My Teen is in Rehab…Now What?

Anxiety, stress, worry, anger, & fear…these are the constant companions of the parents of addicted or extremely defiant teens.  Worry and fear that their teen may permanently harm himself or others.  Constant stress and anxiety over the angry battles that inevitably result from confronting their dangerous behaviors.  Mourning the loss of trust and relationship that their behaviors have wrought is difficult, but worst of all, is the feeling of hopelessness…that no matter what you try, it is never enough.

Many of the parents who call Ozarks Teen Challenge are in this very place.  Tired, wounded, and in desperate need of reinforcement.  Their decision to enroll their son in a 15-month rehabilitation program is not easy, but vitally necessary.  So much focus leading up to a teens enrollment in rehab is focused on choosing the right program with trustworthy staff, getting them there safely, and filling out forms and paperwork, that many parents fail to consider what they will experience after their son is safe.  “How will we feel?”  “How will our family & friends respond?”  “What do we tell people?”  Helping their son has required so much energy and focus, that many are unprepared for that drive home.

How Will We Feel?

The emotional result of separation during teen rehabilitation treatment, is as diverse as the individuals that experience it.  But there are several common emotions that many experience in these moments:

Intense Grief or Sadness

After long periods of emotional suppression, which enabled them to focus on their son’s safety, parents can be confronted with a wall of emotion after their son is in rehab.  All of the anger, sadness, and grief of what they have walked through finally breaks through and can be overwhelming.

It is important for parents & families who are working through these intense emotions to take time to process them and to seek help & guidance in order to heal.  Allowing themselves to feel these intense emotions without becoming alarmed by them, is important because what is needed most of all in those first days, is rest.  Investing in rebuilding healthy relationships and in personal health is vitally important and rest is the first step toward these goals.  Understanding that these feelings are normal and that they are not alone can also help, which is why joining a support group for families is highly recommended.

Guilt & Doubt

“I can’t believe I could not do it all by myself!”  “Did I make the right decision?”  “Will he hate me forever?”  These are difficult thoughts to manage for any parent.  They may present themselves on the drive home from the rehab facility or several weeks into treatment, but they are powerful. Parents experiencing guilt and doubt can benefit from the knowledge that they are not alone.  No parent wants to have to admit that they need help.  The truth is, addiction is a disease and spiritual condition that requires treatment and battling alone oftentimes only exasperates the situation.  They made the hard choice, but the right one.


The human body can only operate so long at high levels of anxiety and adrenaline before crashing.  Some parents experience this crash in an overwhelming feeling of relief.  Their son is safe, he’s getting help, they can breath.  While some experience intense emotions, others just collapse in upon themselves and are relieved by the emotional silence.  It is important for parents to know that there is not a right or wrong way to feel.  Everyone processes their experiences differently and feelings of relief are in no way a reason to feel guilty.  You deserve to breath and rest!

How Will Our Family & Friends Respond?

This question can create a lot of anxiety.  There is no way to predict how family and friends will respond but there are several factors that may influence them.

  • The closeness of their relationship with your teen
  • How much information they have been privy to regarding his behaviors
  • Their level of denial regarding his condition
  • Their understanding of addiction and enabling
  • The condition of your relationship with them

While their reactions may not be predictable, you can control how you prepare yourself for their responses.  Know that their responses are not a reflection of the rightness of your decision.  Stand assured in your decision knowing that you did not make it lightly and only did so with the best interests of your son in mind.

Many times, you will find acceptance, love and support from your loved ones.  Other times, the emotional reaction of family or friends may be similar to the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Know that their responses are not your responsibility, they need time to process their emotions just as you do.

What Will We Tell People?

This can be one of the toughest questions for parents because it directly confronts the feelings of shame that can accompany addiction.  No one wants to admit that they or their family has a problem, and if they do, they don’t want every one else to know about it.  Not to mention that when their teen is struggling, they want to protect him from being labeled by judgmental individuals.  The normal response to this fear is to keep their teen’s behaviors and addiction behind the veil of “personal family matters.”

But what do you do when your teen’s in rehab?  All of the problems that have been hidden for so long, are now at risk of being exposed.  Abduction by aliens might even seem like a better option than explaining the truth.  Some parents, instead, try and close themselves off from family, church, and social settings to avoid “the questions.”  This can be a healthy response if done for a short period of time.  Taking a few weeks to regroup with immediate family in order to regain emotional composure is important.

However, this strategy only works for so long and can actually harm those who utilize it for the long term.  By isolating themselves from needed support, they can make it more difficult to process their own emotions in a healthy manner.  Remember, your son needs you to be healthy, and acceptance is an important step.

Isolating can also harm their son’s ability to maintain his sobriety upon his return home.  An important part of rehabilitation is transparency, asking for help, and being able to express themselves and their needs in a healthy manner.  Entering the “veil of secrecy” upon their return home may put undo pressure upon them and keep them from seeking help when needed.

When wondering what to say, honesty is the best policy.  This does not mean that everyone who asks needs to know every detail of your family’s life.  Keep it short but to the point with those who are either not close to you or who do not need to know.  Giving a quick honest response can be better than leaving people to speculate and gossip.  Get in front of the issue.  Choose those closest to you who will be your biggest supporters to disclose more details to, as you feel the need.

Everyone will handle this in a different manner, the important thing is to avoid allowing your family to become isolated by shame.  Seek support, be honest and be proud of your son’s progress…not ashamed that he had to get help…all of which are things that you pray and hope for him. propeciarxshop.com


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