As a society, we believe that parents should take care of their children. Sure, as our mothers and fathers age and begin to suffer health issues, many of us are in the position of taking greater care of them. So, what happens when a child – no matter the age – has to deal with a parent who is suffering from drug addiction?
In some cases, these people have witnessed their parents battling addictions from childhood. In other cases, a parent developed the problem later in life. In all cases, it’s a painful and helpless situation to watch a mother or father engage in destructive behavior that threatens his or her home life, job, financial status, and overall health and well-being.
There are also some scary statistics out there. There are more than 28 million American children of alcoholics and nearly 11 million are under the age of 18. Children of addicted parents are more likely to engage in their own patterns of substance abuse than others and kids exposed to elicit drugs are two to three times more likely to be abused or neglected.
It is important that people who grew up in a home with an addict or are dealing with a parent’s substance abuse later in life seek help to cope with the emotional emotional distress one faces in these situations. Nationally renowned addiction and recovery expert Dr. Howard C. Samuels has keen some advice for children of alcoholics:
- Understand that addiction is a disease. People in the throes of addiction have an inability to see beyond their substance use – it becomes an obsession and activity that completely fuels their days. Coming to terms with this can help deal with feelings of anger and resentment.
- You did not cause your parent’s addiction. Getting a few bad grades or divorcing your spouse might be cause for anguish, but they are not causes for addiction. People with substance abuse problems are fighting internal demons and are often pre-disposed to addiction issues. This is not your fault.
- Only your parent has control over his or her issues. As with most things in life, you can’t force a person to make changes until he or she is ready. Addiction is no different. It’s up to your parent to take the crucial steps toward getting help and recovering. You cannot cure him or her of the disease.
- Regardless of whether or not your parent decides to go through a recovery program, seek out help for yourself. In addition to treatment centers like Unity that offer counseling for family members, there are plenty of great Support groups like Ala-Teen, Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA). These groups provide children of drug-addicted parents with a safe environment in which to express themselves, identify with the experiences of others, and find support for their emotional recovery.