How it feels like when your parent is an addict?

When a loved one suffers from addiction, it can impact your life just as much as the addict. This is especially true if the loved one is a close relative or a parent. Addiction arguably has the greatest impact on the children of addicts within a family. This is especially true if the addict’s children are young and still developing. It’s difficult to cope as the child of an addict unless you’re young or elderly. Addiction can destroy a whole family. A parent is the one who holds the family together, if they are addicts then the children have to grow up and become the adults of the house. This can have a very negative effect on the mental health of children. Read all about how children react to addicted parents and how it feels like when your parent is an addict.

How do children of addicts feel? 

Parents are role models for their children. But those parents who get into drugs and alcohol addiction do not care about anyone but themselves. It is critical for children of addicts to understand that addiction is a sickness. This is due to the fact that persistent substance abuse alters the chemistry of an addict’s brain. As a result, due to excessive substance abuse, an addict’s brain is rewired over time. Addicted parents demonstrate poor judgment and decision-making, a lack of self-control, and deviant behavior choices as a result of this.

Children want to see their parents as strong human beings who know what to do at all times. Addicts are unable to make even the smallest decisions for themselves. Therefore children of addicts are often disturbed. 

What happens to the children whose parents are addicts?

  • They become isolated and afraid

Children of addicts feel as if they are alone in this world. When a kid does not get enough love and attention from their parents they turn away from everyone else as well. They tend to become shy and feel like everyone is judging them because of what their parents have become. This can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. They do not want to be in the company of people as they think other people might make fun of them and their parents. 

  • They become Approval seekers and people pleasers

Inadequate parental support during childhood may lead to a persistent demand for praise from others in maturity. Children have an innate need to be praised by parents. When they don’t get that feeling at home they try to get it elsewhere. Being liked may even become more essential than being true to oneself. They become people pleasers and can’t handle people being disappointed in them. As they have seen an addicted parent at home shutting disapproval at them all the time, they can’t handle that from anyone else. They want attention and approval from anyone and everyone. This way, all their life, their happiness is dependent on the fact if others approve of them or not. 

  • They view themselves as victims and judge themselves all the time

Children often tend to blame themselves for the addictions of their parents. They think that if they were a little stronger they could help their parents come out of this mess. They start to look down on themselves. And this is why the children of addicts are often lacking confidence. Because they are always putting themselves down. The parents, when under the influence, tend to shout and curse the children. This hurts the self-esteem of the child and they start to think as if they are the reason their parent is acting this way. When in reality it is not true at all.

  • They face difficulties at work and in academics

When things at home do not go as smoothly, children tend to show a lack of interest in school and academics. If the child is old enough and goes to work, they will start to show up at the office with less energy. They are likely to fail in whatever they try to achieve. When children see a broken parent at home, all their attention is diverted to them and they cannot focus on anything else. This is the reason children of addicts are mostly misunderstood and they fail in school. They do not show in studies because to them, this does not matter. Children of addicts often do not even go to school due to the fear of being judged by their peers. 

  • They try to take things into their own hands

They start to act like adults and start to do everything they expect their parents to do. They take hold of all the chores around the house. They become the adult they wished their parents would be one day. Children of addicts are sensitive and do not want to burden their parents with anything. Therefore, they try and do everything themselves and do not delay anything or put anything till the last minute as they know their parents will never do anything for them.

How can children help parent struggling with addiction?

Addicted to drugs and alcohol can have both short-term and long-term consequences. The strain generated by substance abuse can separate peaceful, loving homes. When family members fight, conflict becomes routine. Trust begins to deteriorate. Relatives may become warier if a relative who abuses illegal substances acts aggressively or conceals their condition in secrecy. Addiction-related changes might lead marriages to dissolve. Communication becomes more challenging, emphasizing dissatisfaction. And also children tend to step away from their parent and want to distance themselves from them. Family members may witness their loved ones suffer the adverse effects of drugs or erupt into rages while under the influence of alcohol. Others may witness their relatives suddenly losing weight and becoming unrecognizable. 

Children are the most affected by their parent’s addiction as they are the ones that need their parents the most. Young minds that are still developing, need nurture and care from their parents. If a child is not getting the love they deserve they should look for ways to help their parents. Children of addicts should try and seek help for their parents. Here are 3 ways how children of addicts can help their parents to leave their addictions;

  • Look for an addiction treatment center

Addiction is a disease that should be treated under the supervision of professional doctors. As a child of an addict, you must not give up on your parents and try to look for addiction treatment centers and get them to join any AA program. As a child, you should also not give up hope and look for addiction counseling near you and take your parents there. Addiction counseling can help and put some perspective on the mind of the parent. Addiction treatment centers offer a variety of addiction programs to help the addict such as Inpatient, Outpatient, and even Telehealth. You can select any program that suits you best. 

  • Talk to them

Talking is essential. Sit with your parents and talk to them about how their addiction is ruining your life and how much you wish they would stop. Talk to them and let them know you are willing to show support if they start their addiction recovery program. Talk to them about all the negative things that are happening to them due to their addiction. Try to reason with them and do not be discouraged if they do not come around on your first try. Give them time and do not give up on them. 

  • An intervention

Do not be afraid to seek help from other people. Hope your parent responds well to other people staging an intervention. For an effective intervention, children of addicted parents should first prepare a list of talking points. Children of addicted parents should try and seek the assistance of an experienced interventionist. The person can assist them in staging appropriate interventions that may help the parent to leave their addictions. Interventions should not be carried out by a single person. People should invite the parent’s other close relatives and friends to the intervention and discuss their worries as well in order to persuade the adult to undergo treatment.

In a nutshell…

Quitting addictive substances is more difficult than it appears since an addict’s thinking becomes rewired. When someone develops an addiction, his or her brain is completely reliant on drugs or alcohol to operate. As a result, when addicts reduce or stop using narcotics, they may experience severe and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Addicts are sometimes discouraged from seeking sobriety because they are afraid of experiencing such withdrawal symptoms.

As much as you may dislike your parent for acting the way they do and refusing to get sober. Just take a deep breath and realize that your parent is suffering from an illness that they can’t control. It will take time to assist your parent to overcome their addiction, just as it will take time for you to overcome the damage that having an addicted parent has created in your life.


Categories: Psychology

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 12 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. All my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. You can contact me on our forum or by email at [email protected].