Truth Be Told…what do you say about your child’s addiction?

It’s always dicey trying to figure out how much to reveal to a friend about a child’s substance abuse.  When we were in the hellhole of active addiction, I didn’t show my hand to anyone.  How could I?  I couldn’t even begin to explain it to myself, much less to another person.

You never know how people will react if you reveal that your child struggles with chemical dependency.  Some people are compassionate and supportive, even while admitting that they know very little about the struggle.  Some friends embraced my candor because it enabled them to admit that they, too, have had a child in the same leaky boat.  And others visibly retreated when I mentioned the topic, as if I was sowing the seeds of a communicable disease.

Gradually, as I learned about addiction/alcoholism as a disease of the brain, I became more comfortable gently testing the conversational waters.  I firmly believe that we need to understand, speak about, and treat chemical dependency as a brain disease, just as we view diabetes as a disease of the pancreas.  I want to use my experience to educate others and create awareness about this preventable tsunami of heartbreak. At the same time, I don’t want to disclose my journey to those who will judge me or my son, treat us like pariahs, or discriminate against him.  Wise readers, please share your thoughts on how you walk the fine line between disclosure and privacy.

Recipe for Recovery from a Child’s Substance Abuse

Over the past year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has been focused on developing a working definition of recovery that captures the essential, common experiences of those recovering from mental or substance use disorders.  The ten guiding principles identified, while written for and about the addict, apply so clearly to the family’s recovery, as well.

First, check out SAMHSA’s definition of recovery from mental and substance use disorders: a process of change through which individuals work to improve their own health and well-being, live a self-directed life, and strive to achieve their full potential.

Now, take a look to see how SAMSHA’s Ten Guiding Principles of Recovery show up in your life—or not.

  • Recovery is person-driven.
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways.
  • Recovery is holistic.
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies.
  • Recovery is supported through relationships and social networks.
  • Recovery is culturally based and influenced.
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma.
  • Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility.
  • Recovery is based on respect.
  • Recovery emerges from hope.

If one of these principals is missing from your own recovery, you might want to shore up that element in your life to support the strongest recovery possible. And–food for thought and dialogue– what’s missing from SAHMA list that you have found helpful in your own recovery?