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Opiate Addiction & Relationships: Healing the Parent-Child Bond

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mother and daughter sitting on bench. Illustrates opiate addiction relationships and how it affects families
Opiate addiction and dependency can affect all parts of a person’s life and for many, this can include the relationship with their parents. We receive numerous calls from concerned parents of teenagers and/or adult children who are suffering and struggling with opiate addiction. Typically when we speak to a parent there can be anger, distrust, and fear involved. That is understandable. This is a difficult situation for any parent to face. And by the time many reach out to us, there can be a sense of distrust or distance in the parent-child relationship. There can be the question of how that bond can be repaired when at the time it may feel broken. What we’ve found helps bridge the gap is an educational process in order for forgiveness and healing to happen.
With that, I turn to two experts in this field: Registered Nurse, Kerri Hagner, founder of the Facebook support group Fight Against Opiate Addiction and Waismann Method’s psychotherapist David Livingston, M.A, M.F.T.
Kerri Hagner R.N. founded Fight Against Opiate Addiction to discuss addiction, stories, and news about opiates in order to provide support to others and to inspire hope and encouragement. Kerri was personally affected by the opiate epidemic when her son became addicted to Oxycontin then heroin.  When asked how she was able to heal the bond between herself and her son, she commented, “I think the most crucial thing that I did in the course of my son’s addiction was to educate myself and continue to educate myself on the illness itself. It became a passion for me to fight for better support and services and to try to break the stigma attached to addiction. I believe in doing these things and always supporting my son through his many relapses with honesty and empathy and it actually helped create a stronger bond between us than before we battled his addiction.” Today you can find Kerri active in her group providing support, advice, and encouragement to those affected by opiates.
David Livingston, M.A., M.F.T., works closely with our patients who have been transitioned from the hospital after the rapid detox procedure to our after-care facility Domus Retreat.  Below you’ll find his insight into the process of repairing the parent-child relationship.
“Healing the bond between a parent and their child is often a critical step in the recovery process.  When the bond between a parent and their child is improved so is the probability of the child turning toward the parent instead of a substance the next time the child feels angry or overwhelmed.  It is critical that the parent and the child together form a way of understanding and thinking about the addiction. In time, what drives addictive behavior can be parsed and understood.  Here are a few ideas that help:
First, focus on understanding the feelings and the needs of your child. This will convey your belief in them and the possibility that they can outgrow their addiction. Very often, the child doesn’t believe they can grow up and create a meaningful life.
A commitment to understanding lets your child know that you are more interested in who they are and their development than your fear of them relapsing. Remember, your child already knows you are afraid of them relapsing. Usually, after detoxing, your child fears relapsing as well.
Often, the overriding need of a parent is to know that their child is safe and sober.  When working with a parent and their child, I often recommend that they consider weekly drug testing.  When the child agrees and follows through on the weekly drug testing, usually it helps alleviate their parents fear of relapse and this helps rebuild trust.  By following through on the drug testing the child demonstrates a commitment to themselves and this can lessen the fears of their parent and help to begin healing the relationship. “
If you are a parent whose child has or is struggling with opiate addiction, we hope that this can offer you encouragement and hope.

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