- Coping When a Parent Has an Alcohol or Drug Problem
- What's it to Live With a Parent Who Has a Substance Use Problem?
- What Can I Do?
- Dealing with an Alcoholic Son or Daughter: What to Do in Crisis Mode
- Protect your Family First, then Find a Way to Help Your Child
- How to Help Your Alcoholic Son or Daughter & Your Family
- Choose Empathy Over Enabling
- Differences Between Helping and Hurting
- Begin Looking for a Treatment Center, then Ask the Right Questions
- Questions to Ask Alcohol Treatment Centers
- Talk to Someone Who’s Found a Way to Help Their Alcoholic Child
- Find Time to Help Yourself While Helping Your Alcoholic Child
- Contact Sober College Today
- My Child Struggles With Mental Health And Addiction Issues. How Can I Help Him?
- Have You Set Boundaries?
- Are You An Enabler?
Coping When a Parent Has an Alcohol or Drug Problem
If you live with a parent who has an alcohol or drug problem, you're not alone. Alcohol problems and addictions to drugs (such as opioids) are called substance use disorders.
Substance use disorders harm a person's health, and change the way they act. They cause problems at home and work. It's not easy living with someone who has a substance use problem. Especially if it's your parent.
If you are going through this, tell someone what it's for you. Get the support you need and deserve.
What's it to Live With a Parent Who Has a Substance Use Problem?
Living with a parent who has a substance use problem is hard. It can affect how you feel and act. It can affect your family life too. What it's is different for each person. Here are some common examples. See if some of them describe what's it's for you.
How people might feel. Some people feel:
- embarrassed, angry, or sad about a parent's substance use
- worried about their parent's health or safety
- worried for themselves, siblings, or their other parent
- scared, alone, or unsafe at home
- frustrated when their parent doesn't change
- relieved when a parent takes steps to recover
- it's hard to trust or relax
- they have to be an adult before they're ready
- depressed or anxious
How people might act. Some people:
- try hard not to upset a parent who drinks too much
- try to stay a parent's way
- may not speak up, or ask for what they need
- keep their feelings to themselves
- keep their parent's problem a secret
- hide what their life is at home
- avoid having friends over because they never know how their parent will act
- miss school, or have trouble keeping up with schoolwork
- take on adult tasks
- argue or fight with a parent
- harm themselves
- act they don't care, even if they are hurting
How family life might be affected. In some families with substance problems:
- a parent has trouble keeping a job or paying the bills
- there may not be enough food or money
- older siblings may have to take care of younger ones
- parents mistreat, abuse, or neglect their children
- a parent may drive drunk or high. They may get into trouble, get hurt, or hurt others.
- kids might have to live somewhere else to be protected or cared for
- parents split up or divorce
- relatives or friends step in to help
- parents get help and recover
What Can I Do?
If you're living with a parent who has a substance use problem, you might be having a tough time. Reach out to others for safety, help, and support. Here are some things to do:
Open up to someone. Talk to a good friend. Also talk to an adult you trust. For example, a teacher, doctor, therapist, or relative. Let them know what you're going through. It can be a relief to share what it's for you. And they may be able to help you in other ways.
Know that it's not your fault. Some people blame themselves for their parent's substance use. They may think about times when a parent was angry or blamed them. They may wonder if they caused a parent to drink or use drugs. But kids can't cause a parent's substance problem.
Know and name your emotions. Don't bury your feelings or pretend that everything's OK. Notice how a parent's substance problem makes you feel. It's OK to feel the way you do. Use words (and not harmful actions) to express how you feel and why.
Find a support group. Find a group Al-Anon/Alateen (they have a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-344-2666) or go online for help. Join a support group. Talking with others who are going through the same thing can help you cope.
Find a safe place. Do you avoid home as much as possible? Are you thinking about running away? If you feel you're not safe at home, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE. If you think you or another family member could be in danger, call 911.
Build good habits. Some people learn not to speak up or show emotion. They worry it may trigger a parent's drinking or substance use. Habits these may help you survive tough times at home.
But they may not work in other parts of your life. Being able to speak up, say how you feel, and show emotion helps you have good relationships in the future.
Sometimes people need therapy to build good habits they were not able to learn living with an alcoholic or addicted parent.
Stop the cycle. People who have parents with substance use problems are at higher risk of having these problems too. A support group or therapy can help you learn how to avoid this risk.
Dealing with an Alcoholic Son or Daughter: What to Do in Crisis Mode
The holidays are not exempt from the damage alcoholism can inflict. In fact, this time of year can be more problematic for those who struggle with alcohol abuse due to its very nature.
The emphasis on family, friends, coming together, and sharing special moments can be particularly difficult for both those with addiction and their loved ones. While the holidays are a time for togetherness, it can also be a painful reminder of the toll alcoholism can take on families and friends.
For those who are dealing with an alcoholic son or daughter, the holidays, many other days, can be increasingly challenging as time goes on.
Addiction can make a person feel isolated, and this feeling often transcends to those around them. Depictions of happy and harmonious home lives can amplify feelings of stress and fear surrounding one’s own life.
Addiction has a way of making people feel as though they are the only ones experiencing it, when in fact, countless people go through similar situations every day. Feelings of anxiety surrounding a son or daughters use of alcohol are normal, and it is okay to be afraid of what the future may hold.
Parents may ask themselves, “How can I help my alcoholic son?” “How can I help my alcoholic daughter?” Or maybe, they are not 100% sure that their child is struggling with alcoholism but their drinking is a cause for concern. It places a strain on them and their other family members.
Although this mix of emotions is completely natural, it is important to not let it supersede everything else and control your life. There are ways to address these problems in a productive, healthy way.
Protect your Family First, then Find a Way to Help Your Child
While a great deal of time and energy will be spent trying to help your child overcome alcoholism, it is important to not lose sight of other family members who are impacted by it.
It is important to protect your family members from the potential consequences of your child’s addiction.
Alcoholism can put loved ones at risk for physical or emotional trauma, making it critical to protect your family’s needs.
How to Help Your Alcoholic Son or Daughter & Your Family
To better help your child, there are numerous ways you can minimize exposure to triggers and keep them safe. This can also help protect other family members. Some of these may include:
- Cutting out toxic people: People who make your child feel bad about themselves can lower their self-esteem and make them more ly to relapse. People who take advantage of them, who misuse substances with them, or enable bad behaviors should have all ties cut.
- Stay away from enabling environments: In addition to cutting out enabling peers, it is important to avoid places where substance abuse took place. Being in bars, clubs, or other hangout areas where substance abuse took place can rouse cravings and serve as a trigger.
- Engage in new activities: Finding new hobbies or interests can help minimize the lihood of crossing paths with enabling people or situations. This will allow them to explore new places, meet new people, and find happiness in new things.
- Consider having them change their number: This is an easy action to take that can help them stay sober. Old friends will have a harder time reaching them. Breaking contact is an important piece of recovery.
- Minimize social media: This can be difficult for teens and young adults, but it is another way they may stay in touch with enabling friends. Encourage them to clean up their list of friends and remove (or even block) people who may pressure them into bad situations.
Choose Empathy Over Enabling
Sometimes, it can be difficult to discern between empathy and enabling. While some actions you may take seem the right thing to do, it can often enable destructive behaviors and prolong the problem.
Situations your child needing money, potentially losing housing, or being in jail can make it seem a cut and dry decision.
It is often first instinct to help or to bail them a bad situation, but this often does not allow someone to realize the consequences of their actions.
Differences Between Helping and Hurting
Empathy and enabling can often go hand-in-hand. Both tend to come from a place of compassion and from a desire to help. The difference, however, is in the outcomes. Enabling allows self-destructive behaviors to continue, which further perpetuates rather than solving the problem. This can come in many forms:
- Giving someone money so they do not steal
- Making excuses for someone’s behavior
- Ignoring unacceptable behavior
- Not expressing how you feel in order to avoid someone becoming upset or leaving
Empathy and encouragement should come in the form of words. Communicate with your child to show them you want to help, but do not engage in behaviors that enable theirs. There is no incentive for change if there is nothing to lose. Protecting them from the potential outcomes of alcoholism can prevent them from seeing the bigger picture and recognizing they need help.
Some ways to stop enabling your alcohol son or daughter may include:
- Buying them food when they are hungry rather than giving them money that can be spent on anything
- Not cleaning up after them – if they make a mess while intoxicated, leave it for them to see
- Continue following through on plans even if your child does not participate
- Taking back autonomy by prioritizing your needs
Begin Looking for a Treatment Center, then Ask the Right Questions
There are so many treatment centers available that it can be overwhelming and difficult to find the right one. Consider your child’s circumstances and unique needs when looking for a treatment center. This may include factors such as:
- Age-specific treatment: Age can play a significant role in the development of addiction and what may need to be addressed in treatment. Choosing an age-specific treatment program can help your child succeed long term.
- Long-term treatment: Studies show that long-term treatment is more successful, especially for young adults, than short-term or outpatient treatment programs.
- Gender-specific therapy: There are inherent, biological differences that cause alcohol abuse to have different effects on men and women. Discussing these topics and other related experiences may be difficult in mixed gender groups.
- Dual-diagnosis: Many who struggle with alcoholism also struggle with a co-occurring mental health disorder. Alcohol is often used as a means of escape and a form of self-medication, which can exacerbate both conditions. A dual-diagnosis treatment center helps treat both the substance abuse and mental health issues depression or anxiety, simultaneously, giving your child the best change at success.
Questions to Ask Alcohol Treatment Centers
Do not be afraid to reach out to the treatment facility for more information. You can discuss your child’s specific needs to determine if it is the right fit. Some questions that can help you determine if it will work for you and your child include:
- Does the facility accept insurance?
- How much will it cost?
- Where is it located?
- Are detox services available?
- How long does the program last?
- What amenities are offered?
- What is the living situation?
- What is the staff to client ratio?
- How is the treatment program created?
- What is the facility’s treatment philosophy?
With different forms of treatment available, costs will vary as well. While you can pay a high premium for luxury rehab facilities with lavish amenities, these are not required to achieve sobriety. Many treatment facilities work with insurance providers to reduce the cost of rehab, but the overall cost will vary depending on the severity of the addiction and the time needed to recover.
Factors such as the location of the facility, its size, the type of treatment provided, and the type of facility are all factored into costs. Finding the actual costs associated with a treatment program online may be difficult to locate, making it especially important for you to reach out to facilities directly and discuss your options.
Many will work with Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, state-funded insurance, or even military coverage to cover the costs of treatment. The amount insurance providers will cover varies depending on the insurer and what the provider accepts. Some even have financing options available to help make the cost of treatment more manageable.
Inpatient treatment can be expensive due to cost of housing, food, round-the-clock supervision, and other amenities. Other options, such as outpatient treatment, can be cheaper because the client participates in therapy sessions, but does not have housing, food, or other amenities covered.
There are numerous low-cost and no-cost options available as well. Some facilities have sliding-scale fees income so clients can still receive the help they need, and there are numerous no-cost options with support groups Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery offering free support groups to the community.
Learn more about the pros and cons of outpatient rehab.
When you are ready to make the move, consider using an intervention as a way to reach out to your child.
An intervention can help you express your concerns, your desire for them to get help, and provide them with a roadmap to recovery.
Interventions are often used as a tool to transition someone into recovery, so it is important to have chosen a treatment program and prepare to transport them as soon as possible following it.
Talk to Someone Who’s Found a Way to Help Their Alcoholic Child
Contacting rehabilitation facilities directly can also put you in touch with others who have been in your shoes.
The decision to reach out to a treatment facility can be difficult and stressful, but having the ability to connect with the program and its staff directly can help you feel more confident in the process.
Speaking face-to-face with the people who will have a hand in your child’s recovery can alleviate some of the anxiety you may inevitably experience.
In many cases, treatment facilities have resources for family members and loved ones as well, making it easy for you to connect with parents who have been in your shoes. It allows you to better understand the recovery process, some of the obstacles you may face, and develop a stronger support network of peers who can readily relate to your experiences.
If you have the opportunity to do so, visit the treatment facilities you are considering. When visiting treatment facilities, you often have the opportunity to meet the staff, current clients, and even family members. They can provide valuable insight into how the program works and help you determine whether it is the right fit.
Even if you are unable to visit the site in person, some treatment facilities’ websites will provide links to video testimonials from former clients and family members, as well as let you become better acquainted with the staff. These resources can help you decide if a treatment program is the right fit for you and your child.
Find Time to Help Yourself While Helping Your Alcoholic Child
While helping your child achieve sobriety is a top priority, it is important not to lose yourself in the process. Addiction affects not only the person with it, but those closest to them. The devouring nature of substance abuse can make it difficult to prioritize yourself as well.
- Find a support group: Treatment programs often have resources available to family members as well. Joining a support group can help you manage your own well-being. These forums allow you to connect with others who relate to your experiences and can provide support or advice in times of struggle.
- Take care of yourself: This can be anything. Find something you love, something that excites you, or helps you relax, and make time for it. It is important not to lose your identity in the process of helping your child rediscover theirs. Make time for hobbies, exploration, and loved ones to help ease your mind.
Contact Sober College Today
With age- and gender-specific long-term treatment plans, Sober College has numerous therapeutic options for those in crisis.
My Child Struggles With Mental Health And Addiction Issues. How Can I Help Him?
Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), over half of the individuals who suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism also have a diagnosable mental health disorder, otherwise known as a co-occurring disorder.
In many cases, the harmful psychological effects of addiction exacerbate symptoms of the mental health disorder, while these underlying psychiatric issues worsen the addiction. This destructive interaction is called comorbidity.
Gina’s son Connor struggles with comorbidity. Gina says her son is depressed and has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a complex mental condition associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.
Connor began self-medicating at the age of 13 with marijuana, which he calls his medicine. Now, Connor also uses crystal meth. He tells Gina that it helps to, “clear his head.” Gina says she wants to help her son but doesn’t know how. Gina has tried setting boundaries with Connor. However, he constantly crosses her boundaries.
Gina acknowledges that, when your son is mentally ill and addicted to drugs, things get complicated.
She says that one moment you are talking to the person you love and know, and the next, they’re someone you don’t know.
Gina says her son’s struggles have changed her family from happy-go-lucky to walking-on-eggshells. Gina also says her family avoids her son for fear that they’ll say the wrong thing and set Connor off.
Gina’s family has learned what every family going through this struggle knows. When someone you love becomes sick and they refuse to get help, there are a lot of emotions that you will experience.
Stress, anger, fear, anxiety and grief are the most common. To survive, families may shut down their emotions and become tolerant of intolerable behavior.
Without a support system, the family becomes exhausted, sick and fractured.
All of Connor’s necessities are paid for by his parents. The money he earns from his part-time jobs is spent on drugs. Even though Connor has stolen money from his parents and pawned his mother’s jewelry, he has never had to face harsh consequences of his actions.[lorelie-callout]
Instead, Gina blames his behavior on his mental illness and drug use. She believes that Connor can’t help himself. Unfortunately, without consequences, there is little incentive for Connor to change his behaviors.
Going through the intimate experience with a loved one who is struggling with addiction is traumatic. The devastating effect that this illness has on families will create physical, emotional and psychological scars. Everyone in the home is affected.
Siblings who aren’t addicted may feel neglected. Parents don’t consciously stop thinking about their other children. It just happens over time.
As the addicted person becomes sicker and the home more chaotic, families settle into crisis response mode. To keep the peace, Gina’s family has adjusted their needs to accommodate Connor’s at all times.
As the old saying goes; a happy addict is an enabled one.
Love sometimes means making hard choices. The purpose of setting limits is not to punish the person you love, but to send them a clear message: using drugs and alcohol, or participating in any other unsafe behavior is not welcome in the home.
Making changes requires one to ask hard questions :
Have You Set Boundaries?
Does your addicted family member take advantage of you? If the answer is yes, it’s time to learn how to say no.
Boundaries are what keep you healthy. They tell people how to treat you, what you’re okay with and what you are not okay with. Tolerating behaviors that feel hurtful is not healthy for either party. When you fail to set boundaries you imply your needs don’t matter. You will feel used, resentful and mistreated. Learning to communicate openly, honestly and with respect minimizes this result.
Are You An Enabler?
You need to be honest with yourself. One of the hardest question to ask yourself is this – am I enabling my loved one?
Parents of adult children struggling with comorbidity may feel they need to over function in their relationship.
By setting up boundaries, you are requiring your loved one to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Boundaries also teach them to become more independent.
When an adult is enabled it keeps them dependent, creating a needy and pathological relationship between the enabled and their enabler.
It’s important to recognize addicted persons are not dull or slow-witted. They are highly intelligent, intuitive, and they know how to manipulate their surroundings. As a person who suffered from addiction and anxiety, I know the true power of people me. Whether in active addiction or in recovery, those of us who want something will find a way and the means to get it.
You don’t help your loved one by playing into their illness. When you require them to care for themselves you offer them the means to make choices that will ultimately boost their confidence and change the direction of their life.
The best plan of care for Gina and her family is to find a program that provides support for the entire family. Throughout treatment, a primary psychiatrist works with clients to determine the most effective medication regimen. Once the client becomes physically and psychologically stable, the family can be brought in for therapeutic sessions and healing can occur together.
If Connor is resistant to getting help, Gina will need to make some tough decisions to save her son’s life. Intervention and state commitment laws can save lives.
One thing’s for sure; if nothing changes, nothing will change. It’s not helpful to enable your mentally ill, addicted family member. Placating Connor is aiding in his demise. Although he may not be happy about it at first, a co-occurring disorder treatment program is his best chance at a successful long-term recovery.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance (615) 208-2941.