Addiction not only affects the individual suffering from substance use but the people around them as well. Children of addicts often feel the impact the most. The NIDA estimates that one-quarter of American children grow up in the presence of an addict. Approximately 43 percent of the United States adult population has experienced alcoholism or drug use in some form.

During childhood, the people we look up to influence the values, morals and life decisions we make later on. Growing up in a household where substance use is present puts users’ children at a higher risk of using drugs early in life and therefore developing addictive habits. Besides the higher risk of addiction, children of addicts are also at a higher risk of performing poorly in school, developing mental health issues and developing low self-esteem.

However, just as parents influence their children, children can equally have an impact on their parents. Providing children of addicts with the right resources and support systems at a young age can improve their chances of growing up with healthy habits and improve their parent’s habits.

Things to Remember As a Child of an Addict

Addiction is a complicated disease—it does not just develop out of the blue, and there are usually multiple sources causing addictive behavior. It’s difficult to separate yourself from your parents’ actions when you’re the child of an addict. In summation, remember that it is not your fault.

The National Association for Children of Addiction emphasizes four key facts that can lend a helping hand in tough times:

Addiction Is a Disease. You Can’t Cure It.

While addiction outwardly presents itself through alcoholism and drug addiction, it often does the most damage internally. Substance use disorder affects how the brain functions, including its pleasure centers and how it controls behavior. All of this is are difficult to control in the absence of licensed therapists, doctors and certain medications.

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While addiction is incurable, it can be mitigated through the process of withdrawal and recovery. Please do not feel like you are not doing enough for your parent because they are not improving.

You Cannot Control Your Parent’s Drinking or Drug Use

The battle your parent is fighting with substance use should not be your responsibility to control. You cannot control your parent’s addiction, and, likely, that cannot control it either. Addiction is a disease that causes the brain to act in ways that are not the healthiest, even when the individual knows it may be dangerous. Do not place the sole responsibility of limiting your parent’s substance use on yourself.

You Are Not Alone

There are 18 million children of alcoholics in the United States today, and nearly two children of addicts are born every second of every hour. You are not alone. It may feel isolating to see your parent fade into addiction without the ability to help them, but know others have experienced the same thing that have gotten through it. There is no reason you will not get through it too.

You Can Talk About the Problem

Talk to someone you trust about your home life. Although talking it out may not make your parent quit using, it may help you feel better about what you can and cannot do in the situation. Find a teacher, coach and school counselor and make sure they know what is going on and how you feel about it. Letting another adult know about the issues at hand can lead to an intervention that subsequently leads to recovery efforts.

Sometimes, keeping a journal can also act as a form of therapy because it helps you let go of the negative thoughts keeping you occupied. In addition, there is also an abundance of resources online and in-person for the children of addicts. Alateen1, an Al-Anon group, allows children of addicts to come together to share common experiences and encourage one another. Alateen resources are easily accessible through their website, where you can locate online or in-person meetings to attend.

Children of Addicts Are Not To Blame

While these four facts are helpful, the most crucial piece of information to remember is that your parents’ addiction is not your fault, nor is it your responsibility to cure it. Sure, your support may guide them to achieve sobriety, but make sure you are putting your mental health and wellness first so you can be the best version of yourself for your parents and your future.

Talking to a Parent About Substance Use Issues

Some children want to broach their parent’s substance use issues. This can, however, be very daunting, mainly because of the dynamic between a parent and child. If the child can talk to their parent about the issue, then it can have a positive impact. Many parents may be in denial about their substance issues and be unaware of how these have affected their children. It’s an extremely difficult topic to discuss for anyone, let alone a child expressing their concerns over their parent’s substance use.

If You Want to Talk to Your Parent

If you have decided to talk to your parent about their drug or alcohol use, there are several things that may make it easier. You should prepare for your parent to react in a variety of ways. For example, they may become defensive, angry, or deny they have an issue at all. Remember that this is normal and is no reflection on you. It is not your fault or responsibility to fix the issues. If you want to approach your parent, consider the following.

Putting Your Feelings Into Words 

Writing what you want to talk about prior to your conversation can be very helpful. As your parent may react in a hostile manner, it’s important to have your feelings in written to refer to. Write how your parent’s substance use has affected you, what you have noticed about their addiction and why you want to have the conversation.

Don’t Go At It Alone – Get Help From Professionals 

Sometimes the best way to approach your parent is with the support of professionals. A professional will have the experience of discussing difficult substance use topics with addicts. You can seek help from professionals to arrange an intervention with your parent. You may have someone such as a school counselor, religious figure or medical professional that can help you arrange an intervention with a professional and your parent. An intervention with a professional can be very beneficial to helping your parent understand their addiction issues.

Include Other Family Members

If you don’t want to make use of professional help, then including other family members in your conversation can also work as an intervention. If your parent sees that you’re not the only one in the family that believes their substance use has become an issue, they may be more likely to hear you out. It doesn’t need to be a family member, any other affected by their substance use can help you present your concerns. You can even turn to several people to help you discuss the issues with your parent. The more people you include that have the same opinion, the more likely your parent will be to see the issues for themself.

Consider Your Timing

Before you talk to your parent, plan your timing carefully. This can be a very important factor in the conversation’s success. Ensure you choose a time when your parent is sober and has a clear head. Although this may be difficult to plan, remember that you are less likely to get through to someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Stay Calm 

Your parent’s drug or alcohol use will probably be a very emotional topic for you. It may anger you, upset you or cause total despair. However, try your best to keep as calm as possible during your conversation. This may be very difficult for you but if you remain calm, it’ll be easier for you to get your point across. You can discuss the emotions that your parent’s addiction brings up at a later date. Remember, the goal of your conversation is to highlight the issue and help your parent to understand it and encourage them to seek help.

Trust Your Instincts

As a child of an addict, it can be easy to deny the impact your parent’s substance use has on you. You may even deny they have a problem at all sometimes. Remember that this is totally natural, we often deny problems that are painful to us in order to protect ourselves. Recognizing common signs of drug or alcohol addictions can help to reassure you of your instincts. There are behavioral and physical signs that can display in a person with addiction issues. Understanding these can give you the reassurance you need to take the next step and speak up.

Behavioral Signs

You may have noticed that your parent has distanced themself from you or others. This is a common sign that their alcohol or drug use may be problematic. An addict may also experience mood swings, low mood and depression, and show aggression. Your parent may appear anxious, on edge or have trouble sitting still. If their finances have changed, or they are looking to borrow money more often, this can be a sign of substance use issues. You may notice that they neglect their personal hygiene and appearance. These are all signs to watch out for.

Physical Signs

As well as behavioral signs, you may notice several physical signs. These can include changes in the eyes. For example, your parent’s eyes may appear bloodshot or watery or their pupils may appear smaller or larger than usual. You may notice that your parent has lost or gained weight, that they are sweaty and clammy or that their complexion has changed. Other physical signs include shaking or shivering, a change in their sleep patterns or patches of bruising on their arms, legs, feet or hands.

It’s sometimes difficult to notice these signs, especially if your parent seems “well” most of the time. Once you know what to look for, it can be a little easier to identify substance use issues. Be sure to take these signs seriously and act in whichever way you’re comfortable with.

Seeking Help

Seeking help can be the next step needed to encourage your parent to start recovery. Cardinal Recovery offers several addiction therapies that can be beneficial to addicts and their families. You can contact us to discuss any of the therapies we offer or any other addiction services you think may be useful to you or your parent. You can contact us via phone, email or live chat. However, it’s always important to remember that it isn’t your responsibility to arrange your parent’s recovery. The outcome of any treatment or their recovery journey is also not your responsibility. You must focus on your needs first. Reach out to anyone in your life that can offer you support through this tough time and remember that it isn’t your fault. Be sure to access online support from services from organizations such as NACOA2 (National Association for Children of Addiction) and get in touch with us to talk about how we can help you. Call Now – (855) 928-1987



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