Substance Abuse is a hot topic these days. And like all other issues it is not simple. SO the real answer to the question is not what you don’t know but what DO you know. This is about young adult children NOT teenagers.
What do you know?
How is your child doing in life?
1. Are they in school? Are you paying tuition but don’t have access to grades or information? Many parents find out that their child is “in school” but really they are hiding from you and when the grades come in the expulsion will follow. If you get the grades and they are doing fine then check that off the list. Go visit them at school. Not in Nancy Drew fashion but be around, If not it is time to get help. FOR YOU and your child.
2. Are they working? Getting up every day and attending a job being productive? Doing their responsibilities? Or sleeping all day and refusing? If they are productive in a healthy way then let it go. If they aren’t, it’s time to get help. FOR YOU!
3. How are they with money? Is your money or jewelry disappearing? Are they responsible or always broke? Is this new or the way they have always been? Look for changes and think carefully about how YOU handle money and if you are being a good role model? If it’s all a problem for you then GET HELP!
First buy a lock box or safe deposit box and lock up all your valuables!
4. If you have been paying for everything and your child DOES NOT have a mental health disorder then it’s time to learn how to pay for good and not for evil. This doesn’t mean cutting them off (if you have tried everything first) it means paying for things that help you. for example, cell phone ,food (mothers like to know their kids are eating),co pays for medical care including getting a psych evaluation, or dental care or Physical therapy etc….if they are participating in self care that you are providing then that is a great sign. If they are making appointments and no showing then get help FOR YOU!
5. Are they physically active? Did they used to be active and now are not? Look for changes. Lots of young adults exercise and many don’t it’s all about the changes. If you are going to a spin or yoga class offer an invitation. Don’t push it but offer. Walk the family dog. If he or she won’t move then let it go and get yourself some help!
6. Is their behavior Atypical for them? Have they always been fine and now all of a sudden it’s a radical change? Think about a year ago, what was he or she like. If the change is radical, get help FOR YOU.
7. Inventory your own drug use. Do you have a house full of amphetamines; pain killers etc…keep track of your own meds and lock them up if they are disappearing. It isn’t a cure but it’s a political statement that I am worried and trust needs to be earned. Also discard expired meds!
ALL of the above assumes your child is not suffering from a genuine mental illness. Get an evaluation and see if there is an underlying illness if there is then get help—FOR YOURSELF!
ALSO remember your own history! Think about what is safe. Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is culturally normal these days. Heroin is not safe and very addictive and is not the same as marijuana! Amphetamines are also addictive but that does not mean your child has a major substance abuse issue it just means you need to be evaluating the situation. Look at the whole picture. Some young adult children with these issues destroy marriages and then the kids out grow it. Don’t go it alone and remember to get yourself a support system.
The hardest part about any kind of an issue like this is that it will force you to be someone you are not, so go talk to a professional! It means not trusting a loved one but still loving them. It means questioning your nurturing nature without clear cut guidelines. If you know your child or anyone in your life has a substance abuse problem run don’t walk to the nearest Alanon or Narcotics anon (for family members of those who have a problem.) The program is free and it will give you support and advice for this marathon. This is a marathon not a sprint so keep that in mind as you do one day at a time and take care of yourself so that you can be there for yourself and those you love.