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How to Help Your Recovering Teen Overcome Impostor Syndrome

In our last blog we discussed ‘impostor syndrome' and why it might come up for your teen who is in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Impostor syndrome was coined by two psychologists to describe the feeling of being phony or a fraud when it comes to one's accomplishments. Becoming a successful, healthy, balanced, thriving young man in recovery is an accomplishment when young boys develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol early in life. However your son discovers and begins to fulfill his potential in sobriety, there may come a time he doubts his hard work in recovery, and in life. He may deflect any compliments, start to speak in self-defeating terms, or even start lacking in performance through many areas of his life. Not all boys who go to treatment successfully stay sober or grow their lives to be positive, productive, and happy. Why or how this happens is simply inexplicable. Though you may not be able to explain away your son's sudden development of impostor syndrome, you can help him get through it. By acknowledging his experience, the difficulties in watching peers of recovery struggle, and the challenge of staying sober, you can help him continue to recognize the value of his life in recovery, as well as the value of the hard work he puts into staying sober.

Why Impostor Syndrome Happens in Recovery

Recovery can come naturally to some boys while others will struggle. For some, making it through a day without thinking to pick up a drink or drug, craving a drink or drug, obsessing about a drink or drug, or even coming close to picking up a drink or drug, is no problem. Others, unfortunately, face a daily struggle in finding the hope, inspiration, and ease they need to maintain their sobriety. Sobriety and recovery becomes an integrated part of life. Not picking up a drink or drug becomes an afterthought more than a forethought because not as much effort has to be put into staying abstinent. It isn't uncommon for individuals in recovery to feel like a ‘fake' or a ‘fraud' because they are not struggling in that way any longer. Your boy may begin to doubt himself, the life he has created, or even his commitment to his sobriety. Thoughts like I don't deserve this When will they find out I'm not worth this? What will happen when they discover I'm a fake? might come up.

How Parents Can Help

Parents know too well how quickly a pep talk can be tossed aside with anger-drive deflection and denial. First, talk with your son to try and find a source for this sudden disruption in confidence. A friend may recently have relapsed or lost their life to an overdose. Your son may have had a major accomplishment in his life and is overwhelmed by it. Once you've identified the source, encourage him to talk to his therapist, counselor, or sponsor about what he is going through. Next, remind him of the journey he has made from active addiction to active recovery. Sometimes, when life becomes full in recovery, it can be easy for boys to forget what it was like in addiction. Remind them of their struggles, their hard work both in and out of treatment, as well as the accomplishments they've made now. When life without addiction becomes normal, it can be easy to forget how much work and dedication it takes to keep life that way. Each breath your son takes sober is an accomplishment. Ask him what he is most proud of in his recovery and celebrate those specific things with him. His perspective should shift and the difficult thoughts of impostor syndrome will begin to fade away.

Your son has an incredible life waiting for him. He needs a treatment program which will help him build a positive foundation while supplying him with the life cleansing therapies he needs to renew mind, body, and spirit. Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center offers long term residential programming for teenage and adolescent boys struggling with addiction. For information on our clinical and academic programs, call us today: 662-598-4214