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October 26, 2007

How do I keep my child from relapsing?

Most parents who find their son or daughter in treatment for substance abuse will often ask early on how they can prevent their loved one from relapsing after a period of sobriety.  The short answer is that there is really nothing you can do that will prevent a relapse from occurring short of imprisoning your child and keeping them under surveillance 24/7.

When our son David was nearing the end of his Intensive Out-Patient program we were beset with anxiety and so consumed with fear of him relapsing that we spent all our time trying to prevent it rather than planning on what we would do when it happened.  Relapse or recurrent is what defines the chronic disease of addiction.  Wikapedia defines a chronic disease as a "disease that is long-lasting or recurrent. The term chronic describes the course of the disease, or its rate of onset and development. A chronic course is distinguished from a recurrent course; recurrent diseases relapse repeatedly, with periods of remission in between."

So rather than asking how do I keep my child from relapsing the question should be re-framed to "What will I do WHEN my child relapses."  Seeking advice and help from addiction treatment professionals and counselors is vital.  They can help you evaluate your options and suggest possible treatment alternatives.  If you have a contract with your young person enforcing the contract consequences is important.  Remember that if your child had diabetes and suddenly suffered a diabetic episode from not taking their insulin you would seek medical care and get them back on their medication regimen.  It is the same with addiction relapse...seek profession care and get them back on their medication which is treatment and 12 step regimen.  Instead of worry be prepared.  Hope for the best but plan for the worst. 

October 26, 2007 at 11:21 AM in The Odyssey | Permalink


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In the workplace, when an employee tests positive for drugs, rather than being fired,we always recommend that the employee be given a 2nd chance and allowed to go to treatment. When the employee completes treatment and returns to work, what is it that helps the employee to not relapse? CONTINUED DRUG TESTING! The ever-present potential of being tested helps the employee to not relapse. Why would this not work for a teen who has been in treatment? The answer is; it does. Parents have a right and a duty to drug and alcohol test their children. I know that some "child experts" are against drug testing of children, but how has their advice been working out for America? Well, in the last 5 decades America has suffered through one drug epidemic after another. In the 60's, an LSD epidemic, in the 70's a Heroin epidemic, in the 80's a crack cocaine epideminc, in the 90's an ecstasy epidemic. And now, here we are in the middle of what? A methamphetamine epidemic. America is 4% of the world's population, yet we consume 60% of all the illlegal drugs produced worldwide. Why? Because we continue to raise generation after generation of children predisposed to addiction. We must stop the insanity. It's time to take a stand against drug and alcohol use. Random drug testing of children age 13 - 18 empowers parents to protect their children from the peer pressure that is sure to come.

Posted by: Chuck | Mar 11, 2008 7:43:52 PM

Thank you Cathy for sharing your loss and leaving your footprints on all of the hearts of those who will read your words. To this day I still do not understand why...in my heart I understand the power of addiction which was part of David's story but to do something that he knew might kill him is a conundrum that I will likely never wrap my arms around just as I will never in this life wrap my arms around my beautiful boy.
Sure part of it is the feeling of immortality that teenagers are naturally imbued with...as well as the feeling that "it will never happen to me".

What I do know is....our boys did not intend to die that day...and if there was some magical way for them to live it over again knowing the consequences of their actions, neither would have chosen this path. They both had hopes and dreams about their lives to come. This was not what they wanted for them or for us And that along with my memories is what I hold close to my heart as I think of my David every day.

Posted by: Kim | Nov 26, 2007 5:00:07 PM

Thank you for sharing your story about your David. It was an eye opener.
Three months ago my grandson, Jameson David (J.D.) , died from the same thing, using an inhalent while swimming. It has been so hard to even talk about it let alone understand why this tragedy happened. I think about him all the time.
J.D. was also 17 and was an honor student just starting his senior year. He and some friends were enjoying the last long weekend of the summer (Labor Day) at a lake near his home when their fun turned into a nightmare. When J.D. didn't surface and his friends couldn't find him they called 911.
The paramedics found J.D. in about 14 feet of water. They tried to revive him but, it was to late. After tests at the hospital were done on his body the doctor informed his parents that he had died of a heart attack...there was no water in his lungs, he didn't drown. It wasn't until later that the police talked to his friends and the truth came out about the inhalent use.
Why? Such a waste of a beautiful young man with a bright future. We all loved him so much. I don't understand.

Posted by: Cathy | Nov 26, 2007 11:37:17 AM

Thanks for your thoughts Judy,
I have learned from being in recovery myself that it is extrememly difficulty for an adult to "get it" and so why should we think it would be any easier for an adolescent whose brain and critical thinking skills don't fully development until they are in their early 20's. In the years that I have been in the program I can count on one hand the number of people I personally know that have stayed sober after being in treatment. Relapse is the norm and I frankly feel that if you haven't experienced relapse you have not experienced the full power of the disease of addiction.

Posted by: Kim Manlove | Nov 1, 2007 10:20:21 AM

Kim: Thank you for talking about relapse. Even though our son went through numerous programs for his drug addiction, and we knew ourselves from working our own 12-step programs that relapse is part of recovery, we were not prepared for the constant relapsing of an adolescent addict. I did not know it was so common. I thought it was our child who could not get over the 3-month hump until a man at AlAnon shared that he gets really down working with adolescents who are constantly relapsing. Bingo. I began to understand it is a long-term problem for a chronic disease and that it seems to happen more with adolescents than with adults, and that 30 days in a residential program is not an inoculation against relapse. Mother Warrior

Posted by: Mother Warrior | Oct 31, 2007 7:23:00 PM

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