September is National Recovery Month, with the motto: “Prevention Works. Treatment is Effective. People Recover.”-SAMHSA. Unfortunately, because children are beginning to use drugs at an earlier and earlier age, there are more and more teenagers who are already in recovery. If you have a teen who is recovering from a problem with substance abuse, here are some ideas to keep in mind.
1. Teenagers are at a point in their development when they are attempting to learn how to regulate their emotions and manage stress. Drugs can be an artificial method for accomplishing this. Drugs also impact brain chemistry in a way that affects mood and the ability to tolerate stress and frustration. Knowing this, it is essential to focus on building these skills. Learning how to identify and communicate emotions is necessary, along with developing the natural ability to self-sooth and to manage stress. When these skills aren’t learned, problems often continue. If a teenager seems to be struggling with depression or anxiety, treating those issues will be part of the process.
2. Teenagers at different stages lack the ability to effectively think through to long-term consequences of behavior. They can also lack skills such as impulse control. It’s no wonder that teenagers are susceptible to risky behaviors like substance use! Respect their lack of knowledge and maturity by providing education and support. If they are not as open to receiving information from their parent, there are many places to direct them where they will be able to learn about substance abuse and develop the skills they will use to recover. For information, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website at- http://www.recoverymonth.gov/Resources.aspx.
3. Becoming healthy and remaining sober may mean changing friends, which may be a major barrier to success. Teenagers are attempting to form and develop their identities, which is a process that often happens through relationships. Leaving a group of friends can be a major challenge. There is the additional concern of “so if I have to be sober, that means that I can’t even drink when I’m in college.” These are all issues that should be discussed and thought through, not avoided. Helping them to find opportunities for positive relationships and activities can be a powerful tool in treatment.
4. There are a multitude of resources available for teenagers in recovery that are age-appropriate and specific to their needs. There are certain teen groups within NA, online groups, and professionals who specialize in this area. Family therapy can be enormously helpful. The sooner, the better. As one person in a household develops an addiction, everyone is impacted.
5. Teenagers are in a unique position in which they are able to effectively change the trajectory of their life with much less effort than it would take as an adult. If given the opportunity, many young people thrive within difficult circumstances and become stronger as a result. It is an opportunity to overcome an obstacle and learn valuable lessons. Many teenagers use the skills they learn in recovery throughout their lives, using their history of addiction as a source of knowledge and strength as opposed to a weakness.
Counseling session image available from Shutterstock.