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Helping Your Mom or Dad with Substance Use Disorder

Substance use can impact people from every walk of life, anywhere in the country, including parents. If you’re an adult child of someone who struggles with substance use, you may feel frustrated and wonder what you can do to help them. The good news is that they can still get treatment and recover, and there may be things you can do to help them make that decision. Understanding how to navigate the complex relationship with a parent who struggles with addiction can be important for supporting them in their journey to recovery.

How to Help My Mom or Dad With Drug or Alcohol Addiction?

There’s no “right way” to help your parents with substance use. Instead, the choices you make will depend on your relationship with your parents, whether you live nearby or further away, and how (and how often) you communicate.

It’s important to take care of yourself and your own mental health, which might mean setting boundaries with your parents. Remember, on an airplane they say to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others — the same principle applies here. If you aren’t healthy yourself, you won’t be able to help your parents.

Some of the steps you can take include the following:2

  • Remember that people can change and that substance use is treatable.
  • Talk to your family member about their substance use and your concerns about it.3
  • Be open about any family history of substance use.
  • Reset boundaries: Your family may have inappropriate boundaries that were built to hide addiction or protect the substance user, and you may have to reset them to protect yourself and other family members.4, p. 38, Boundaries
  • Take care of yourself, as dealing with substance use in the family can be stressful.

How to Get Your Parent into Rehab

Rehab can make a big difference in a person’s relationship with substance use, but it can be challenging to convince someone to go. Ultimately, it is a choice the person with substance use issues will need to make for themselves.

You can help them with this decision by educating yourself about substance use disorders, how rehab works, and how to find a suitable rehab center. Sharing this information with your parent at appropriate times can help them feel more comfortable with choosing to go to rehab.

It’s also helpful to know how to use health insurance to access addiction care. For example, health insurance plans have provider networks, which are providers that accept the plan’s coverage.5 Often, health insurance doesn’t pay for non-emergency care outside the network, so it’s helpful to know what rehabs are part of your parent’s insurance plan.5

Can I Visit My Parent at Rehab?

If your parent agrees to go to rehab, they’ll likely be away for a few months. Research shows that most people need at least 90 days to make a significant change in substance use.6

You may want to visit them in rehab, and family therapy options may be available. However, it varies depending on the treatment center. Most treatment centers are designed to allow participants to focus on their recovery without outside distractions, which means they may not allow visitation.

Additionally, visitation policies may vary depending on what stage of treatment your parent is in. Detox tends to be an intensive process, and may be more difficult to visit them. Inpatient treatment varies, as some will allow family therapy options and others will not.

How to Support Your Mom or Dad In Recovery

Supporting a parent struggling with addiction can be challenging, but there are ways to be there for them both before and after they commit to treatment.

Supporting Your Parent Before & During Addiction Treatment

Before and during treatment, you can support your parents by educating yourself on substance use disorder and different treatment options.

For example, you can:

  • Set boundaries to protect yourself and other family members.
  • Help your parent understand the rehab process.
  • Help find a rehab that accepts your parent’s insurance coverage.
  • Participate in family therapy if it’s available.
  • Take care of your own mental and emotional health.

Supporting Your Parent After Rehab

Once your parent has moved onto an outpatient program or onto aftercare, you have every right to celebrate. However, keep in mind that recovery is a life-long process.

You can support your parents in recovery by:

  • Taking time to be present and listen.
  • Attending family therapy as requested.
  • Continuing to enforce healthy boundaries.
  • Attending support groups as requested and appropriate.
  • Helping your parent connect with ongoing support and aftercare resources.

Finding Addiction Rehab Centers

Generally, a person will only enter rehab when they’re ready to make a change. It’s important not to try to force your parent into treatment. However, having knowledge of high-quality treatment centers and what rehab is like can help your parent make the right choice.

The American Addiction Center’s (AAC) helpline can connect you with admissions navigators who can answer your questions about rehab, verify insurance benefits, and help you find the right rehab centers for your parent’s needs. We’re available 24/7, so don’t hesitate to call us at .

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