Growing up, we are taught to honor and respect our parents, but when a parent has an alcohol or drug problem, it is difficult for us to follow through with these disciplines. It is hard to respect someone who is not always mentally or physically present in one’s life. However, most young people with addict parents do not realize they can still honor and respect their parents and still disapprove of his behavior. Disapproving one’s behavior is not the same as showing him respect. It does not make someone a bad person to dislike or disapprove of one’s drinking habits or drug use. If you have a parent, who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, here are some things to keep in mind.
Do not take responsibility or blame yourself for your parent’s drinking or drug abuse. Your parent is responsible for his addiction and not you; you cannot change his addiction for him. Realize that you did not cause the addiction, and you are not the one to blame for the addiction either. Realize addiction is a disease, and you could not have caused this disease to overtake your parent’s life. Despite one’s best efforts and good heartedness to want to help a parent stop drinking or using drugs, it is not your responsibility to cure him. He must choose to stop using booze or drugs; there is no possible way you can choose it for him. You also do not have to cover up his addiction, so that others will not notice it. In fact, it is better for you to let him experience the fullness of the consequences, so he will understand how far down the addiction road he has gone. However, you can encourage him to seek appropriate help for his problem.
Allow yourself to feel the emotions associated with your parent’s intoxication. It is okay to feel angry, sad or feeling hurt by the things a parent does when she is drunk or high. The important thing to consider is how those feelings come out. Yelling, hitting or criticizing yourself are not effective ways of dealing with this situation. Being proactive and productive are better ways to deal with these type of feelings.
Find people who will build you up emotionally. When life at home seems crazy, it is a good idea to seek out people in your life who help you feel happy and loved. Not that your parents do not do these things, but living in an addicted family has many ups and downs along the way. By having other people close to you who bring you contentment and periods of stresslessness, it can help you have a sense of stability in a sometimes chaotic life.
Talk your parent about how you feel about her drinking or drug use. Explain to her the impact her addiction has on your upbringing. Ask the person you trust to sit with you while you talk to your parent to help you express the way you feel about your situation. It may help her to know how you see her alcohol or drug use.
Sometimes alcohol consumption or drug abuse can impair a parent’s life to a point where they begin neglecting or abusing his children. If you ever feel like you are in danger after your parent has been drinking or using drugs, find somewhere else to go to not be in this toxic environment. It is never a good time to talk to an addict when he has been drinking or is high, so leaving the room, house or wherever you are may be the best option. If violence is occurring in your home between an addicted parent and child, always seek outside professional help also. You are not tattling or trying to get your parent in trouble, but it is a way to get him and yourself the support your whole family needs. It may be scary to talk about this type of situation with someone else, but there are people out there who want to help your family get better and be free from addiction. It is also a good idea to develop a plan if you feel like you will be in danger in the future.
Seek professional insight if you need it. At times, it benefits one to be able to share her feelings and the situations she is going through with someone who will listen and guide a person through the difficult times. Do not be afraid to seek out professional services or another adult you trust and can confide in through the hard times in your life. It does not make you disloyal to your parent or a snitch. Ask the person you trust to keep the conversation between you and him if you are afraid your parent might be upset by you talking to someone about your family situation. There are also groups with other children like you, who meet together to discuss their family situations related to addiction. Groups can help you realize there are other people out there experiencing similar things you are experiencing. No matter what you choose, make sure you are taking care of yourself too during this time.
You may not be able to change your parent, but you can change how you react to your parent’s alcohol or drug dependence. You can change how you feel in these situations by talking to someone you trust, changing how you relate to the situation and involving yourself with others who will build you up during the difficult times. So be positive and know you can change even if you parent chooses not to do so.