Friday, November 29, 2013

Dealing with an Addicted Teen During the Holidays

Published on December 12, 2011 by Ugo Uche in Promoting Empathy With Your Teen

Psychology Today~Once I was working with a family whose son presented with a dire need to be placed into a residential therapeutic program. After a major relapse which led to a return of habitually abusing heroin, I shared with his parents that I believed his life was in danger and that he needed to be placed into residential treatment. This took place some years ago and we were in the month of December.

His mother looked at me keenly and said;
"Ugo can we wait until after Christmas?"
"The choice to wait is yours, but I believe you have run out of time," at this point both parents were frowning at me. The father then spoke up.

"In our family Christmas its scared, I understand you mean well but we are not going to send our son away, especially since we have his grandparents coming over and he hasn't seen them in a year and a half."

"Okay," I replied. "I understand, but could you both share with me how last Christmas went?" 

I already knew the story, both parents had woken up on Christmas to discover that most of the Christmas presents they had wrapped for themselves and their four children had disappeared. After an intense confrontation, my client at the time who according to his parents was clearly under the influence, would claim that he had taken the presents to goodwill, because he believed the family was too materialistic. However what really happened as his parents quickly figured out, was that my client had either sold or pawned the presents for money he used to buy drugs.

After I asked my question both parents didn't answer, they had been reminded how the last two years of their son's addiction had strained the family.

Sometimes in response to stress we create delusions for ourselves. We convince ourselves that things are happening the way we want them to be happening. It's the equivalent of closing our eyes and hoping that the problem will disappear on its own.

Having being raised Anglican, I get the significant of holiday traditions like Christmas. However it's important never to get carried away with traditions or nostalgia this holiday season. If there is a problem with your child or teen that routinely overshadows family affairs, it should be held to a higher priority than traditional celebrations.

As for the family I was working with, they didn't have long to debate over a decision. Their son was arrested on a drug related charge two days later. 

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