Expert of the Month: Rachel Lauria, MSW

Expert of the Month: Rachel Lauria, MSW

Expert of the Month Question's picture
7 answers

My child is in treatment for drug/alcohol abuse and he is doing well, however, he continues to hang out with the same group of friends who introduced him to drugs in the first place.  We had tried to have him switch schools, but he told us he feels like he has already given up so much-he doesn’t want to lose his friends too.  What should we do about our child who doesn’t want to give up the lifestyle, even though he has given up the drugs?


Rachel Lauria's picture

Rachel Lauria, MSW: From the moment a child is born, a parent wants to protect him from harm, whether it’s placing soft cushioning on table corners, guiding him as he learns to walk, or refusing to remove safety wheels on his bike until there’s certainty he won’t fall.

When it comes to protecting a child from drugs and alcohol, it’s no different. Watching a child re-enter the same social circle after recovery is challenging because, as parents, we can’t monitor our children all the time.

It seems that your son is very insightful and understands that his life has changed significantly, and he wants to find “normal” again. He may feel more in control of his recovery if he is allowed to make choices about how he spends his free time. It would be unrealistic to expect that your son will avoid all people he knew when using and places he went when he was high, especially if you live in a community where there aren’t many choices for schools and community activities. I would encourage you to speak to your son about your concerns for his recovery, and then allow him to tell you how he plans to resist the urge to use if they come up.

Tip: Here are some questions you might want to ask your child: “What are your plans tonight? "Do you have a back-up plan in case things get out of hand?” “Will any of your friends in recovery be there?” “I’m worried that you may feel left out if friends decide to use and you aren’t. "How will you handle their reaction to your recovery?” and/or “How would you feel about texting me every few hours to let me know how things are going?”

You mention that your son is still actively receiving support and treatment during his recovery, and that’s great. Conversations about how to handle triggers is an excellent focus for discussions with a drug counselor or mentor. Your son may decide that he may not want to keep in contact with old friends, or they may decide the same. The concern here is not so much who your son is spending time with (let’s face it: a new group of friends might be just as likely to be using drugs), but how he is interacting and the decisions that he is making when he feels triggers to use.

Tip: Here are some questions you might want to ask your child: “What kind of things do you guys do together?” “What do you have in common with your friend/s?” “Do you feel comfortable calling home or texting someone if you find yourself in a situation where you feel like you might use?”

The fact is that triggers are everywhere. Hearing a song, smelling a familiar aroma, watching a particular commercial or movie, even passing by a specific street corner can bring back a wave of memories and urges to use drugs. You cannot eliminate all triggers from your child’s life, but you can discuss them with him and help him learn how to work through urges and avoid stimuli that put him into harm’s way.

Tip: Talk candidly about your child’s triggers and how to find a safety zone, i.e. call a friend, go to a park, etc. Develop a code word system. If your child wants to be picked up from somewhere or finds him/herself in a dangerous place, they can text you or call you and say that word and they will be picked up no questions asked. Discuss ways to resist urges to use -- counting exercises, breathing/relaxation exercises, grounding techniques. Encourage your child to discuss triggers with his/her drug counselor or sponsor.

If you’re curious about who your son’s friends are, perhaps consider opening up your home to them and see how your son feels about having a night with his friends at your house. That way you can meet these kids and better see how your son is interacting with them. You can also encourage your son to spend more time with other friends he has met in recovery. Learning to trust your son will take time, but in order to trust him, he must be able to prove that he is trustworthy -- and that just takes time.

Tip: Host a drug/alcohol free get together at your home for your child and his/her new friends. Introduce your child to community events s/he may have overlooked (book clubs, sports leagues, volunteer opportunities).

And remember: you are not alone in this. There are several different types of meetings you can attend for family support, like Nar-Anon, Al-Anon, and Families Anonymous.

Learn more about Rachel Lauria, MSW in the Community Corner.

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MotherWarrior's picture

I can tell you from experience with my son that hanging with the same group of friends will result in the same behavior from your son. Just as he uses wanting to maintain his friendships right now because everything else has changed as an excuse; when he starts using again he will use his friends as the excuse for why he is using. The lifestyle is drugs. You can't have the lifestyle without the drugs.

My nephew was in a serious motorcycle accident this summer when drunk and high. He became evangelical with his friends about not driving drunk or using because they could end up in the same painful situation. However, when that didn't work, he slowly began using again so as not to lose their friendship. Loyalty is a word that comes up. But when it comes at the price of sobriety, it is enabling.

imladybuc47's picture

I have to agree with motherwarrior. When someone who is trying to recover from alcohol or drug addiction hanging with the same people he used with before will more times than not get back to where they were. I know I tried it with my son and his friends. Then they started stealing from me to get their drugs. Trying to host a drug free party led to sneaking outside and me constantly trying to monitor their behavior. Party meant party to the addicts. Everything and everyone must change or old habits sneak back in.

undme2's picture

Knowing that a Parent cannot be their child's friend per say, but to truly recover and stay in recovery it's all the people place and things as well as memories that go along with them. So I would suggest anything the child loved to do previous drugs try to get them to be involved again ie: sports, drawing, music etc. Try to keep them occupied and busy and do things as a family etc to create more fulfilled memories that replace the drug filled ones. Truth of the matter is and I can say from experience, It will be just a matter of time they will pick up the old habits again if they remain in the same circles. As long as the child live under the parents roof, parents have every right to set down house rules, until the child/children move out of the home and pay there own bills and run their own household.

undme2's picture

Well to be honest I just google searched key words Heroin, Addiction, Parents of an addicted child, support for parents of an addict. etc. Within these years of tribulation pertaining to my daughter's addiction I simply became on a need to know basis, so that perhaps I could somehow help her better. And what I have learned about the drug itself, and all that goes with it, and how the legal system and rehabilitation programs need some serious reconstruction in pa. I've learned the who's who in the probation parole department, and the goto persons in the court, and the miracle workers in certain rehab centers. I suppose either from the grace of God or just being a fly in everyone's ointment or both. I am willing to share and help anyone in anyway.

onlyson's picture

My son who is 29 has been sober a little over a month from heroin. He isn't working and has no car so he pretty much hangs home. I unplugged landline phone so his so called friends cant call which he is fine with, for now. He goes to group 4 times a week and he does like to go. My concern is right now i feel in control of keeping him safe. This makes me feel better. But we had a talk the other night and he said he doesn't want to feel trapped..he wants his cell phone back and this doesn't mean he's calling any of his "friends", I was a little upset and asked who he needed to call, etc. Then he said its not about the phone, he wants to start feeling independent. He knows i worry and i don't trust him, he knows what he did to our family but that he cant just stay home forever, he's going to get a job, go to his meetings but he doesn't know how to ease my mind. I feel my son is right. I feel better because my son is sort of trapped home. I know where he is. He doesn't have access to a phone or computer. So..I guess I need thoughts around me letting go of my fears of "what may happen". This is all new to me. He has relapsed many times but this is the first time he said he is finally done. He has quit for the family before but now he quit for himself
And to see him sober this long is wonderful. He seems different this time, praying he can make it. Any thought would be appreciated.'s picture

How do you get a young man 39 into a program when he will not go voluntarily? If he is a danger to himself and others and has been hospitalized numerous times but released after 72 hours, how do you get him to stay for a longer period of time. Does the Judge have to comit him for a longer period of time so he can get some help and detox?