Many people don’t realize the tremendous impact that our parents or guardians can have on our growth. Children of addicts know first hand how childhood troubles and impressions can affect their adulthood life. It is no surprise that those who grow up in a household with substance abuse have a much higher chance of abusing drugs themselves. This is a sight that has become far too common in recent years.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimated that around 25% of Americans grow up in a household where drug abuse is present. This presence of drug abuse and possible neglect makes the child twice as likely to abuse drugs themselves later on. Children of addicts may feel neglected or ignored by their parents (among other effects). It’s important to know what to do as a child of an addict. No matter how bad things may seem, there are always ways to get help.
Children and adult children of drug addicts can have a positive impact on their parents. With the right resources and support, you can help them change their habits. Looking towards trusted treatment centers like Phoenix Rising can make all the difference for the future. While we can’t change the past and the choices we or our parents have made, we can change the situation for the better.
The Effects on Children of Addicts
In most cases of a healthy parent-child relationship, a parent will provide shelter, support, and security for the child in development. These are essential for a healthy and productive childhood. When a parent is struggling with substance abuse, this relationship is often reversed. It is the child who may need to be the caregiver in this situation.
This sudden change in responsibility can be extremely tough for a child to take on and oftentimes creates stress and other problems. There may be specific responsibilities like cleaning up after a night of heavy drinking (mother or father) or having to get a job to cover financials. These responsibilities can begin to stack up and cause emotional problems for both parties. It’s a level of emotional intimacy that is not healthy for a child and a parent. These may include:
- Having to cancel plans with friends to look after their mom/dad who’s drinking
- A need to rescue a parent who feels depressed or having suicidal thoughts
- Taking drugs with a parent in an attempt to create an emotional bond
- Taking the blame for a parent’s drug use; thinking they are taking drugs or drinking because of you
- Hearing inappropriate stories (sexual encounters, drug interests, etc.) about when a parent was high or on drugs
In these cases, a child is forced to take on mature responsibilities they probably aren’t ready for. This can affect how a person grows up and interacts with outside influences. Children who need to take care of their guardians and themselves open up the door for many issues like crime, isolation, depression, malnutrition, and other problems. This can restrict their lifestyle from the outside world and cause several internal problems in their mind and life.
Social Effects of Being the Child of an Addict
When children of addicts go out into the world their problems back home can end up showing in their social and academic lives. Several risk factors come with being the child of an addict. Over time, children of addicts are at high risk of experiencing:
- Worsened performance at school (or at work)
- Lowered self-esteem
- High risk of anxiety and depression
- Higher risk of experiencing sexual, verbal, or physical abuse
- Higher chance of experimenting with drugs and alcohol
- Emotional and behavioral problems
On top of these factors, the son or daughter of an addict might feel like they are to blame for their addiction. While you or a sibling may feel like this, it’s important to know that this is not the truth. Children of addicts shouldn’t be afraid to step by their caregiving role and find peace and support for themselves as well. It can be tough to look past an addicted guardian or parent but it is crucial for a clearer and more focused mind.
Reaching Out for Help (Outside of Home)
It can be a tricky situation reaching out for help in the outside world. Some children of addicts may be manipulated or abused with intimidation for trying to get help. It may be seen as a betrayal, which is not actually the case. Parents also may fear losing their children if their substance abuse or addiction is exposed.
What also tends to happen in these cases is the child will have self-esteem issues, which makes reaching out even harder. This can end up evolving into feeling hopeless, depressed, and anxious about the future. Luckily, there are different things children of addicts can do to reach out effectively with courage and support.
Keep a Personal Journal
Keep a written journal of your feelings (written or electronic). It may seem mundane to record your feelings and emotions, but it can help you work through them and build confidence. You can also do this through the form of videos, poems, art, or music.
Engage in Hobbies and Activities
Find activities or hobbies that make you happy and feel confident. These can include photography, drawing, making music, or cooking.
Find an Adult Who You Can Trust
Find a trusted and respected adult in whom you can confide. This can come in the form of a teacher, uncle, neighbor, or a coach. Let them know what you’re feeling, and ask if they can help.
Don’t Turn Your Friends Away
It can be easy to feel beat down and isolated from the outside world; however, don’t isolate yourself from your friends. Find a friend or someone who makes you feel good about yourself while reciprocating trust. Don’t turn your friends away when you need them.
Create a List of Safe Places
If you’re worried about your well being or have moments when you need to take the afternoon alone, make a list of safe places. This list can be your go-to places when you need relief or safety. Examples include libraries, parks, friends’ homes, family homes, etc.
Keep an Emergency Contact List
Children of addicts should make a list of people they’re comfortable contacting during a crisis. Also, make sure to keep your phone in a safe/secure place. Neighbors, friends, teachers, and relatives are all good options.
It’s Not Your Fault
Adult children of drug addicts or younger may feel guilty or upset about their parent’s drug abuse. You may have doubts and feel that they are abusing drugs because of you. However, the truth is, you have no control over another person’s drug use. It is not your fault and you should focus on getting help and taking care of yourself.
Helping a Parent Seek Treatment
Children of addicts may hesitate to approach their parents about their drug addiction and the effect it’s having on them. The reality is that people who abuse drugs may not see the effects and impact they are having on their children. As the child of an addict, there are certain steps you can follow when speaking to your parents about their addiction. When you approach them, do so with confidence and honesty.
- Write down your feelings and what you want to say
- Consider the help of someone with intervention experience (nurse, counselor, coach, etc.)
- Reach out to relatives to help you in the process and participate
- Pick a time where your parent will be sober
- Keep conversations honest, calm, and productive (don’t get upset or emotional)
- Explain your expectations in writing (this can give you a clear picture)
- Set boundaries and make sure the parent follows through with their treatment
Children of addicts should be informed of some of the different treatment options available. Whether your parents are suffering from a drinking problem or a prescription drug addiction, it’s important to be aware. There are several different methods of treatment that can help a person overcome the grip of addiction. Each person’s recovery journey will be different from the last. At Phoenix Rising, we offer several comprehensive treatment options with you in mind:
- Medication-assisted treatment for drug and alcohol addictions
- A quality residential treatment program; a person stays at our facility for a period of time with around the clock support and supervision.
- Intensive outpatient treatment; a person attends weekly therapy sessions during treatment
- Therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other methods to help a person overcome their addiction with behavioral changes, perception, stress management, and other techniques.
Start Your Journey at Phoenix Rising Recovery
Children of addicts can find themselves feeling hopeless and anxious about their life ahead. Both the parent and the child are affected by addiction. It’s important to reach out for quality help from experienced professionals. Phoenix Rising is ready to help you overcome addiction with comfort and expertise. Contact us today if you or a loved one is ready to take the first step towards recovery.