PARENTAL DENIAL: THE GUARDIAN OF TEEN SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Just because you don’t think alcohol or drugs are contributing to the problems you’re having with your teen, don’t rule the possibility out! No matter how great a parent you are, you lack the objectivity to see your son’s situation clearly. If he actually does have a substance abuse problem, your denial will only make the problem worse. Regardless of your good intentions and steadfast love, are you absolutely positive you are not enabling your son to abuse drugs or alcohol?
One mom recently expressed the dilemma of many parents, “I don’t want to become paranoid about all the things my son could be doing and I certainly don’t want to unjustly accuse him. I really want to trust him, but what can I do to make sure I’m not in denial?”
Begin by recognizing that denial is a coping mechanism. It buffers you from being incapacitated by overwhelming emotional pain. Everything within your heart and soul longs for a bright and happy future for your son. Have you ever met a mother who rejoices at the prospect of drugs or alcohol consuming her child’s life? Have you ever met a father who holds a newborn son in his arms and aspires for that son to become a raging alcoholic? No, never!
So if your teen actually does venture down the substance abuse path, a barrier of denial automatically rises to protect you from experiencing the harsh pain of your vanishing hopes and dreams. You hold your breath, you look the other way and you pray this nightmare will soon be over. Unfortunately, as a way of life, continued denial only aids and abets your teen’s substance abuse and paves the way to addiction.
Your battle weapon against denial is rigorous honesty. What would an objective friend or neighbor conclude about your teen’s behavior? His friends? His appearance? His attitude? His demeanor? His academic functioning? His leisure activities? His relationship with you? Consider soliciting input from someone you trust who will be impartial, objective and honest with you. When put to the test of fire, which aspects of your son’s life pass through the heat unscathed? Which are causes of concern? And which, if any, stand out pleading for you to take note?
If you are supported in your conclusion that substance abuse is not a factor, then enjoy your teen, participate in his life and continue to hold him accountable and responsible! As a preventive measure, and for your own peace of mind, consider periodically reevaluating the situation, especially in the event of major changes or incidents in his life.
However, if the evidence actually supports your suspicion that drugs or alcohol are an issue, have the courage to move beyond the deceptive comfort of denial. Denial, both yours and your teen’s, will serve only to feed and nourish the insatiable monster of chemical dependency. Thirty percent of your recovery journey will actually be attained with the breaking and dis-empowerment of your denial.
Unfortunately, you cannot break through the armor of your son’s denial. But, thankfully, you can do a lot to chip away at it! As tough as it is for you, have the courage to hold your teen fully responsible for his own behavior. The sooner he learns that there are real world consequences resulting from his actions, the greater the odds that he will hit rock bottom, and turn from the drugs or alcohol to seek a healthier lifestyle for himself.
Allowing your teen to fully experience life on life’s terms when he is drinking or drugging may be one of the most difficult tasks you will ever encounter as a parent. No wonder the lure of denial looks so appealing! To add to the problem, denial will also try to convince you that you can handle this situation on your own. Nothing could be further from the truth. Role up your sleeves and declare war against your teen’s drug or alcohol problem by reaching out to receive the help and support of others.
Remember. You contribute to the problem when you are in denial. Come out of denial and you contribute to the solution!