My Daughter is an Addict: What Can I Do to Help?

No one ever said that parenting was easy. However, no one ever said it would be this hard, either. If you believe your daughter is addicted to drugs, you know this sentiment firsthand. You may have spent many sleepless nights wondering if your daughter is safe. You may have spent many days asking yourself why and how this happened – Why did she turn to drugs? What did I miss? How can I help her now?

As a parent, it is important that you don’t blame yourself, or your child, for this. Addiction is a disease, not a choice, and it can happen to anyone of any age, gender, or upbringing. Secondly, it’s important to know that you can make a difference. National research shows that parents have the greatest influence over their children’s propensity to use drugs. Parents also play a pivotal role in treatment and recovery.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), family members are key in motivating a loved one to enter and stay in treatment. Family involvement in the recovery process can also “strengthen and extend treatment benefits.” Parents who are involved in their daughter’s recovery – and who are supportive throughout the process – can increase her chances at a successful future. The question now is, where do you begin?

Whether your daughter is addicted to drugs, or abusing substances and on her way to addiction, it is never too early to intervene. By educating yourself about substance abuse in young women, establishing a trusting and open relationship with your daughter, and taking the necessary steps to get her into treatment, you can make all the difference. Below, we outline the specific steps you can take to get through to your daughter and to get her the help that she needs.

  1. Recognize how drugs affect the person.

When a person becomes addicted to drugs, her entire life becomes absorbed by the substance abuse. Your daughter may spend her time seeking, using, and recovering from her drug of choice. In turn, she has likely distanced herself from everyday conversations, family dinners, old friends, and once-loved activities. This is typical behavior for someone who is addicted to drugs. Drugs – from prescription pills, to marijuana, to heroin – make physical, lasting changes in the brain. Over time, they change how a young woman thinks, behaves, and prioritizes her life obligations. Quite simply, they take control.

You can learn more about how drugs affect the female body here.

What this means is that your daughter’s drug use is not a choice or moral failing, and that she likely cannot climb out of this on her own. Due to the effects drugs have on the brain, they are very hard to quit cold turkey. Those who are addicted typically need professional intervention and long-term therapy to overcome it fully. By recognizing this, you can begin to have more productive, judgement- and blame-free conversations with your daughter. Which brings us to number two…

  1. Establish an open line of communication.

As noted above, your daughter has likely been a bit distant and out of touch. As a parent, it is important to continue to encourage conversations with your daughter. Let her know that you are there to listen. Express your concerns gently, and let her know that you will not judge or punish her for what she tells you next. Most likely, your daughter wants to talk about her problems with you, but she is afraid of what your reaction might be. Many children are afraid of disappointing their parents or getting in trouble. Let your daughter know that she can confide in you, and that you are only there to help her through this.

You can set the stage for a productive conversation by finding a calm and quiet space to talk, without distractions like a cellphone or little brother. Be kind and respectful towards your daughter’s inclination to talk. Ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions that cannot be answered with one word. When she answers, try not to be overly emotional or negative in your reactions. Focus on the good. Be accepting and understanding. Work towards a goal of getting her the help she needs. If the conversation stops, be sure to bring it up again later on, such as the next day. Keep this top-of-mind for your daughter.

  1. Discuss drug treatment.

Once a line of communication and trust is established, you can ask your daughter to go to treatment. A women’s drug treatment center will be vital for her recovery. When you bring this up, it’s likely she will say that she’s “fine,” that she’s not at that point yet, or that she’s capable of quitting on her own. Remember: quitting drugs alone can be dangerous, and it is never too early to seek help for drug use.

When you come to this point in your conversation, it is important to come armed with some facts about professional drug treatment for women. Like many, your daughter may be scared at the thought of rehab. She will not know what to expect, but you can. (Discover what to expect in rehab here.) Do your research ahead of time and find a women’s only, gender-specific treatment center that can fully cater to her needs, and that will set her up for the greatest success.

At Turnbridge, the young women in treatment live in beautiful residences nearby our facilities. They benefit from watchful care, individualized treatment plans, therapy sessions, mentorship, and healthy, holistic activities like yoga, music, and art. They are surrounded by other women in recovery, are away from outside pressures, but always have access to communicate with family members during their stay.

If she is open to the idea, you may consider touring a treatment facility with your daughter. This can help her feel more included in the experience. If she is not open to the idea, however, you may need to take the next step.

  1. Intervention.

An intervention means taking action to stop a loved one’s detrimental drug abuse. It often comes in the form as a family meeting with the person using drugs, explaining to them all the reasons you are concerned, and all the ways in which you have been affected by, her drug abuse.

It is important to prepare for an intervention ahead of time by talking with your partner about your feelings, concerns, and wishes for what’s ahead. By doing so, you can establish common ground and realistic goals for the intervention with your addicted daughter. Ask your partner what he or she would like to get from the conversation. Ask yourself the same. Then, come together on a desired outcome that is also realistic for your daughter. Usually, this goal is treatment. But it can be smaller at first, such as getting her to express a desire to stop using. You may even consider doing a dry-run of the conversation before holding the intervention.

You can also prepare for an intervention by gathering any evidence surrounding your daughter’s drug problem. The best evidence is physical proof that your daughter is using, such as a baggie of drugs or a device for using. When it comes to this point, you may look in common hiding places like old purses, makeup cases, desk drawers, jewelry boxes, and over-the-counter medicine containers.  

Again, before an intervention, it is important is important to do your research around prospective treatment centers for your daughter. If she agrees to treatment during the intervention, it can really help to have a program lined up, to have her enrolled, and even to have a bag packed. While this may seem over the top, it is important to take action as soon as the opportunity arises to get her help.

  1. Stay positive and encouraging.

Young women – particularly in their teen years – are very susceptible to low self-esteem and confidence. If you focus too much on the mistakes or poor decisions your child has made in the past, she may carry that negativity with her. She may feel she cannot make good decisions or does not have the power to change. Instead of focusing on the past, focus on what lies ahead. Encourage positive behaviors, and use sentiments such as: “You can do it.” “I believe in you.” “You are important and I need you in my life.”

For those battling drug addiction, life can feel lonely and painful at times. This type of communication can be especially empowering, and will convey all the potential you see in your child. This level of encouragement and support should be maintained throughout treatment, as it will help her long-term recovery outcomes.

Staying positive is not solely about your daughter – it also means staying positive for yourself. This means making yourself a priority throughout this process, and keeping your stress levels low. Practice self-care methods like meditation and exercise. Participate in activities that you love. Join a parent support group, which may be hosted by your daughter’s treatment center. By caring for yourself, you will be better able to care for your child, lead by example, and encourage her to be the best she can be.

Final tip: stop enabling.

Parents have an inherent desire to take care of their child, no matter the circumstance. When your daughter is an addict, however, it is important to carefully consider every action you take towards meeting her needs. Are you making her life – and her addictive behaviors – easy? Are you doing anything to stop her drug abuse, or are you indirectly enabling it?

Parents often enable their children’s addiction without realizing it, and this makes sense.  We never want to say “no” to our children. We never want to see our children suffer. It is important to remember however, that your daughter is already suffering from addiction – and that she will suffer more if you enable her to continue using drugs. Signs of enabling include:

  • Supporting her financially, such as buying groceries and paying her rent
  • Making excuses for her, such as calling her out of work or school
  • Ignoring her negative behaviors, or ignoring her altogether
  • Consistently putting her needs before your own emotional and mental health

Parenting an addicted daughter is in no way easy. Staying positive throughout her addiction recovery is not going to be easy, either. However, finding the right treatment program for your daughter should be.

At Turnbridge, we understand how overwhelming a child’s addiction can be. We understand what you are going through. As a young women’s drug treatment center, we work with parents and their daughters everyday to cope with the effects of addiction.  Our women’s only rehab programs are designed around the needs of young women in recovery, and are staffed by clinical professionals who understand the complexities of female addiction. If you would like to learn more about our women’s treatment program, please click here or call us at 877-581-1793 for more information.

And if you are seeking further resources about how to help your addicted daughter, please check out the following articles: