Dealing with a loved one’s drug addiction is never easy. When that person is your parent, it is even more difficult to acknowledge and accept. Many children of an addicted parent do not know what to do, where to turn, or how to help. It is established that addiction is a disease that effects the brain and it can have several harmful consequences to not only the individual but to those they interact with. The cost of addiction is not just limited to traffic accidents, injuries, or fatalities. It is also closely related to the neglect, abuse and maltreatment of children whose parents are addicted. And the resulting memories and experiences of their parents’ addiction and substance abuse can haunt children when they are adults as well.
Parents have a lot on their plates. Many parents are juggling work, appointments, and taking care of the family. And many struggle with a balance. They may feel as though they do not get any time to themselves. Perhaps they feel substance abuse is the only way they can cope with their busy life. This is sometimes especially true for single parents. Unfortunately, children of addiction suffer as a result.
More than likely, you want to help your mother or father. But before you can do so, you need to find out for sure if they have an addiction problem. Determining if you have an addicted parent takes a lot of observation and knowledge. Keep in mind that signs of addiction are different for everyone. Begin by looking at all signs of possible drug use and abuse.
Possible Signs of an Addicted Parent
First, look for loss of control over the amount or frequency that they use a drug. Also look for compulsive use, or continued use despite adverse consequences. Do not just limit these consequences to the potential addict, but to those around them as well. Addiction often leaves behind a trail of wreckage, affecting the lives of all those who care about the user.
The behavioral signs of addiction are some of the most damaging to children. Increasing the frequency that one talks about drugs and normalizing the use of drugs can cause children to think that being under the influence is okay, while disrupted sleep could quickly lead to other health problems. Parents may be constantly calling out of work. They may also have problems paying bills and may ultimately lose the ability to provide for their children. Addicts could also have legal problems and relationship problems, and become very secretive about what they are doing.
The physical signs of addiction can be hard to pinpoint early on, but they become more apparent as time goes on. Depending on what drug is being taken, the more immediate signs of drug use may include undernourished and pale appearance, runny nose, red or dilated eyes, or even an unusual smell. More long-term indicators include changes in eating habits, unusual and drastic changes in weight, and markedly different changes in personal behavior.
The emotional signs of addiction are easier to recognize and include constantly changing the subject, irritability, blaming others for one’s own substance abuse, defensiveness, minimizing the situation, loss of former interests, excuse-making, becoming easily confused, and being overly silly or obnoxious.
How to Talk to a Parent about Their Addiction
After coming to the conclusion that your parent might be an addict, the next step is to talk with them and see if they are willing to make a change.
First, the best course of action is to try and talk to a parent while they are sober or while they are trying to quit. This allows them to be level-headed so they will be more agreeable and more likely to take your words of concern to heart. When talking to them, do not be confrontational or the conversation might work against you.
Second, do your best not to be judgmental. Remain calm and collected even if your parent acts like they want to have an argument. Just be as supportive as possible.
Third, be honest. Telling a parent that their addiction affects you and everyone around them is sometimes enough to make them want to quit. Censoring the pain they are causing will not do anybody any good.
Lastly, if everything else fails, professional assistance may be acquired in the form of an intervention.
Treatment Options for an Addicted Parent
When a parent admits that they have addiction and they are willing to get help, there are several options available depending on the severity of their addiction.
More severe addictions may require inpatient treatment. This generally includes individual therapy, which is great for those who want to have personal meetings with a therapist one-on-one. Treatment also includes group therapy, which offers a wider area of support.
Rehabilitation works best when followed with further course of action. This usually includes attendance and participation at 12-Step meetings. Many also find that continued therapy proves incredibly beneficial. Whatever course of action your parent chooses to take, they must keep it up. Failure to maintain a program of recovery often leads to slips in sobriety.
Remember, your parent may not want help right now for their addiction. So discuss treatment options with an open mind. Above all, do not give up hope for you, your parents, and other family members.
Don’t Blame Yourself
If your parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is pretty easy to blame yourself. As their son or daughter, you may take the responsibility for their addiction. This is especially true if it began when you were too young to understand it. Or maybe you are older and have been busy with school, work, and friends. Perhaps you did not notice because you had other things going on in your life. Maybe you noticed, but didn’t know how to handle to situation.
Remember that it is okay to feel remorse for your parent’s condition. But also remember that you should not feel guilty or take undue responsibility. Your parent is an adult who perhaps made a bad decision to do drugs or drink excessively. This led to changes in the brain and body resulting in a condition outside of their control. But no matter how you choose to define it, their addiction is not your fault. You are a survivor, and don’t ever forget that.
If you are looking for help for your parent’s addiction and how to cope, we are here for you. For more information on Amethyst’s programs, contact us today.