Drug abuse is easy to hide if you don’t know what to look for. Many parents deny the signs of hidden drug use occurring in their home, understandably yet detrimentally. This is a painful experience as no one wants to admit that the young child they raised has grown into someone they don’t recognize, using substances, spiraling out of control. As a parent everything you have focused on from the time of their birth has been their health and safety. This is something you must fix, but you can’t. There are certain signs to look for which are impossible to deny. However, once a parent finds out what is really going on, the most important thing is how they handle it.
A mother I know observed her son in the bathroom kneeling by the toilet with his arms out in front of him. Something is in his mouth and a glimpse of orange. She hears tapping. What she is describing is shooting heroin and there are other signs as well: small balloons or cellophane bags with logos on the outside, marks on his arms, between his toes, nodding out at the dinner table.
A father describes a son who is demanding more and more privacy, has a preoccupation with drug related music, posters and clothing. He is in the shower with the fan on for what seems like forever. His old friends don’t come over anymore; he sniffs and blows his nose constantly, burns hideous incense and runs through Visine like crazy. He is describing a pot smoker who is also snorting cocaine.
A friend’s daughter was using both Oxycontin and alcohol. She found old prescription papers in her trashcan, empty pill and alcohol bottles hidden in different places in her bedroom and car. Her daughter’s behavior was shifting radically between anxiety and jumpiness to bordering on unresponsive. Alcohol and pill addiction is a deadly combination and my friend’s daughter had already been at fault in a serious car accident and was facing legal consequences.
Still, each parent just mentioned thought they could restore their child to health and sanity, but they were powerless. Being confrontational when your son or daughter has just exited the bathroom or come home under the influence isn’t the time to get angry and lose your cool. This is the time for the big guns…the toughest love possible mixed with a heavy dose of honesty and some major boundaries. Better just wait until enough time has passed and then say as bluntly as possible… “I know what you’ve been doing and it’s time we address this.” Then go from there.
Now is time to be as gentle as possible when approaching them, but still firm with what you expect to happen from here on out. Barging into their room while they are drug sick, screaming at them to get out of house because you found a needle, alcohol or some pills, will only push them further into using. When you are able to sit them down and tell it like it is, while being compassionate, reminding them how they are hurting everybody around them you’ll be more effective. Their guilt hurts a lot more than the anger they feel when their mom or dad lashes out at them.
The crucial component to helping them stop
The crucial component when confronting your child about the signs of hidden drug use is having a plan in place to remove your son or daughter from their using environment. Understanding that your child is an addict and won’t stop until good and ready is significant. No one regardless of age can stop until they concede to their innermost selves that they need help. Still, in an effort to impede the escalation of drug and alcohol abuse, it is imperative to put a roadblock up whenever possible where young people are concerned.
There is so much shame attached to drug addiction, and living in a long-term family centered recovery community is a safe place to come to terms with it and make significant behavioral changes. Being in an environment where peers are on the same path, supporting each other sets your son or daughter up to be able realize long-term sobriety, emotional health and a productive life.
Drug abuse is a rocky road. Some young people will slip and have a harder time finding their way, but when shown the solution to living free of substances – if they are truly addicts – they will know where to return to in order to get the help they need.