The earliest few months after beginning the recovery process – from detox and rehab to therapy – might be the most important. One thing both parents and recovering teens need to know is that there is no real “end” to the recovery process. If you’ve struggled with a substance abuse disorder, some part of you will always need to dedicate itself to leading a life free of drugs and their effect. That’s not easy to do without help, which brings us to support for teen recovery.
Robust Support for Teen Recovery
Whether it’s family or friends, or both, we all need support systems. Teens recovering from a substance use disorder need more robust support systems than most. Doing your part to help your best friend or your child recover from addiction involves more than looking out for any signs of relapse or keeping in touch with their therapist and doctor. It means being involved in the recovery process, helping them find new meaning in life, helping them reclaim their self-confidence and their identity, helping them figure out who they want to be, and keeping them accountable throughout the process.
Tips for Teen Recovery
As part of the process, here are seven support tips for teen recovery.
1. Get Informed
First and foremost, keep on learning. Find reputable sources to discover more about how addiction works, and what we know about treating it.
There are countless different online resources for learning about addiction, mental health conditions, and addiction treatment, but not all of them are useful. Learning to differentiate between junk sources and good science is an important part of the process. A good tip would be to take an online class on reading and dissecting research papers, and diving through journals that focus on mental health treatment and addiction.
Another option is to speak directly to the professionals your teen is working with. They might be able to point you towards current, up-to-date books and resources for learning more about addiction as we know it.
Understanding how addiction works can help bring you a step closer to your loved one. Many people find themselves in a position where their relative or friend begins to struggle with drug use, and while most are sympathetic about it, some can’t help but feel judgmental. Understanding how addiction truly works can help you develop a greater feeling of empathy for your friend or loved one, and it can help inform, fuel, and guide your support.
2. Get Involved
Some therapists and doctors will encourage the participation of family members and friends in the recovery process, not only as a source of support and as the foundation for a long-standing support network, but as participants in family therapy or group therapy sessions, for example.
Getting involved also means working in tandem with your friend or loved one to help them find therapy groups in their area, providing your number as an emergency contact if the urge to use or any sign of relapse comes up, and more.
3. Help Your Teen Set Goals
Goal setting can help teens recontextualize recovery as a journey of self-improvement and reflection, rather than a penance or a short-term treatment process. Recovering from addiction usually entails finding new meaning in life through activities, hobbies, and interests that are far removed from the context of drug use, or the lifestyle that contributed to a teen’s drug habits in the past. It means turning a new leaf and dedicating your time towards something valuable to yourself, incentivizing sobriety, and making your old habits less and less attractive with each passing day.
Encourage simple goals at first. They could be physically oriented, career-based, or school-based. It could be something like improving their grades across the board with the help of a tutor, or getting back in shape enough to compete in their favorite sports. As time passes, bigger, greater goals are needed – like getting accepted into a specific college, making varsity, or compiling and finishing a first professional artist’s portfolio.
Short- and long-term goals help teens positively develop coping skills and reorient themselves in the same basic fashion as an addictive drug – yet instead of the positive reinforcement of a substance, their reinforcement is coming in the form of self-satisfaction and achievement, no matter how small.
4. Teach Them New Skills
Learning new things is exciting and a great way to develop new interests, create new hobbies, meet new people, and find brand new passions. It can also be a way for a family member or close friend to bond with their loved one after a potential falling out.
Many relationships don’t survive addiction or are harmed by it. It can erode friendships and even break family ties. Finding ways to spend more time together can provide opportunities for healing.
5. Improve Your Health Together
It’s no wonder that addiction takes a toll on the mind and the body. Some of the side effects of long-term drug use can include drastic weight gain or weight loss, malnutrition, long-term neurological effects (including neuropathy), and organ damage.
In addition to medical attention, both diet and exercise play an important part in potentially reversing many of the lasting effects of drug abuse. However, forcing a teen to figure out their own health is daunting, especially after rehab. They need to be eased into independence and self-sufficiency and will rely on support for some time. That means leading by example and working together to reach health goals through a cleaner diet and regular exercise.
6. Support Their Dream
Regular goal setting and healthier living are core tenets of sustainable sobriety, but if your teen has something they’re specifically very passionate about – something that they feel they can dedicate themselves to, wholly – do your best to support that dream.
7. Don’t Expect the World of Them
This doesn’t mean you should give up any hope of long-term recovery, but it’s important to note that addiction can be a severe illness, and it can take a long time – and multiple relapses – before your teen friend or loved one manages to overcome their drug use indefinitely, and lead a healthier, fulfilling life.
Until then, there may be times when you’re hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by their lack of progress or by their regression into negative and destructive habits. Learn to create boundaries to protect yourself and prioritize your own mental health when you’re feeling down.
Understand that relapses and frustrating moments can happen and that you should not set your expectations too high when starting out. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Starting the Recovery Journey at Visions
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, reach out to us to get the help you need and deserve.
Don’t wait. Start your recovery journey today at Visions Treatment Centers.