How Families Can Work Together While Their Teen Recovers from Addiction

One of the hardest circumstances to go through is seeing a loved one – let alone a teen – struggle with addiction. Even parents who have consistently been by their child’s side may find that drugs enter their life one way or another. When this happens, it feels as though the world has literally turned upside down – and as painful as this is, it’s a process of understanding the reality.

Families go through so much change when addiction is involved; sometimes family members’ roles change and other times, emotional, physical and financial tolls take place. It’s hard for family members to understand why their loved one would choose to abuse substances and while there are a number of reasons why drugs were tried in the first place, it can become a disease that takes over the brain. Once addiction has developed, even the brightest, most positive teen could find themselves making decisions they wouldn’t normally make, such as:

  • Lying
  • Cheating
  • Stealing
  • Saying mean/hurtful things
  • Isolating themselves
  • Picking up a new group of friends
  • And more

Moving Forward

If your teen is in addiction recovery, there are a lot of steps that you and your family will need to take in order to heal and move forward, both individually and collectively. First and foremost, one of the hardest things for families to do is to accept the reality that their teen is struggling with addiction. According to, one parent shared his own battle with acknowledging the truth of his son’s addiction. He stated, “My learning is: until you understand the truth, you cannot find peace within yourself or really be able to help your child who is struggling with addiction. Accepting the truth and proceeding from there, allows you to help both yourself and your child.”

Knowledge is power and understanding the truth means that you now have some power on your end to ensure that your teen is adequately supported throughout recovery and that you take steps towards your own healing, health and happiness. There are a number of things that can be done, such as:

  1. Individual therapy – as a parent, sibling or extended relative to your loved one, you’re going to experience a lot of pain. It’s devastating to find out that a teen has been abusing drugs and you may transition through a number of emotions, including depression, anger, guilt and more. Individual therapy gives you the one-on-one space that you need to work through these emotions, so you can effectively grieve; from there, you can process what you’re feeling and move forward in a healthy, productive way.
  2. Family therapy– as a book published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) emphasizes, the family system can become interrupted when addiction is involved; communication within and between family members may become unbalanced especially as difficult emotions are still being processed.
  3. Al-Anon Groups – these are mutual support groups that guide families and loved ones through the recovery process by using the twelve steps. It can be transformational to hear others who are going through similar experiences, as it reminds us that we’re not alone. By giving up our need for control, we can recognize that all of the power goes to God or another Higher Power and all we can change are our own attitudes and behaviors.

Supporting Your Teen

As families learn a lot more about addiction and what their child is going through, they tend to gain a bigger perspective on life. Suddenly new questions arise, such as the meaning of life, the significance of our relationships with others and what it means to love someone unconditionally. Recovery is a long road and it’s hard on everyone – but if your teen has made it into rehabilitation, they have taken the first step towards their happiness and health. From here, you can walk with your teen as they navigate this new journey to become stronger, wiser and more equipped to deal with the challenges of life – and so will you.

According to a study conducted by researchers from the NACoA, an organization aimed at promoting support for children affected by family addiction, 300 recovering adolescents and young adults were surveyed to find out exactly what they wish they could have received more of from their parents. They talked about addiction, its effects on their families and more. The researchers asked this specific question:  “If you were a parent, what would you do differently?”

These were some of their responses:

  • “I would have shown up and been around more.”
  • “I wouldn’t be overbearing, and, when my kids were upset, I would just listen instead of try to fix them.”
  • “Tell my child how special they are to me and how they are loved.”
  • “I would not blame my kids for all the problems in our family.”

Some of these responses are pretty devastating to hear and while as family members we can’t always be perfect, we have to remember to be more mindful and present in our kids’ lives. These are pathways to connection and the more love and nurturement and security we provide them, the more likely they are to thrive.

Adolescent Recovery of Cumberland Heights (ARCH) originally began in 1985 when there were few other adolescent programs like it in the country. In 2019, we’re expanding our continuum of services with ARCH Academy, a unique program located in Kingston Springs that offers 60 days to 6 months of residential care to adolescent boys ages 14-18 who are struggling with alcohol and/or drug addiction. This new program stems from Cumberland Heights, which has been around since 1966 and is located in Nashville, Tennessee. The adolescent age is a critical time for development, making this a crucial time of positive influence. For more information, call us today at 1-800-646-9998