How to Talk to Your Family About Your Substance Abuse Problem?

For the most part, articles or blogs about teen drug and alcohol abuse are predominantly written for parents to serve as an informational source. Unfortunately, not enough attention on this critical subject is focused directly to the teen for them to read and use as a resource as well. In this article – “How to talk to your Family about your Substance Abuse Problem,” the intended audience is the adolescent and not the parents.

Teen drug and alcohol abuse is a very difficult topic for an adolescent to approach his or her parent(s). Especially, when they are telling their parents for the very first time that they have a substance abuse addiction. It is hard enough for a teen to face their substance abuse problems on their own let alone discuss the subject with their mom and dad. Teens are not only fearful of punishment, anger and sometimes in extreme cases physical retribution; they genuinely do not want to be viewed as a disappointment to their parents. Hence, for many teens, the cycle of continued and more escalated teen drug abuse continues.

For teens having difficulty coming clean to their parents – don’t despair. By planning to talk to your parents about your drug problem, you have already accomplished one of the most difficult parts to recovery – acknowledging within yourself that you have a problem. Coming clean to your family may seem virtually impossible, but the following is a primer to make this seemingly unattainable admission just a little easier.


4 Tips on how to successfully talk to your Family about your Substance Abuse Problem

Practice Before Diving In

You know the popular saying: “Practice makes Perfect.” Well there is truth to this statement. This adage holds true whether you are practicing a speech for your public speaking class or telling your parents about your addiction. If you are at a loss for words on how to tell your family about your drug and/or alcohol abuse, perhaps practice your wording in a mirror or run it by someone you can confide in.

The act of role playing as to how you will explain what has been happening to you and how your drug or alcohol abuse began is well worth the effort. However, you don’t want to practice forever. It is important to set a self-imposed deadline when you will be telling your family. Practice until the day of your announcement. And keep in mind everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If you simply get the point across that you need help, you have achieved your goal.

Don’t Give in to Your Fears

As previously stated, a teen’s fear of arousing parental disappointment is a major barrier for them to engage in the conversation with their mom and dad. It can be the one stumbling block for a teen beginning his or her road to recovery.

A teen’s fear of disappointing their parents is a major reason why many never come forward about their substance abuse addiction to their family. While, this is understandable behavior, you can’t allow it to prevent you from having this all to important conversation.

It is quite possible, fear of disappointing your parents is something you have built up in your mind and they may be behind your 100 percent. But the fact of the matter is parental disappointment is a normal reaction and it often can take a while for your parents to process this shocking information.


So, if your parents react disappointingly, it is immaterial. The bottom line is you need their help and can’t conquer this by yourself. If your parents react harshly and show their disappointment remember these feelings can change for the better as you progress in your recovery.

Write a Letter

If you find yourself deathly afraid of actually talking face to face with your parents about your addiction it is not the end of the world. There are other options – like writing a heartfelt letter explaining your situation. Letters have long been a form of communication that allow people to easily share their inner thoughts with others without the fear of mental or physical reprisal. If speaking to your family doesn’t seem realistic – you can still convey everything you want to tell them in a letter. Consider a letter to be an ice-breaker and prelude to having a real live conversation.

Keep in mind, there is no easy way for a teen to reveal their struggles with drug and alcohol abuse to their parents. What matters the most is to take the first step by going to the people who are most equipped to help you start the long and arduous path to recovery.

Talk About Your Fear First

Carl Pickhart, a psychologist and Psychology Today blogger, coaches young people who intend on talking to their parents about their drug problem. He recommends that teens start the conversation by saying something like: “Mom and Dad, I have something important I want to talk to you about, but first I want to tell you how I am afraid that hearing what I have to say you will think less of me and love me less once you know. What I most need right now is your loving respect and support.”

We Would Like to Hear From You

The abovementioned tips are just a few of the numerous options a teen should consider when talking to their family about their drug or alcohol addiction. We would like to hear from you. Please share your ideas so that other teens will have the knowledge and resources to go through this extremely difficult and life altering decision.

About the Author

Scott_BrandScott Brand is a prominent digital marketer in the addiction recovery industry, where he works with Inspirations for Youth and Families teen treatment center as well as it adult counterpart the Cove Center for Recovery. Scott has also been a contributing columnist for Consumer Health Digest, one of the fastest growing health information websites. He has authored hundreds of health related articles in over 80 publications including the peer reviewed International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience where his piece on Alcohol, Depression and Genetic Disposition: The Chicken, the Egg and the Gene Syndrome was critically acclaimed by leading industry professionals.

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