If you have ever found yourself uttering these words: we hear you, we understand you, and we see you. Having a parent that struggles with an addiction – whether that be to substances or to a certain behavioral pattern – can be one of the most entirely challenging experiences to shoulder as a child and an adult. The ways in which having a parent with an addiction can influence your psychological development, behavior, and quality of life from childhood all the way through adulthood is immeasurable yet unfortunately infinite.
However, just like every struggle that we are faced with in life, there is indeed much you can learn from your parent’s addictions if you have the strength to see through the pain. Though difficult to accept at times, these lessons are invaluable and perhaps more special than many others you may even learn in your lifetime. Having a parent with an addiction of any kind will teach you about loss, about humanity, about shortcomings, about love, and inevitably about yourself.
Addiction Is A Disease
Addiction is a disease. Yet, this disease is not just a disease of the addict but of the addict’s entire family as well. After drugs or alcohol are consumed by someone whose brain is biologically predisposition to developing any type of addiction, the capacity for willpower is significantly reduced in ways that other non-predispositioned brains simply are not. The effects of this disease are of spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical detriment. These effects are not limited to the addict. Despite how personal an addict’s suffering maybe, the ones who love the addict will inevitably suffer as well.
You Cannot Save Anyone
Repeat this to yourself again: You cannot save anyone. First and foremost, we must understand that as the child of an alcoholic or addict parent, our responsibility is unfortunately limited. If you have found yourself with a sense of responsibility for the actions, feelings, or safety of those around you, it may stem from having an addicted caregiver. We hate to break it to you, but you don’t have that much power- and that’s okay.
It is natural to love our parents despite any of their mistakes, despite our resentments, and despite the hurt, they are causing is in the present or have caused us in the past. But what anyone who has or had an addicted parent must understand is that it is not your responsibility to save them, nor is it within your realm of human capability to save them.
The only person that can save your parent is your parent. Despite the fact that addiction is a disease that causes a great malfunction in the willpower part of the addict’s, especially after continual substance use, it is still a personal choice that one must make within themselves to recover from their addiction. You cannot make this choice for your parent and you cannot make any personal choice for anyone else in your life.
It Isn’t (And Was Never) Your Fault
Following the fact that you cannot save anyone, you must also understand that it was never your fault that your parent became addicted to a behavior or substance. No matter what, we all tend to internalize the actions of those around us and try to understand what type of influence we may have had over their reactions and behaviors.
If your parent was either physically or emotionally absent because of their addiction it was not your fault. No, you are not unworthy of love just because someone couldn’t rise up to the role that they chose. You never deserved to be abandoned if an addicted parent ever left – and you still don’t. It is difficult to refrain from taking the actions and struggles of someone close to you personally, but it’s important that we learn to do this to protect our emotional well being and refrain from basing our self-image and self-worth on their behavior. Drop the guilt and shame, even if it feels like the scariest, most foreign thing you’ve ever done because you are deserving, equal, and worthy and it’s likely time that you embrace it.
It’s Okay To Be A Kid
What we’re trying to say here is, it’s okay to let go. It’s okay to be silly sometimes. It’s okay to be a little (safely) crazy, joyous, and free – even if you’re deeply into your adulthood. It’s even okay to miss innocence. Because chances are, if you grew up in an alcoholic home, you probably lost your sense of innocence and childhood far too young.
If you grew up alongside a parent with addiction since youth, you may have even felt like you had to be the one parenting. This is natural, and it comes alongside wanting to save someone you love from something that is visibly hurting them. Children who grew up with alcoholic parents or parents that were addicted to any type of substance or behavior often tend to have a very parental instinct. It’s possible that you may feel like you were faced with serious situations at too young of an age. Or, perhaps you were presented with problems only adults should have to take care of and expected to solve them.
These dynamics within a family unit will quickly deteriorate innocence and make a child raise to the position their family member should be filling. It is alright to not be strong all the time and it is alright to ask for help in your life, and we all ought to let these two notions resonate somewhere deep within us.
You Are Probably At Greater Risk Of Developing An Addiction
It’s important to keep in mind that if you are the child of an alcoholic or addict you are probably much more prone to developing an addiction yourself. As more and more is being learned about the role of genetics in the development of addiction, we see the increase in scientific opinions pointing to the notion that addiction is passed along by the lovely channels of gene pools also begin to rise incongruence.
Even if you don’t have the “addict” gene, it’s incredibly wise and remains aware of your behavior and consumption of any mind-altering substance. Addictive behaviors aren’t just inherited- they are also learned. If you feel yourself craving something a bit too much, it might be worth taking a look at it and really making an assessment of what it may mean.
Overall, it is not easy having a parent with an addiction. No matter what type of addiction your parent suffered (or suffers) from, there are a number of different in-depth consequences that could manifest in your psyche. Being aware of these possible consequences and understanding the lessons that addiction in a loved one can teach us is our best chance at coping with such a difficulty. No matter what, there is always hope, help, and resources for someone struggling with an addiction – and for the struggling child.