What Words Describe Your “Crisis Stage”?

Early Stages

Things to Consider

  • Family predispositions towards alcohol and other drug use, mental health issues.
  • Changes in behaviour, friends, hygiene, grades, sleep patterns.
  • Increased requests for money, cash shortages.
  • Increased defiance, lying. Ignoring curfew, etc.
  • Marijuana or alcohol posters in your son or daughter’s room.
  • Your child’s attitude towards drug use is “harmless fun.”
  • Your son or daughter’s idea of moderation is different from yours.
  • Your child is in a tumultuous relationship.
  • Found bottles, marijuana, drug paraphernalia

Things You Can Do

  • Educate yourself on the symptoms of drug use.
  • When your child is clear-headed, ask directly about drug/alcohol use. Avoid angry responses and make an effort to listen.
  • Maintain your authority, and counter defiance with compassionate concern.
  • Set clear limits that you both agree on: e.g., curfew.
  • Search your son or daughter’s room.
  • Create a phone list of parents and peers.
  • Talk to peers’ parents, share information, discuss consequences.
  • Maintain communication with teen’s peers.
  • Talk to school teachers and counsellors.
  • Random checks to confirm teen’s whereabouts.
  • Discussion, not explosion.
  • Concern, not contempt.
  • Don’t forget to reward positive behaviour.
  • Start looking around for sources of support from professionals.
  • Tell your family doctor that possible drug use is the reason you want your child to come for a check-up.

We Have a Problem

Things to Consider

  • Is there a mental-health issue (e.g., anxiety, depression)?
  • Be prepared for anger, defensiveness, denial, confrontation.
  • Be prepared for questions about your own behaviour at their age (be honest).
  • Stay solution-oriented, not problem-oriented.
  • Do you have clear boundaries in your home?
  • Invite your son or daughter to talk, and be a good listener.
  • Is there a relationship issue (e.g., bullying, explosive jealousy)?
  • When they admit a problem, be prepared with solutions

Things You Can Do

  • Keep  the connection with your child. Avoid ultimatums.
  • Let them know you’re aware of the problem.
  • Set new rules with increased restrictions.
  • Use the evidence and challenge their denial with specific observations.
  • Reward positive behaviour and encourage learning from negative behaviour.
  • Try to establish a supportive role.
  • Make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor for yourself and your child.
  • Inform the school about your child’s problem.
  • If relevant, contact the juvenile court system.
  • Take care of your own health and morale. Organize personal and professional support.

Intervention

Things to Consider

  • Is there an immediate health or public safety risk (e.g., suicide, overdose, impaired driving, violent or threatening behaviour)?
  • Does the substance user admit to having a problem?
  • Do their friends or siblings think they have a problem?
  • Is the substance user willing to let you help him or her?
  • Do you have information on the effects of the drug(s) being used?
  • Is drug use related to self-medication (e.g., to cope with stress) or is use mainly recreational?
  • At what stage of change is the substance user?
  • Do you have support, both personal (e.g., family and friends) and professional (e.g., counselor, a family doctor)?
  • Do you have information on the types of resources available to you and your child?
  • Has the substance user been charged with a crime?
  • Stopping drug use often involves a significant amount of time and effort from both the user and their families. Don’t expect a quick fix.

Things You Can Do

  • Stay connected. Listen to your child and help them figure out why they’re using and what might help them stop.
  • Make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counselor to find out about treatment options (e.g., detox, drop-in counseling, day programs, Alanon, residential programs)
  • Take your child to an AA meeting, group therapy or drug and alcohol information session. Don’t be afraid to try several different groups or counselors before choosing one to attend or consult regularly.
  • Work with the child and counsellor to develop a plan. Listen to your teen’s feedback and be sure to have a backup plan (or two) in place.
  • Contact local agencies to find out about eligibility and wait-lists.
  • Be prepared for setbacks. Continue to reward healthy behaviour and encourage learning from mistakes.
  • Be careful to avoid enabling or facilitating problematic behaviour. Set clear agreed-upon rules.
  • Inform the school about your child’s problem.
  • If your child has been arrested, inform the judge and try to have treatment included in any probation order.
  • Your hopes can only come true if you take care of your own health. Make that a priority.

Recovery

Things to Consider

  • Relapses are very common – don’t expect an instant cure and be prepared to learn from mistakes.
  • Drugs suppress feelings of all kinds, so expect a roller coaster of emotions, including guilt, shame, anger, and fear about the past and future.
  • Many drug users will require a great deal of emotional support when they leave treatment programs.
  • Boredom is a very real problem for people who may not be in good enough shape to find employment or return to education.
  • Trying to return too quickly to a “normal” life can result in too much pressure for recovering drug users.
  • The process of recovery often involves eliminating many types of anti-social behaviour (e.g., lying, stealing, being aggressive) that were once important survival skills.
  • You and your child have probably experienced a great deal of stress and trauma related to substance use – this is always going to be a part of your relationship.
  • Relapse after long periods of abstinence can be dangerous for users because they may overdose more easily than when they were using drugs regularly.

Things You Can Do

  • Ensure the treatment program or drug counselor has a developed a comprehensive “after care” plan that includes ongoing meetings and support.
  • Have a strategy in place to deal with relapses.
  • Be careful about putting too much pressure on the former user – they are often quite fragile after leaving treatment.
  • Continue to support healthy behavior and be careful not to facilitate relapses (e.g., think carefully about alcohol and drug use on holidays and celebrations).
  • Be prepared for ongoing anxiety related to fear of your child relapsing.
  • For some people, abstinence may initially be unrealistic. However, reduced or controlled drug use, stable relationships and healthier behaviour are achievable goals for those not able to achieve complete abstinence.
  • Continue to maintain your connections with support groups for friends and family members of drug users.

Relapse

Things to Consider

  • Family predispositions towards alcohol and other drug use, mental health issues.
  • Changes in behaviour, friends, hygiene, grades, sleep patterns.
  • Increased requests for money, cash shortages.
  • Increased defiance, lying. Ignoring curfew, etc.
  • Marijuana or alcohol posters in your son or daughter’s room.
  • Your child’s attitude towards drug use is “harmless fun.”
  • Your son or daughter’s idea of moderation is different from yours.
  • Your child is in a tumultuous relationship.
  • Found bottles, marijuana, drug paraphernalia

Things You Can Do

  • Educate yourself on the symptoms of drug use.
  • When your child is clear-headed, ask directly about drug/alcohol use. Avoid angry responses and make an effort to listen.
  • Maintain your authority, and counter defiance with compassionate concern.
  • Set clear limits that you both agree on: e.g., curfew.
  • Search your son or daughter’s room.
  • Create a phone list of parents and peers.
  • Talk to peers’ parents, share information, discuss consequences.
  • Maintain communication with teen’s peers.
  • Talk to school teachers and counsellors.
  • Random checks to confirm teen’s whereabouts.
  • Discussion, not explosion.
  • Concern, not contempt.
  • Don’t forget to reward positive behaviour.
  • Start looking around for sources of support from professionals.
  • Tell your family doctor that possible drug use is the reason you want your child to come for a check-up.