How can I Help My Alcoholic Teen
— Life as the Parent of an Alcohol Addicted Teen —
Raising a child is a tough challenge. I realized this when my teenager had to deal with alcohol addiction. It was devastating for me as a parent, but I did not let my emotions control my decision-making. We did everything in our power to help my child find a positive outcome. This is the story of my journey through the process of helping my kid develop a life free from alcohol addiction. Along the way, you’ll discover how alcohol abuse affected our family. I will also tell you why traditional rehab treatment didn’t work on my child and the decisions I had to make.
The Story of My Alcoholic Teen
Teenagers need to feel accepted. What’s alarming, however, is that those social pressures extend beyond the school premises. This isn’t something that you can control. For parents like me, I’m sure this is scary. The child you want to protect will experience real pain, fear, and struggle, and you won’t be able to do anything about it. So, believe me when I say that I was overwhelmed when I found out that my child was dealing with alcoholism.
Alcohol is the most widely used substance by teenagers around the world. It is hard to distinguish when your child is “just experimenting” or if they’re struggling to stop drinking to the point that they have a disorder. Any alcohol use is an issue when your child is underage. If you suspect that your child has a drinking problem, it’s always best to get an assessment from a professional. You know your child best, and if you notice that they are frequently drinking, be sure to start a conversation.
Teens are hard to read, as well. You usually can’t tell what’s wrong with them at a glance. It may take months before you can conclude that “I should ask advice from a professional; I think my child is an alcoholic.” Being able to recognize alcohol use and finding the proper teen addiction treatment for your kid is essential.
In some cases, your teen will probably reject treatment, so you should understand their situation. I first got him in rehab for a few weeks, but nothing was solved. My child got angry with me because he felt neglected. He told me that access to a counselor was limited. And while he saw other people, he couldn’t relate to them since they were mostly adults. Then I realized that he was willing to accept help, but only in the right environment. So, I decided to check other facilities.
Luckily, I found one. I am thankful for trusting the Key Transitions teen alcohol treatment program. They provide various teen treatment programs in Los Angeles that offer excellent therapy. They have evidence-based, cutting-edge, and diversified approaches such as mindfulness, family systems, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Not only that, but they took an approach that encouraged my child to actively participate in their program while providing a secure and friendly atmosphere. They also offer individual therapy, medication evaluation and monitoring, relapse prevention groups, and family therapy. The duration of a teen’s session depends on their needs. Without professional help, their drinking problem will only worsen. It is something that cannot be solved without the help of parents, schools, and professionals.
However, you have to remember that relapse is always a possibility for a teen suffering from alcoholism. Even after completing an alcohol addiction treatment, the risk remains. So, you have to learn how to watch your child through family education and training.
Why traditional rehab didn’t work for our child
Alcohol addiction among teens has become an alarming problem in the United States. More than 15 million people have alcohol problems, and at least 47,000 teens die from alcohol abuse each year. These alarming numbers call for immediate action, especially since children are the most vulnerable to alcohol addiction.
As parents, we often invest so much time finding the top university to enroll in, the best career to pursue, the safest car, but fail to find the best rehabilitation centers for our teens. Numerous things have improved and will continue to do so, and treatment facilities are no exception. I learned that what worked in the past might not work in the present time. The problem with traditional rehabilitation centers is that their approaches have not kept up with the changing times. Here are the reasons why traditional rehab did not work for us:
It didn’t meet the modern needs of my child
Teens are a lot more different from adults or older generations. Traditional rehab centers were created before a time when teen addiction was rampant. So, the needs of my teen could not be met by the center.
The environment wasn’t appropriate for a teenager
Teenagers who struggle with substance addiction need an environment in which they can feel free. Patients should be able to do things they love and find peace, and the traditional rehab center could not offer that to my child.
It did not provide online counseling or support
Traditional rehab centers follow fixed approaches, which also did not meet the needs of our son. Treatments must be up-to-date, personalized, and congruent to a patient’s situation. A patient must feel good, safe, and secure, rather than restricted. This is why we chose online counseling instead. It is a new, effective, and convenient way to treat a teen’s addiction.
Too much focus on one type of treatment.
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Every patient has different needs, even if they have the same diagnosis. It is essential to create an individual treatment for each patient to address their problems. The traditional rehab center only offered one type of treatment that did not work on my child. Key Transitions was able to adapt to the needs of my child.
Traditional rehabs do not treat the person, just the addiction.
A traditional rehabilitation center focuses on treating a person’s addiction, which is fine. But the problem is that people who suffer from addiction tend to relapse if they are only partially healed. Over 70% of people with a history of alcohol abuse end up relapsing. That is why teens’ substance addiction needs comprehensive treatment.
Lack of connection with other young people.
Teens tend to isolate and withdraw from everyone. They perceive themselves as failures. Research suggests that healthy relationships and a support network are crucial for a patient’s continued well-being. However, most rehab centers have adult patients, making it hard for my child to relate to them.
Traditional rehab centers have no aftercare programs.
Treating addiction is a complex challenge. Detoxification is one step to overcome substance addiction, but it requires long abstinence from alcohol or drugs to see its full benefits. Aftercare programs are integral to conquer a substance addiction. Unfortunately, traditional rehabs do not offer that.
Dealing with addiction is a frustrating situation for everyone and comes with a lot of stigmas from society. One must go through a series of treatments to achieve a life free from substance abuse. For that reason, modern rehabilitation centers play an essential role in attaining a positive outcome, especially on teenagers.
The role guilt played in my decision to help my child
I am a busy parent, so I honestly blamed myself for not seeing my child’s early signs of alcohol addiction. But I did not let my emotions cloud my judgment. I want to share how teens tend to get involved in drinking alcohol.
Why do teenagers get addicted to alcohol at an early age?
- An adult’s influence
Curiosity is a natural part of life, and teenagers are not immune to it. Therefore, adults shouldn’t normalize drinking alcohol in front of teens. They will be curious about how it feels to consume alcohol, which grownups appear to like.
- Self-medication or escapism
Some kids facing emotional distress or an illness may not have the resources to deal with the pain, so they turn to alcohol. Kids who abuse substances may suffer from loneliness, anxiety disorders, or low self-esteem. Adolescence is a period of self-exploration, but it can also be confusing and complicated. Many teenagers have to deal with family troubles, relational and financial difficulties, peer issues, and school problems. These teens who lack a healthy way to cope will use alcohol or other substances to escape reality.
- Rebellious phase
Whenever teens feel trapped by parental pressure, they usually rebel. Rebellion can make teens not think straight. They become insensitive to everyone that cares for them. In addition, teens will think that no one is on their side. Their minds are telling them to go ahead and do whatever they want without considering the consequences. Unfortunately, teens who are in that rebellious phase may gravitate towards harmful substances.
- Lack of confidence
Teens who lack self-esteem may believe that alcohol and drugs could help them come out of their shells. They believe that these addictive substances will boost their confidence.
- Social media
The power of social media is also a massive influence on teens. All alcoholic beverage companies do an excellent job of making their products appealing to potential customers. Unfortunately, they are gaining the attention of young teenagers, as well. Teens think that it is not a big deal to drink alcohol since they see it on social media. As parents, we should be mindful of the things they watch or listen to. Educate them about the danger that alcohol can bring.
Teenagers often think that they should live life to the fullest. Experiencing everything while they are young is their goal. Since parents expect them to be good children who always do what they do, teens might feel pressured. This is why some kids believe that alcohol can alleviate the stress they feel.
The Importance of Knowing the Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism
Early detection can help avoid significant problems down the line. Alcohol is considered a major gateway drug to other substances. Alcoholism can start anywhere, perhaps due to peer pressure or the internet, simple curiosity, or even at home.
Little drinks become larger drinks, their frequency increases, and they rapidly lead to addiction. Early Intervention can save your children from excessive alcohol consumption. Parents should know how to recognize signs and symptoms of teen alcohol addiction:
- Mood changes, including anger and irritability
- Academic and behavioral problems in school
- Changes social circle
- Low energy levels
- Less interest in activities
- Neglects hygiene and appearance
- Hides alcoholic beverages
- The smell of alcohol on their breath
- Problems concentrating and remembering
- Slurred speech
- Coordination problems
Before it’s too late, parents should intervene and ask for professional help, so their teen can overcome the alcohol addiction problem. Treatment facilities can determine what a child truly needs and address their issues as soon as possible. Contact the best treatment providers today.
The Five Main Warning Signs for Alcoholism in Teenagers
Being able to recognize the early signs of alcohol addiction in teens is vital. Parents should be the first to know that something is going on with their children. Unfortunately, lack of information often leads to their situation getting worse. Teens need guidance, and parents cannot offer it if they are not aware of their issues. The following five warning signs for alcoholism can help parents save their children’s future.
1)Their social circle changes.
Teens who struggle with alcohol addiction often change their circle of friends. They start hanging out with peers who also consume alcohol. This new set of people likely introduced alcohol to your teen. Knowing your child’s friends is essential. It is not wrong to have new set friends, but determining if they are a negative influence is essential.
2) School performance declines.
If the grades of an intelligent child who used to excel in school suddenly plummet, they could be having alcohol-related issues. Teens who are alcoholics spend more time drinking and hanging out with their friends than studying and attending school. They neglect their responsibilities, which leads to a decline in school performance, or at worst, dropping out. Teens who drink excessively would rather feel short-term satisfaction and turn a blind eye to the consequences of their choices.
3) Continuous stress and being finicky.
Alcohol alters brain chemistry. It changes the way the body responds and perceives stress, and it increases cortisol, which is responsible for the rewards and pleasure system. It makes the person feel good and satisfied when drinking but will leave them unhappy and dissatisfied afterward. Studies show that cortisol encourages one to consume more alcohol to achieve the same feeling, leading to depression and relapse.
4) Getting sick more often.
Several studies explain that excessive alcohol consumption weakens the immune system. That is the main reason why teens who are alcoholics tend to have cases of flu, colds, and other illnesses. They are much prone to develop cancer in the mouth and the esophagus and liver. Moreover, teens who develop alcohol problems have a high chance of experiencing psychiatric disorders. Alcoholism affects a person’s overall health, and it might lead to irreversible diseases or even death.
5) Behavioral changes towards others.
Alcohol consumption is linked with sudden behavioral changes, such as irritability, promiscuity, withdrawal from friends and family, aggression, and lack of interest. Alcohol affects the brain’s capacity to respond rationally, which prevents someone from considering the consequences.
If you see some of these warning signs and suspect that your teen has alcohol problems, take action now. Your child needs you.
What Are The Other Health Risks of Teenage Alcohol Addiction?
Drinking alcohol puts someone’s health at risk. The effects are not just limited to behavioral changes and life. Teens who excessively drink alcohol might develop other health problems.
There is no doubt that alcohol affects the human brain. Impaired memory, vision issues, mumbled speech, walking difficulty, and overall brain damage.
Alcoholic fatty liver, acute alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic cirrhosis, and liver cancer, to name a few, are some of the liver diseases caused by alcohol. If left untreated, they can be fatal.
Psychological dependence is a condition where the person exhibits withdrawal symptoms when they reduce alcohol consumption or remove it from their system. This is a complex issue, and without proper treatment, they will end up drinking more alcohol and worsen their condition.
When teens are under the influence of alcohol, they act impulsively and make irrational choices. They are more prone to injuries and accidents. They might ruin their life, their social relationships and commit mistakes that could have life-long consequences.
How Teenage Drinking Habits Affect Their Brain
Alcohol is a type of depressant, which means it has the power to slow the central nervous system’s function. It can interfere with some of the messages that reach the brain. It can also affect a person’s viewpoint, emotions, mobility, vision, and hearing. Alcohol poisoning can occur when substantial volumes of alcohol are ingested in a short period of time. Parents should make sure that their children are aware of this.
However, if you think that your child has a drinking problem, get help as soon as possible. The best approach is to talk to your child, don’t push them to get treated if they don’t want to. Educating them and understanding their predicament will earn their trust. A counselor may propose a brief stay in rehab or treatment clinics after examining the teen’s problem. These treatment facilities helped my child in recovering from the physical and physiological reliance on alcohol. It was a great aid for my child, and it might work for yours as well.
How I Helped My Child Find Sobriety With a Holistic Approach
Communication with your children does not always have to feel like you’re giving them the third degree. Maintain your cool, relax, and ensure that your child hears what you’re saying — and vice versa. I agreed with my son to find a way to overcome this alcohol addiction together. We discovered some treatments that may also help you.
There are various medical procedures that you can try. If a teen has a serious drinking problem, then detox can be essential. Detox is not a treatment in and of itself. Instead, the goal is to stop the drinking and give their bodies time to process the alcohol. Typically, this takes a few days to a week.
Another treatment you can try are therapies like:
- Support Group — allows teens to share their personal experiences and feelings, coping strategies, or firsthand knowledge about diseases or treatments.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — is a tried-and-true method for alleviating the symptoms of alcoholism. It is a conversation between your teen and a psychologist. The central premise of CBT is the importance of recognizing negative thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with positive ones.
- Aversion Therapy — is a type of behavioral therapy in which an unwanted behavior is repeatedly associated with discomfort.
- Family therapy — is a type of group therapy that emphasizes healing relationships among those who have long struggled with behavioral and psychological issues caused by alcoholism.
- Psychotherapy — is a traditional method where a patient discusses their problems and experiences with a trained psychologist. A talk therapy session could take place one-on-one, in a group, or with their family.
- 12-Step Facilitation — everyone in a group benefits from mutual assistance, making them feel connected, important, and accountable to others, encouraging them to stay sober.
- Motivational Interviewing — is a technique for motivating patients to overcome challenges. It sets specific goals for self-improvement and helps teens stay inspired.
- Brief Intervention — is a time-constrained one-on-one or small-group counseling session. The counselor talks to the teen about their drinking habits and potential risks. Following personalized feedback, the counselor will collaborate with the client to set goals and provide ideas for change.
Cost of Teenager Alcohol Addiction Treatment
The cost of alcohol and drug rehab varies depending on various factors, including the type of treatment chosen, where the center is located, and how long the stay is. The needs of the individual also determine the cost, but there are treatment options available for people of all income levels. According to Drughelpline.org, the cost of rehabilitation can range between:
- For a 30-day drug detox, expect to pay between $250 and $800 per day.
- Outpatient care costs between $1,400 and $25,000 per month for up to three months.
- A 30-day intensive outpatient program costs between $3,000 and $25,000.
- Residential treatment costs between $5,000 and $80,000, depending on the length of stay.
However, you can still afford rehab if you have a tight budget, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. It is required that health insurance policies cover drug and alcohol addiction. Private insurance policies, Medicaid, Medicare, state-funded health insurance, and military insurance are examples. In some states, such as California, you may also be eligible for disability insurance for inpatient alcoholism treatment.
Finding the Best Treatment Programs for Your Teen
Even when you know, it’s the right thing to do, deciding to seek professional help for your teen can be difficult. While there is an ever-expanding array of treatment programs for adolescents available, knowing which one is best for your child. Your first instinct may be to select the “simplest” option, the one that does not dramatically alter your family. But, I learned that this is not always the best option.
When deciding on the best treatment option, look for facilities to meet your teen’s specific needs. Take note that not all facilities are the same. While no single facility can check all the boxes, working with a counseling team can assist you in making the most appropriate decision possible.
What I have learned through process — Parent confession
Convincing your teen to go to rehab is not easy. I learned that the hard way. But, you have to be persistent to help them conquer their addiction. To avoid fighting, approach your child from a place of love and support. I think this is the best way to go. However, before speaking with your son or daughter, it may be beneficial to consult a therapist, interventionist, or another medical professional. Do not assume that you already know everything just because you are their parent. Knowing and understanding is different. Knowing about addiction is not enough. On the other hand, understanding addiction will let you educate them on its dangers and the importance of seeking help.
Keep in mind that when they are in rehab, you should also be supervising them. This will help keep away your teens from abusing substances. Although most facilities will ensure that your child is safe from harmful drugs, it is recommended to keep an eye out for them regardless. Being present for your child both during and after treatment is critical to their recovery. Knowing that someone loves them unconditionally and cares about what happens to them can be a great motivator to stay sober. It can help them stay positive when things get tough.
I hope my story can help you and your teen to overcome their addiction. If you or someone you care about is suffering from alcohol abuse or addiction, please know there are great teen treatment programs out there, and help is available for you, no matter how difficult it might seem. Always remember that.