Nobody is safe from the sting of addiction, not even those as innocent as children of addicted parents. There are a great many kids in the US, 18 million to be exact, that live in a household where substance use disorder exists. To put this number into perspective, 25 percent of all children in the United States have parents who are suffering from substance use disorder.
There’s not much that can be worse than growing up in a household where substance abuse exists; what is worse is that children who have parents with an addiction issue are twice as likely to suffer from addiction themselves. This future, however, is not set in stone. There is always the opportunity to help someone course correct. The task may seem impossible, but many options are available to help someone who’s trying to help another make strides on their road to recovery.
An Unhealthy Family Dynamic
When anybody struggles with substance abuse, it is an unhealthy dynamic. For every healthy family, the dynamic is simple: the parent is the caregiver. It is imperative to a child’s development that this is the case, otherwise, their development will suffer. Keeping them healthy with a good appetite, a consistent living environment, and emotional support should be the top priority of every parent.
These roles that should be well established in any family tend to collapse when a parent is suffering from substance abuse. In these cases, a child has no choice but to step up and provide care to their family. This could manifest itself in many ways, some of which include the following:
- Picking up a drunk parent from a bar
- Taking their parent to the hospital for a substance abuse-related issue
- Becoming responsible for paying bills/rent
Childhood development is imperative to a person’s growth as an individual. Before someone transitions into adulthood, they’re used to doing tasks that don’t require much effort like chores, studies, and extracurriculars. They’re also just starting to develop social skills. When their parents suffer from addiction, however, they have to step up and take care of not only them, but everybody else in the household as well, and this has the potential to ruin someone on an emotional level.
Every tough circumstance in life has the potential to bring somebody to a crossroads. Children who have parents that suffer from addiction are no exception. There comes a point where someone has to step up, and the amount of experience and maturity this takes is not suitable for someone who is not an adult.
The bottom line is the fact that kids deserve to be nurtured; they deserve to be encouraged, taught lessons about life, to be provided for, and to simply enjoy themselves. These are the best times of their lives and they’re spending it doing their parent’s job. This is unfair and unhealthy.
In addition to all of this, kids whose parents suffer from addiction are put in a more dangerous spot than those whose parents practice sobriety. These children are at a higher risk of injuries, hunger, crime, and neglect; this wasn’t their choice. Their choice had been made more them, which is once again, extremely unfair.
Perhaps the worst part of all of this is that these kids don’t have a safe space to go. Chances are school is not their sanctuary, and home, which should be their most comfortable arena, is lost to the consequences of substance abuse. Bringing friends over to hang out is not even an option because of their parent’s intoxicated behavior. Not being able to be around peers outside of the walls of school or extracurriculars could lead to poor social skills.
Where Can I Find Help?
For many whose parents struggle with substance abuse, they’re responsible not only for themselves but also for their siblings (if they have them) and for their parents. They need help, but the hard part is finding help is difficult. To many it seems simple; all you have to do is be resourceful, but that resourcefulness is a gift that not many people possess. This has the potential to discourage young people, leaving them unmotivated and depressed. Knowing where to start is difficult.
Not only is there a lack of resourcefulness, but there is also fear. Fear is paralyzing, and when a child reaches out to someone and then the parent finds out, as a result, their response may strike fear into their child’s heart. Sometimes, parents are numb to the consequences of their actions or they may be completely oblivious. Finding out from someone else that their child is letting people in on their business could potentially enrage them.
Sometimes, a parent may feel as though their loyalty has been severed. Betrayal stings, and for someone who is not self-aware enough to recognize their substance abuse, it could seem as though this were out of nowhere. After all, this is an issue that has the potential to cause legal trouble.
Substance abuse has a detrimental impact on the lives of many children. Some of this detriment has to do with the self-worth some individuals feel, or rather the lack thereof. Feeling helpless and isolated chips away at self-esteem, and because of this, a child may not feel comfortable or confident enough to ask an adult for help. This not only has an impact on one’s childhood and development but also on one’s self-esteem carrying on into adulthood.
According to some studies, substance abuse is the leading cause of run-away children. This study was completed by the National Council of State Legislatures, and it also suggested that half of these run-aways dealt with physical abuse. Close to 40% of these cases endured emotional abuse. The worst part of all of this is that the same study suggested that these forms of abuse are common when the parental authorities of a family suffer from substance use disorder.
Helping a Parent
No matter what, finding help for anybody suffering from addiction is a difficult task. Finding help and talking through a substance use disorder contrast greatly. Doing research on which treatment options are best is much less complicated than addressing an addiction problem with one’s parents explicitly. If not strategized correctly, this area is very fragile.
As mentioned before, bringing up a substance abuse issue has the potential to be viewed as a compromise of trust and respect. This is why it is imperative to approach the situation carefully. To some parents, this may even feel like a betrayal, but there are ways to approach someone, even a parental figure, who is struggling with substance use disorder.
One of the most common effects of drug or alcohol abuse is a lack of judgment. These substances are notorious for warping the minds of the individuals that use them. For some, this may mean being oblivious to the problem completely. Those who find themselves with a lack of self-awareness are more likely to fall into this category.
However, regardless of what may seem real to them, this is not the reality of the situation in the slightest. To combat this thought process, some children must express to their parents very plainly how their addiction has impacted them. In other words, an intervention may be necessary.
Interventions: What are They?
Interventions are quite successful in the realm of addiction treatment; it’s how many people begin to recognize their abusive behavior. These are planned conversations that loved ones and family members have with an individual who is struggling with substance abuse. These environments allow someone to see more clearly how their addiction is impacting those around them.
Interventions usually take place in a comfortable, relaxing environment. Professionally trained interventionists should always be in attendance to moderate a productive conversation between those who are addicted and the loved ones around them; in these circumstances, it is easy to give into passionate emotions.
Communicating with love and understanding is the goal of an intervention. Nobody responds well to judgmental accusations, and this can only set progress back a long way. This recovery method has proven itself successful in many cases of addiction. If you believe an intervention may be necessary for your loved one, you must get into contact with a trained professional immediately.
Amethyst is There for You
Feelings of isolation or loneliness are natural to give into in times of difficulty. The development of a young person is a significant component of adulthood. Taking care of a parent who struggles with substance abuse is a very difficult road to travel, and it doesn’t help that this is already an awkward stage of life.
At Amethyst, we believe in meeting each individual where they are so that they have the best chance of recovering successfully. If you believe your parents are struggling with addiction and that they need help, it’s not too late to take the next step. Help is just a phone call away; you can contact us here.