Supporting Your Adult Child in Addiction Recovery

Article - Supporting Your Adult Child - The Clearing Banner - Guarantee - 351x117Contributor: Betsy Koelzer is Co-Founder and VP of Operations for The Clearing

The Clearing is an eight-person 28-day residential treatment program specializing in alcohol abuse, substance abuse, eating disorders, mood disorders, and other conditions, including dual diagnosis.

We take an entirely different approach from traditional 12-Steps rehabs. We heal by identifying, addressing and healing issues at their core, not simply treating the symptoms of addiction.
Our Participants begin and end each session as a group, working uninterrupted to master life skills of personal responsibility and issue resolution designed to support them as they move forward in their sobriety.

Based on Spiritual Psychology, The Clearing provides over 120 hours of uniquely individual counseling, meditation, and more in a safe, loving and supportive environment located on a 64-acre farm on San Juan Island, Washington.

man-164962_640Supporting an adult child through addiction is not what we hoped to be doing as aging parents. However, when faced with this situation, how can we be most effective?
Your son or daughter most likely cannot feel bad enough about their situation.

In addition to dealing with their addiction, they are most likely wracked with guilt, shame, embarrassment and blame for the anguish they’ve put their loved ones through. They are all too aware they have caused worry, stress, financial difficulties, damaged your trust and possibly worse.

But at this point, they’re in trouble and need help. As difficult as it may be, holding them accountable to the behavior of their past just deepens the obstacle to recovery. The only way out is forward.

What You Can Do

Your child is an adult; it’s best to treat them like one. Since recovery is a family event, how can you participate in a healthy and constructive way? First, take care of yourself. Know absolutely that your mental and physical health, quality of life, serenity and peace of mind are just as important as your child.

Consider getting a therapist and support group for yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to take a radical ‘tough love’ position as some groups purport, but do maintain a healthy respect for your wellbeing.

Experiencing the Consequences

passenger-362169_640Require that communication with your son or daughter remain respectful. When it isn’t, close the communication until gets back to where it needs to be. Never talk with someone who isn’t sober. It’s an exercise in futility and firmly declining to participate will support clear boundaries.

As hard as it may be, let life take its course by allowing your child to experience the consequences of his or her behavior. Though it’s tempting to mitigate the damage, your child has valuable lessons to learn and ‘fixing’ their problems will only cause the lesson to be lost.

When appropriate, support and encourage your child to move forward – finding a job, enrolling in school and/or living independently. Allow them to assume to the greatest extent possible the responsibility for the life they have created.

Financial Help

Financial help should come in the form of a written loan agreement and clear expectations of prioritized repayment. Legal issues are often present; allow them to be the driving force in addressing their issues with the court.

Loss of a car is not uncommon; support them as they travel independently via bus or bike, but avoid becoming a taxi driver. Their motivation in restoring their life comes in some measure from their desire to enhance their situation and softening the consequences can postpone their efforts to rebuild.

How Can You Help?

When your child is ready to truly face their addiction, be ready to assist them. The key: you can’t care more about their sobriety than they do. Though you may need to do the initial research for rehab and healing options, it’s important that your son or daughter advocate for themselves when making arrangements for treatment.

Addiction Treatment?

The first stage of recovery is when your loved one is ready to quit. Theories differ on how this comes about; many insist ‘rock bottom’ must be reached, an excruciating experience for any loving family. At The Clearing, we find successful treatment requires two things:

  • The person has the absolute desire to change; and
  • The commitment to change is real and authentic.

Few industries are as confusing as addiction treatment. Often, assistance is recommended to help evaluate the many options available. Do your research! can be an excellent resource for comparing options.

Whether you are seeking residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient or support groups, it is critical to fully understand the program before committing.

What You Want to Know

  • Do you seek AA’s 12-Steps approach or an alternative? If AA doesn’t resonate for your child, don’t force it. There are many credible alternatives available.
  • How much does it cost? This shouldn’t be a difficult question to get answered but often is when conducting research on different addiction treatment options. Stick to your guns, get an answer and get it in writing, particularly for residential treatment programs.
  • How many sessions of individual and group counseling will be provided during the treatment session? Get a clear commitment.
  • What philosophy or modality will be presented? Meaning, what is the basis of the program – it’s core principles and strategies.

At The Clearing, we believe successful treatment must first focus on emotional issues. Our main objective is working directly with the underlying core issues creating the disturbances that cause your child to rely on substances to feel comfortable.

Examples include social anxiety, depression, trauma, fear, feelings of failure, loss of purpose and a deep disappointment in oneself. Resolving these issues is imperative to comprehensive recovery.

  • If possible, speak to someone who has been through the program. We have graduates willing to speak privately to those considering our program, as do most reputable programs.


sunset-69601_640Whichever course you choose, addiction treatment is only the beginning. Recovery, in a very real sense, is a lifetime commitment to ‘keeping ones house clean.’ This means a continued mindfulness to stay centered and balanced as the issues of life continue to arise.

This is by no means odious – they can simple daily practices to support one’s Spiritual connection.

Aftercare is most often necessary and attendance at support groups can be very effective. Programs like SMART Recovery are an excellent alternative to AA meetings. Your loved one may benefit from continued therapy. We recommend choosing a therapist skilled in working at the emotional level.

Referrals are helpful; never hesitate to interview an unknown therapist before committing to a session. If a potential therapist won’t make the time to visit with you by phone or in person, you have your answer. Intuition should be your guide – a personal connection between your child and their therapist is critical.

Often those in recovery will resist a therapist who hasn’t had the experience of addiction; just keep looking, there are plenty of excellent therapists who do have that experience.

Loving Support

There is no power greater than love, and the love between a parent and a child may be the strongest bond on earth. The healing power of love is the ace in your back pocket and it starts with you. Imagine yourself filled with the clear white light of Spirit’s presence and expand this to include your child.

Sit quietly, visualizing a future where your family is restored to peace and balance. Set an intention each day for an open heart, wisdom, patience and healing at the deepest level possible for the Highest Good of All Concerned. Know that through the darkest moments, you and your child are not alone.

There is a purpose in this experience beyond your knowing and that Spirit is present.

About the Author:

Betsy Koelzer is Co-Founder and VP of Operations for The Clearing, a 28 day in-patient residential treatment facility on a 64 acre farm on San Juan Island, Washington. She graduated from the University of Santa Monica Graduate Program in Spirituality Psychology.

Betsy is a recovering alcoholic and addict who supports her unfolding life through the practice of the Principals of Spiritual Psychology.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What is your experience with supporting your adult child in addiction recovery?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 8th, 2014
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.