If your teen has struggled with a substance addiction, you’ve gone through all of the hard work of supporting him or her through treatment. They might have been in an inpatient treatment center, and they also might have gone through extensive counseling and group therapy. As you no doubt known, recovery from a substance addiction is not something that’s done once and is over; it’s a journey that lasts a lifetime. For the rest of your teen’s life, he or she will have to consciously say no to drugs or alcohol. Between 40 and 60 percent of former addicts will relapse at some point; this is often an expected part of the treatment process. There are some steps that you, as a parent, can take to help prevent a teen relapse from occurring. Take a look at the following tips and talk to your child’s substance abuse counselor about how you can best help to avoid a teen relapse.
Help your Teen Practice Good Self-Care
When tensions are high and stress levels become overwhelming, it can make your teen feel like turning to alcohol or drugs is the answer. After all, it used to be his or her go-to. Instead of relying on substances to feel better, it’s important that your teenager learn how to practice some self-care to get him or her through tough times and avoid a teen relapse. While it’s good for them to rely on others, there are going to be some times when they’ll need to lower their own stress levels.
Good self-care includes spending enough time sleeping, getting enough exercise, eating well, and learning how to get away from stressful situations, at least temporarily. Relaxation exercises can help, as can carving out time to do enjoyable things, such as hanging out with a friend, playing video games, spending time in nature, or playing with a pet. If your teenager isn’t making sure he or she is eating properly or getting enough exercise, you can step in and help by modeling good self-care, as well as by insisting that he or she go to bed at a reasonable time, eat some vegetables, and get off of the couch.
Encourage your Teen to Stick with the Post Treatment Plan
After your teen is finished with the intensive phase of treatment, which might be inpatient or outpatient, he or she will still have counseling sessions, group therapy, and often a 12-step program, like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. Participating in these aftercare treatment options is vital to your teen’s continued sobriety.
Drive your teen to his or her counseling and group therapy sessions, if needed. Encourage him or her by attending Al-Anon meetings or other types of support groups for the families of recovering substance addicts. If the aftercare treatment plan includes medications, try to ensure that he or she is taking them. If your teen is resistant to continuing treatment, try to get his or her counselor to talk to them about the ramifications of not following through. If your teen has a sponsor (usually a person who has gone through treatment and has been sober for a longer period of time), you can also try contacting them to see if they’ll help you encourage your teen to stick with the program.
Help Your Teen Avoid High Risk Situations
Talk to your child about when he or she was most tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol. Many times, this happens at the end of the day, when the addicted person is tired, hungry, and lonely. If your teen is coming home to an empty house after school, try to get him or her to join a club or a sports team or to get an after-school job. If your teen was engaging in the substance use on the weekends, try to get him or her to commit to plans with people who will not be up for that type of behavior.
Also, your teen will likely need to make new friends, if the people he or she hung out with before encouraged or participated in the substance use and abuse. This can be a scary endeavor for a teenager, so help them avoid old friends and make new ones. You might try suggesting volunteer opportunities, where your child can meet other teens his or her age. A sports team is an excellent way to meet new people, particularly as sports teams typically have strict no-tolerance policies when it comes to illicit substances. Sometimes, teens need to switch schools in order to avoid risky situations and meet a new group of friends. If this is the case, keep a close eye on who your teen is choosing for friends and what kinds of activities they’re participating in. Remember that teens are susceptible to temptation, so do you what you can to help your adolescent resist.
Watch for Signs that a Teen Relapse is Occurring
Despite you and your teen’s best efforts, sometimes a teen relapse does occur. Recognize that it’s not the end of the world; many, many people have relapsed and then gone on to live successfully sober lives. The signs of a teen relapse are similar to the signs of addiction that you noticed in the first place. Be aware that your teen will likely go into overdrive trying to hide it from you, so the signs might not be as obvious as they were before.
Some warning signs that a teen relapse might be on the horizon is a recent breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, trouble in school or not getting admitted to a desired post-high school program, or some other type of potentially traumatic event. If something like this happens to your teenager, be extra vigilant for signs of drug use and abuse.
Supporting your teen through treatment might very well have been the hardest thing you ever did as a parent. Helping him or her to avoid a relapse will also be difficult, but don’t forget (or let your teen forget) how far both of you have come. Keep the lines of communication open and let your teenager know how much they mean to you as the two of you work through this phase of the recovery process together.