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Some parents find out about their child's substance abuse problem from the police, school officials, or concerned friends. Others notice signs such as missing money, dilated pupils, or the scent of alcohol or marijuana.
Even when there is no doubt about the truth, it can be hard for some parents to accept that this could happen to their child. If your child admits to a problem and asks for help, consider it a sign that you have done a good enough job as a parent that you are trusted when help is needed.
Try not to react with anger or condemnation, but instead channel your emotions into getting effective help. Give your child an opportunity to talk about pressures and problems that may contribute to drug use, but do not accept that drugs are the solution to those problems. Be willing to be part of your child's recovery, whether it be attending 12-step meetings together or participating in family therapy at one of many drug rehabilitation centers in your area.
It is natural that a child's drug or alcohol problem may cause you feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, or failure. It is important not to take these feelings out on your child, but it is also important to get support for your own emotions. Find a trusted friend, clergy member, or counselor to whom you can talk about your part of this journey. You may also find value in attending 12-step meetings such as Al-Anon or Narc-anon, aimed at families of people in recovery. There you will meet others who have dealt with similar issues and can give you good advice about the road ahead.