No matter how old you are, it’s incredibly difficult when your parents have substance abuse issues. Younger children suffer incredibly but even adult children living outside the home can experience significant emotional upheaval.
Beyond the issue of emotional damage, research proves that the cycle of addiction is multigenerational and makes children more prone to both medical and behavioral problems.
This problem can be compounded by the strong influence that the parental relationship exerts on their children, often rendering children afraid to take action to get help for the parent. Fortunately, finding ways to help a parent with substance abuse problems doesn’t have to cause further emotional pain or upheaval.
The Impact of Parental Influence
We inherit genetic traits from our biological parents, but the influence exerted by parents or caregivers goes far beyond shared genes.
Parents are supposed to provide love, care and protection for their children. However, when a parent develops an issue with addiction, those roles often become reversed. No matter their age, children often take on that role for the parent as they endeavor to protect them from harm.
No matter their age, children struggle with voicing their opinions about addiction and substance abuse. They may hesitate to suggest getting help and they rarely feel comfortable or confident enough to force the issue with their parent. Instead, they continue to suffer while hoping that the issues will resolve themselves or that their loved one will realize the high cost of their addiction and seek help on their own.
The High Cost of Parental Addiction
When children take on the role of caregiver for an addicted parent, they are forced into a role they may not yet have the emotional maturity to handle. They may even hold themselves responsible for their parent’s substance abuse problems.
Parents and caregivers, even if they are not related biologically, influence children with their beliefs, their values and the behaviors they model. Kids who grow up in homes where drugs or alcohol use was present are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse problem themselves, regardless of biological connection.
As adults, children of addicted parents often perpetuate the cycle of addiction and inflict the same type of emotional strain on their own spouse and children.
How to Help a Parent with Substance Abuse Problems
No matter how old you are, you can get help if your parent is struggling with addiction and related mental health challenges. You are not alone.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides resources to assist children and teens who are living with drug or alcohol abuse in the home. Talking to someone you trust can also help you overcome any shame or stigma you may feel about your situation and help you come up with an action plan. A teacher, pastor, counselor or a friend’s parents may be a good place to start.
Reaching out to a qualified addiction recovery professional can also provide the information and confidence you need to help a parent who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.
At Treasure Valley Recovery, we help all types of people at our Nampa, Idaho drug and alcohol rehab facility. We use a dual diagnosis approach and evidence-based therapies to help people overcome their substance abuse issues. If you or a loved one is struggling, contact us today for help.