How to Tell Parents and Loved Ones You’re Going to RehabWritten by: Melissa Lyon
Edited by: Melissa Carmona
Medically Reviewed by: Jenni Jacobsen, LCSW, LMFT
It’s okay to be nervous about telling your parents you need help for a drug or alcohol problem. It shows courage and maturity to take this important step toward recovery.
Talking to your parents about going to rehab can be scary, especially if they’re unaware of your struggles with drug and alcohol use. They may be, understandably, upset or shocked to learn that you have been abusing substances. While the discussion can be challenging, your parents ultimately want you to get the help you need. Having a conversation with them is often necessary: they can help you get into treatment and be a source of support during your recovery journey.
Admitting You Need Help For Drug or Alcohol AbuseAdmitting that you need help is the first step toward lifelong recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. You may worry that needing help for drug or alcohol addiction is something to be ashamed of. In reality, being honest with yourself and your loved ones requires courage and vulnerability to admit your mistakes. That feat conveys strength rather than weakness. Once you admit to having a problem, it can feel as though a weight has lifted since you don’t have to hide your struggle from your family.
It Takes a Village: Discussing the Decision with Loved Ones & Creating the Family Support GroupWhen it comes to addiction recovery, it truly does take a village. Having the support of loved ones is crucial to recovering from substance abuse: they can encourage you during challenging times and back your new sober lifestyle. As a minor, your parents’ or guardians’ assistance may be required to get into treatment. They will need to sign consent forms to allow you to enter drug and alcohol rehab, as well as provide financial support and insurance information to cover the costs of treatment. Trying to get better on your own can be nearly impossible if your parents don’t know you’re struggling, which is why it is so important to have this conversation.
Discussing Your Plans to Go to Rehab With Your ParentsYou may be worried your parents will be angry or punish you for abusing substances and needing help, but chances are that they will be concerned for your health and safety and want to do whatever they can to help you get well. While they may be shocked or upset by your admission of substance abuse, they are unlikely to punish you, especially if you have an honest discussion about a willingness to get treatment.
Asking your parents for their support in getting into a rehab for teens shows both maturity and courage. Pick a time when you know you will have their full attention, and you can have an open conversation. Explain that you have been struggling with drug addiction, and you would like their support with getting into a rehab facility so that you can recover. You can even bring up resources or treatment options you have explored on your own, so they will know you are serious about getting substance abuse help.
An important distinction: if you have a harmful or dangerous relationship with your parents or they’re struggling with addiction or substance abuse themselves, it’s also okay to seek help from another adult you trust, like a guidance counselor, doctor or close family member. While your parents may still end up being involved in your recovery process, starting with an adult who has your health and safety at heart can make the process easier.
Discussing with Other Loved Ones and Close Friends About Your DecisionWhile parents will generally want to do whatever they can to get you into treatment, other family members and close friends may not be as understanding. Relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins may not understand the nature of addiction or the value of seeking treatment. Having your parents around during the conversation with other relatives may make the difference. It may be beneficial to explain to relatives or friends that addiction is a medical condition, and just like you would see a doctor for treatment of a health problem like an injury or disease, you are seeking professional help for substance abuse.
How Parents Can Talk About Their Teen Going to Rehab with Other Family MembersParents whose teens struggle with substance abuse may be worried that others will not receive the information well. For example, older generations may have religious or cultural values that view addiction as sinful or as a moral failing, so they may be upset by the prospect of your child getting help for substance abuse. You may try to explain that experts have accepted addiction as a medical disease that can affect anyone, regardless of age, educational level or social status. Their support and understanding let your child know they’re not alone on their road to recovery.
What Are Reverse Interventions?Hopefully, your family, especially your parents, will support your desire to seek substance abuse treatment. Still, in some situations, they may be in denial that you have a problem or upset about the need to go to rehab. In this case, you may have to perform a reverse intervention. During a reverse intervention, instead of simply sharing with your family that you would like to get help, you may have to talk them through their denial and help them understand that treatment is necessary.
Typically, when family members are in denial, they do not want to admit that someone in the family has an addiction. They may feel that addiction is something to be embarrassed by or will bring shame to the family. Conducting a reverse intervention can help you overcome some of that opposition.
Preparing for a Reverse InterventionTo prepare for a reverse intervention, prepare to have a calm but honest discussion with your parents or relatives. Writing down your talking points can help you stay calm and on-topic if the conversation gets heated. Be prepared to listen to your parents’ reactions, even if they are negative. They may be deeply upset by the thought of your substance abuse, so expect strong emotions during the discussion. Listening to your parents’ point of view and sharing your own perspective may help you to come to an understanding.
Start the conversation by telling your parents that you have spent a lot of time thinking about your options and have decided that going to treatment is the best choice. You can use this opportunity to dispel some of the common myths about addiction and rehab. Educating your family about the nature of addiction may ease some of their negative perceptions.
If this approach is not effective, explain to your parents that they are an influential part of your life, and having their support through this journey might be necessary to help you recover. Framing the situation in this way can help them view it more positively.
When Your Decision To Get Sober Is Not SupportedIt’s possible your family may not agree with you wanting to go to rehab despite your best efforts to convince them. Sometimes, loved ones may be hesitant to accept your choice to get help because they’re also addicted. Your choice to seek rehab may make them more aware of their own battle with substance abuse. If they accept that you need help, they may also have to admit to themselves that they have a problem.
If your family does not support your decision to get sober, talk to a trusted adult in your life, such as a school counselor or youth pastor. They may be able to provide guidance or facilitate a more effective conversation with your parents. If you are in a situation where parents or guardians are using drugs and do not support you in getting sober, it may be in your best interests to call the local child protective authorities, who can ensure that you are safe. If you are unsure how to contact these authorities, a teacher, school counselor or doctor can help you make the phone call.
If you are living with a drug or alcohol addiction and are ready to make the courageous decision to seek treatment, Next Generation Village is here to help. Contact us today to begin your journey toward a life that is free from drugs and alcohol. One of our experts is happy to talk with you about your treatment options and provide guidance around talking with your family about rehab treatment.
Leshner, Alan. “Exploring Myths About Drug Abuse.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed January 22, 2021.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “If I want to ask for help, where do I start?” October 2019. Accessed January 22, 2021.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.