For Ellen Sousares, the only thing she knew was that she had to get her son help. He was addicted to heroin. The question was, how? After all, Sousares, just like many parents whose children are addicted to drugs, was staring at the harsh, unforgiving reality that if she failed to take the correct steps, the next time she'd see her son was at a funeral.
While that may be difficult to read, you as a parent may have felt the same thing yourself. But what should you do if you're not getting through to your child? How can you finally convince him or her to seek treatment? Take it from Sousares, who wrote an article for Women's Day on her son's heroin addiction – it's not easy, and there's a lot of trial and error.
"Helping your child is not easy, and there's a lot of trial and
Sousares noted that for a long time she followed advice from specialists who told her to take the "tough love" approach and not let her son in her house. "I choked back every maternal instinct that screamed at me to protect my son as I left him and his suitcase sitting on the side of a county highway next to that rehab, like so many discarded debris," Sousares wrote.
But that still didn't work. If anything, it only made her and her son grow further apart.
"As the world abandoned him, my son came to believe that he'd been given a death sentence, and had hopelessly resigned himself to it," Sousares wrote. "Flirting with death became a daily routine; yet even death held no bottom."
The only thing Soursare's son could turn to was heroin because he knew it wouldn't let him down physically or emotionally. In order for Sousares to save her son, she had to approach him differently.
If one approach doesn't work, try another
With much reluctance, Sousares changed her strategy to one that was far more guiding and understanding. She said her decision, "as difficult as it was, pulled him out of shame and stigma instead of pushing him further into it." Her son came home much quicker than he had before and looked healthier.
Another parent, Ron Grover, also had a son who was addicted to drugs. One day a parent emailed Grover and asked, "What do you wish you had done differently?" Grover noted he had never thought about the question, but after much contemplation and anxiety he came up with his answer.
"I would have learned to listen."
Grover noted he would have been more attentive to the thoughts and feelings of his son, counselors and parents, and himself. He also would have ensured his head and heart (two areas of the body typically in conflict with each other) worked in harmony better.
What is the right approach?
There isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy to helping a child who is addicted to drugs. If you've just begun to try reaching out to your child or are looking for a new approach, here's some advice:
1. Ask for help
Don't try to assist your child alone. Call a professional treatment center and talk with friends, family and support groups about the steps you should take.
Sousares realized that to help her son, she had to learn more about what he was going through. She found her new "harm-reduction approach" from advocacy groups such as Broken No More, Moms United to End the War on Drugs, United We Can and Families for Sensible Drug Policy. By researching drug addiction and methods of approach and recovery, she eventually found a new strategy that worked. She began providing him with naloxone – not to condone his actions, but to make him feel more comfortable with talking with her. He soon opened up about his addiction and afterward asked her for help.
"Be brave enough to approach your child in a new way."
3. Don't be afraid to try something new
Don't accept your child's behavior, but like Sousares and Grover, be brave enough to approach your child in a new way if your original plan didn't work.
"Many parents hold off taking action or getting help because they feel like anything they do is dangerous. What they forget is that the situation they're in is terribly dangerous," said Dr. David Sack, a board-certified psychiatrist and CEO of Promises Treatment Center, according to ABC News.
Parent David Sheff, for example, changed his approach after he failed to get through to his son but called it "hell" because he was "always worried about living to regret that decision," he said to ABC News.
"When it became clear to me that if he didn't get into treatment he was going to die, everything I did was about trying to get him in some place where he could be helped," Sheff said. Sheff told his son that he'd only give him money or talk to him if the he was willing to receive help.
If you know someone who is dealing with drug addiction, call Fairwinds Treatment Center. Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of drug addiction by using a Dual Diagnosis approach. In using this tactic, Dr. El-Yousef and his staff of full-time psychiatrists, nursing professionals and licensed therapists work to first diagnose the underlying reason behind a person's disorder. Upon understanding the cause, they can then treat the condition and its symptoms.