Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Letter to New Parents on This Journey

This is written for parents who are new to this journey...

Dear Parent,

I know that you are feeling a lot of mixed emotions right now. That is all very normal. When I found out my son was using drugs, I was completely shocked.  He knew better, but he did it anyway. It seemed so incredibly unfair that this should happen to us. We thought he must be just going through a phase that he will grow out of.  We decided we would talk to him about how selfish he was being, how he was throwing his life away, and how much he was hurting us. That would do it! He would come to his senses and stop using drugs before they became an even bigger problem in his life.  Unfortunately, it was not that easy. We had a lot to learn! 

I am writing this letter to you because I want to save you from making the same mistakes we made early on. I also want you to know that you are not alone in this. There are many families dealing with this issue but most never talk about it.  You don’t have to be ashamed. I am quite confident that you love your child and did the very best job that you could, as did we with our son. Unfortunately, youth today have easy access to incredibly powerful prescription drugs. By nature, teenagers are very curious and like to take risks so they try these drugs. Many of these youth like them way too much and continue to take them. I’ve heard many say that “when you can stop taking them, you don’t want to, but when you want to stop taking them, you can’t.” That is very true.

The positive thing is that you are now aware there is a problem, and can try to do something about it.

Here is some advice for you:

1.     Do not underestimate the power of drugs. Most people cannot just stop using no matter how much you beg, plead and cry. They need help from a professional. Pull out all the stops to get immediate help for them.

2.     Don’t assume it is a phase that they will grow out of. If your child is at the point where you began to see signs of use, they are likely already addicted. They get careless as their drug use progresses.

3.     Don’t believe them when they say they will quit on their own. They don’t need help. Those are sweet words that we all want to hear but they are lies. Addiction is a cold, cunning disease. Our addicted loved ones will tell us what we want to hear so that they can continue to use.

4.     Work with your child’s addictions worker. They can’t tell you what is discussed with your child, but you can tell them what you are seeing as far as signs, attitude, behaviours, etc. This will help them in helping your child.

5.     Watch for any signs of use. Search their rooms for evidence. You have to be discreet about it. Do not leave a mess because if they know you are searching for it they will hide the evidence elsewhere. Share your findings with their addictions worker (who they may also be trying to fool).

6.     Do not give them money (or anything of value that they can sell) for any reason. If they need something, go out and purchase it for them yourself. Otherwise, you will very likely be giving them money to buy drugs. Many youth pool their lunch money together to buy drugs.

7.     Get help for yourself. This is a hard journey that many of us are ill equipped to take on our own. It is truly like no other. You need to get educated quickly about the disease of addiction. The more you know about it, the more help you will be to your child. If you don’t get educated, you could do more harm than good. This is a serious issue. There’s a lot of great information available online and in your community.

8.     When it comes to going to a support group, don’t convince yourself that your child is not as bad into it as “their children” so you probably won’t fit in. GO! Get there as fast as you possibly can. Your child is very likely just as bad into it or worse. Even if they are not, you will learn A LOT from the other parents who have the experience. In addition, you will eventually find friendship, empowerment and peace in this process.

9.     Your child is sick, not bad. They are not doing this to hurt you. When you cry, they hurt inside but the disease of addiction has many casualties and you are one of them.  They will do anything to get drugs and inadvertently hurt whoever stands between them and their fix, including you.

10.  This is not your fault. A lot of people try to put the blame on parents because they don’t understand the disease. Forgive them. You were likely one of them at one time. I know I was! There are many protective factors that we can put into place, good parenting is one of them, but there are no guarantees. I’ve seen many kids – like mine – from good homes that end up going down this path. Addiction does not discriminate.  

11.  Let your son/daughter know how much you love him/her, and that you will always be there when they want help to get better.

12.  Pay a lot of attention to your other children. They are casualties of the disease as well. Don’t neglect their needs as you try to save your sick child. Find the balance.

13.  People do recover. Sometimes it can happen quickly or take years but it does happen. You can’t do the work that is necessary for your child to get there, but you can help the process by learning about addiction yourself and what you should and should not be doing as parents.

There are many more things that will help you, and you will find them when you go to support groups and begin researching on the internet. Many parents, like me, have started blogs to help support others through this process. You’ll learn something from all of us.  There is too much to cover in this one letter!

I wish you well on this journey. The positive thing is that addiction is a treatable disease, but it will require a lot of strength on your part. Learn everything that you can about it and talk to others who are going through it. When I began sharing my story, I began to heal. You will too. If you are a person of faith like I am, lean into that as well. This journey has brought me in touch with many wonderful people who have enriched my life in so many ways. They are out there waiting to support you as well. You are never alone.



PS: If any of you other experienced parents have advice to share, please leave it in the comment section! Thanks.


  1. My advice to parents on PEI is to immediately contact your family doctor and ask for a referral to a doctor who can prescribe suboxone or methadone. If suboxone is an option, choose it as it has less side-effects than methadone and it is covered under some drug plans. Not having the physical craving allows your child to focus on recovery and if they were involved in any sort of crimes to get money to buy the drugs, this need is removed. Do not expect your child to get over addiction without treatment...very few can do without methadone or suboxone. Do not feel that if they are using either of these that they are "substituting one addiction for another" as addiction is a disease and these medications are treatments just like insulin is to a diabetic. My only other advice is to pray, pray and pray some more. The road to recovery is not easy. Your child will most likely slip up but don't give up on him or her. Take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Reach out to your own friends and if possible, share your stories with them. You will be amazed with the support that is right around you!

  2. All the words written here is excellent advice and I wish I had of seen something like this when I found out my daughter was addicted to drugs. Unfortunately I found out when she was arrested for stealing at work. I was in shock at first because I was hit with a double whammy 1) she had been stealing and was caught and 2) She was addicted to drugs! But my instinct kicked in and I knew I had to deal with her addiction first the court case was a couple of months off and as awful as that was it wasn't going to kill her but her addictions could. The night it happened I sat up all night because I couldn't sleep and I wrote a painful and truthful message to every member of our extended family and close friends to let them know what was going on. It was really hard but also it released some of my pain and anxiousness. One thing I learned from this you certainly find out who your true friends are! Our family all stood behind my daughter and gave her a lot of unconditional love which helped her with her struggles. And for this I am extremely thankful! Most of my friends were just as loving and kind but sadly a few decided we were unfit parents or something as how could this happen. I obviously am no longer close friends with them but deep down I could understand their reactions as I sometimes questioned my ability as a parent and second guessed some decisions I made. So my advice would be reach out and surround yourself with people who love and support you and your child! Prayers are sent to all battling this terrible illness and their loved ones travelling the path with them!!

    1. Thank you for your wonderful advice. It is best to reach out to people. I started to heal when I began telling our "secret". There are so many people going through it. I am glad that you found lots of support too. It is desperately needed in this journey. My advice to you is don't blame yourself. There are many factors at play in this epidemic. I know a lot of good parents going through this. Take care and God bless you and your family.

    2. Thank you so much for your kind words! I have learned to understand I did try to always know her friends and where they were going etc. While she lived at home all was well. It was when she moved out on her own that she started using. I always worried about her as she seemed like a follower and wouldn't stand up for herself. But I couldn't understand why because she had a sister who was raised the same way and had no problem saying no when it was offered to her. Through treatment, NA and family support she has been clean for 4 years and for this I am eternally grateful BUT I still live in fear she will start again. I am sure that fear will never go away and is par for the course. All seemed to be going well in her life and then she became involved with a verbally abusive boyfriend and then got caught stealing at work in July. My heart dropped as I thought here we go again :( I was a basket case! But something good did come out of it as I finally was able to understand why she had such bad self esteem and kept making such bad decisions. She finally confessed that she was sexually abused when she was 11. I couldn't believe that she had to deal with this all these years and how much it affected her life. All the things she has done was like a call for help that we didn't recognize. Sadly she is too old (29) for our drug plan to cover her to see a therapist and she's on waiting list for one with Mental Health. I wish we could afford to pay for the therapist on our own but we can't. As long as she seems to be coping well we will play the waiting game. But as with you we have lost a family member to suicide and I live with that fear daily. Of course if I see any change or if she starts to close down and no longer talks to me about it if we have to we will sell our house or what ever it takes to get her help. I t shouldn't be like this but it's the reality that a lot of parents and families are facing. Thanks for allowing me to get a lot off my chest it feels so good to be able to talk about it without feeling like I am being judged :) God Bless you and your family and I pray things get better for you and your son!

    3. I am so glad to hear that your daughter has four years in. That is amazing! I am sorry to hear about her childhood trauma, which is definitely a risk factor for drug use. Unless she told you at the time, you would have no way of knowing. Kids can hide that very, very well. Your daughter should call the Catholic Family Services Bureau. They only charge a little bit if you can afford it. Otherwise, you don't have to pay to see their counselors (at least, that is what it used to be like!). They are a wonderful resource and the wait is probably not as long. It is well worth a try. There are support groups for survivors of sexual abuse as well. I am sure they exist in Charlottetown. I hope she talks to someone soon. Please keep me updated at I'll be thinking of you all. xo

  3. Thank you I live in S'side but will check it out. Sending positive thoughts and prayers you're way. So glad I stumbled on to this site!

    1. Great! You should check with Andy Lou Somers (a really nice lady) at the East Prince Women's Centre in Summerside. She may be able to direct you to a similar type organization in your area. Good luck.


Thank you for your comment. Please be advised that comments are moderated.