Category Archives: For Caregivers

When A Loved One Relapses

This is part one of a series on how to support loved ones through the ups and downs of recovery.

Relapse. It’s a scary word. Scary for people using, but just as bad for family and friends. So, as a parent, what do you do if it’s your child? After all, parents are supposed to help and protect their kids. But what do you do when you have to protect your child from him or herself? 

No Easy Answer

 Let me start by saying there’s no easy answer. Sure, there’s the canned answers of “tough love” and “they made a bad choice, so they have to live with it”. These answers aren’t helpful though. Remember, the definition of an addiction is a compulsive behavior you cannot stop. Yes, choice plays a small role in that a person makes a choice to use that first time, but even that isn’t as clear cut as it seems. Way back when someone first used, choice existed. Once the person learned to cope by using, the role of choice becomes minimized. The person cannot unlearn that getting high takes away the problems they have. At least for a while. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better quickly. So, when things get rough, the compulsion to use overrides the good sense of choice. 

They Do Care

Another thing to remember is that “users don’t care about anything or anyone but using” is not true. They care. And they care quite a bit. In reality, that is a big part of the problem. See, the loved one using knows just how much they’re hurting everyone around them by their actions. So, on top of the struggles with depression, anxiety, anger, self-hatred, and more, they’re adding large amounts of shame. It becomes more of an issue of the person using feeling too much, caring too much, not being apathetic despite what they may say. 

Another Way to Look at Addiction

But what should a parent or other caregiver do? Remember first, another way of looking at addiction. Addiction is isolating. People leave. Addiction ruins relationships, loses jobs, until no one is left but the person using. Not an ideal situation for someone battling depression, anxiety, anger, shame, self-hatred, and more. 

So, if the opposite of addiction is recovery, then recovery means connections. As hard as it is, finding a balance between setting boundaries while also not abandoning the person using is important. Encourage the person to take their medications as prescribed if they have them, to see a therapist or counselor, to attend community sober support meetings. Anything you can think of to help connect the using person to positive sober supports. 

Now, I know setting boundaries with a loved one, particularly your child, can be challenging. When minors are involved, there’s a whole different set of legal obligations to think about on top of healthy limits within the family. We will discuss setting healthy boundaries next week, so please stop back. In the meantime, please call or email us with questions or concerns. We are happy to help.


Stacy Overby, MS, LADC, CCTP is the program director. She has been a licensed drug and alcohol counselor since 2010 and a certified clinical trauma professional since 2017.  

Parenting Teenagers 101

I’ve worked as a substance abuse counselor for over eight years now. Most all of that time has been with adolescents, and one of the things I hear frequently from parents and guardians of teenagers is they struggle to engage their teen in meaningful conversation. How do you parent when they won’t talk to you?

Parenting Means Listening

I talk and talk and talk to them but they just won’t listen. While the words vary, I’ve heard many parents and guardians say things like this. The problem with this style of parenting is it relies on the spirit of “do as I say and not as I do” mentality. Teenagers are good at spotting those seemingly hypocritical behaviors and using them as a reason not to “do as I say”. While it can be so difficult to do, turning that pattern around tends to improve the relationships and overall parenting process. Let the teen do more of the talking and listen. Listen not just to what they say, but what they don’t say. Look at what their body language and facial expressions are saying. Teens often struggle to put their thoughts and feelings into words, so these non-verbal cues are a good tool to help them learn how to do that.

Parenting Means Admitting When You’re Wrong

Admitting you’re wrong. That is something so many people struggle to do. We’ve come to equate this admission to somehow being less than or not as good as others. Yet every single person on this planet has been wrong. And more than once. Yes, sometimes teenagers try to hold it against adults when adults are wrong. However, rather than letting the focus turn to who’s wrong and who’s right, deflate their argument by admitting it. Two things will start to happen when we admit we are wrong to teenagers. First, it will boost our teenagers’ self-esteem by hearing they are right at times. Second, it is an excellent way to work on building mutual respect. By acknowledging we are wrong, it tells teenagers we are listening to what they have to say.

Parenting Means Admitting We Don’t Have All the Answers

Another thing I’ve seen is when parents and guardians struggle to admit they don’t know something. It gets easy to pretend you have an answer to try to get them to do what we want them to do. However, when we pretend we have all of the answers, we also teach teenagers to pretend the same thing. This, in turn, sets up situations where teenagers get in over their heads pretty quickly. Instead, learn to admit when you don’t have the answer. Then work with your teenager to learn the answer together. It teaches your teenager the skills to find answers to things they don’t know and it helps them learn to admit they don’t know everything.

More Parenting Resources

Eowyn Gatlin-Nygaard, a therapist from Headway Emotional Health, wrote a great article with additional insight into decoding teens for Minnesota Parent. You can find it here.

Mayo Clinic also has some good insight here.

Stacy Overby, MS, LADC, CCTP is the program director. She has been a licensed drug and alcohol counselor since 2010 and a certified clinical trauma professional since 2017.