By: Zara Maqbool
I have been working in a rehab facility since some time now. My initial exposure to drug addiction and substance abuse users brought mixed feelings of shock and empathy. Shock at the degree of damage the addiction can do and empathy for the addicts who are trying their best to break away from it and yet relapse time and again.
When I started therapy with them, one common thread that ran through almost all the addicts was childhood abuse they have experienced whether it was physical, verbal or the more tricky to catch; emotional abuse. Almost all of them had weak relationships with one or both parents or were raised by a single parent due to divorce or the death of one parent. Where certain circumstances like losing a parent is not in one’s control, unhealthy relational dynamics with parents is something where I do feel parents are somewhat responsible. We as adults have to know better. Yes we can make mistakes but just fulfilling basic needs of our children and ignoring their emotional needs is why many of these children become vulnerable to addiction. Many turn to substance abuse to numb the pain they experienced in their childhood.
There are many teenagers who I have seen in my counseling profession. I used to wonder how an addiction can get unnoticed that it reaches the point of parents bringing them to a rehab. Addiction doesn’t happen overnight and mood swings, disturbed sleeping patterns, loss of appetite should act as a warning bell. So why doesn’t it act as one?
Here I am not pointing fingers at any parent as being one myself I know what a tough job it is. But what I am highlighting is the need to be more mindfully aware of how emotionally present we are for our children.
Do we discount our children’s issues thinking they are over reacting? How many times do we tell them to ‘Be Strong’ thinking we are preparing them to the harsh reality of the real adult world by telling the to be strong when they are young and expect to be supported by their parents. In other words we are telling them that when the ‘harsh reality’ actually strikes they need to be strong and manage it on their own.
It is very important to realize that it’s not only the ‘addict’ who has to recover but also the entire family that needs to change their family dynamics to help the affected member. The parents and siblings also need to seriously introspect and reflect on the possibility of their role to play in the addiction also. The family has to remember that coming home from a rehab doesn’t mean that the addicted member will be all healed ready to lead a normal life. Getting rid of addiction takes a long long time and its crucial for the family to actively participates in the recovery process.
The key to recovery I feel is mending the broken relationships and helping the person resolve his primary wound. If he can learn to cope and accept that pain, most likely it will stop acting as a trigger for addiction.
at’s why as counselors we always stress upon systematic family therapy rather than just putting the affected person under the microscope. It’s important for parents to invest more in the family beyond acting as functional parents and fulfilling the physical needs of the child. Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior and don’t justify it as ‘typical teenage’. Most addicts say that they silently cry for help but then someone has to be there to hear that cry and not say ‘Be Strong!’.