before transition occurs.


When your loved one is transitioning out of treatment...

  • Be aware that, even after many months of treatment, someone in recovery is extremely vulnerable to relapse. 

  • Relapse can be kicked off by the slightest combination of stress and exposure to an opportunity to use again.  So keep them away from any temptation.

  • Be extremely sensitive to signs of relapse and withdrawal – do not let hope mask reality.

  • Recognize that even after recovery, an addict is still an addict, and can experience shame and be deceptive

  • Find a way to maintain a testing regimen, as your loved ones’ desire to not let you down may be the one thing that prevents relapse. 

  • Be aggressive in getting them to attend meetings and gain a sponsor.

  • Keep them away from situations that can trigger a relapse.

  • Move them gradually into normal life situations.

  • Someone in relapse can be very convincing that they are not in relapse.