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addicted parents
June 29, 2020

Resources for the Children of Addicted Parents

Growing up in a household where one or both parents regularly misuses substances can take a tremendous toll on children. Unfortunately, this problem is quite prevalent throughout the country. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 7.5 million children in the United States live in households where at least one parent has had an alcohol use disorder, and about 2.1 million live in households with at least one parent with a drug abuse problem. Why is it so harmful for children to grow up with addicted parents, and what can you do to put your family back on the right track?

The Risks of Growing up With Addicted Parents

Living with addicted parents flips the traditional parent-child relationship upside down, forcing children to take responsibility for their parents’ harmful behaviors. For example, children may feel like they must lie to cover for their parents’ actions, or help clean up the house after a bout of drinking or drug use. Older kids might get a part-time job to help pay the bills if their family has trouble making ends meet because their mom or dad can’t hold down a steady job.

Many addicts tell themselves the lie that their substance misuse doesn’t hurt anyone else. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The children of addicted parents can’t count on growing up with a sense of safety or comfort. Instead, the adults around them often act erratically or irresponsibly, forgetting to pick kids up from school or failing to attend parent-teacher conferences because they were too drunk, high or hung over.

Children are adaptable enough to internalize these issues as “normal” from a young age, but there are always long-term effects. Because they never got a chance to see their parents modeling healthy ways of coping with life’s stresses and strains, the children of addicted parents are more likely to struggle with substance misuse issues in adulthood, continuing the cycle of addiction into the next generation. Some research suggests that children of alcohol or drug addicts are up to eight times more likely to develop addictions of their own. How can you break these chains and begin to heal your family?

How to Get Help for Your Parents

Addicts may claim that they only drink or use drugs to relax, or that they can quit using whenever they want to. However, once an addiction has taken hold, it can be a nearly insurmountable challenge for someone to overcome it without professional help. Long-term drug and alcohol abuse changes brain chemistry, including the built-in reward system, so that people who try to quit cold turkey experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings that drive them back to drug use or drinking.

It can be tricky to start a conversation with your mother or father about their self-destructive behavior. One of the most effective ways to do so is often a structured family intervention, led by a professional interventionist who knows how to orchestrate a meeting, keep it on track and prevent emotions from running high. Ideally, before the intervention, the rest of the family members will have decided on the right treatment program for your loved one – a rehab that focuses on clinical excellence and a tailored approach to healing the whole person.

Addiction Is a Family Disease

At Beach House, we have seen firsthand how much damage an active addiction can do to the family dynamic. That’s why we have designed our Family Program to repair broken relationships and start everyone on the path to recovery. Even if you don’t go on to develop a substance abuse disorder as an adult child of addicted parents, you still need the time and space to address the issues that have disrupted your life.

In Beach House’s two-day intensive family workshop – which we offer at no cost to anyone whose loved one is or was in treatment with us – you will learn skills such as setting boundaries, developing healthy coping mechanisms and how not to enable a parent’s addiction. We believe genuine healing comes from a place of love and compassion, and we want to help your family recover from the ravages of addiction together. We encourage you to reach out to our admissions counselors to learn more.  

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