When any type of family member suffers with an addiction, it's heart wrenching. It's even worse when it's your parent. Perhaps this is a situation you're currently dealing with in your own life. You're desperate to find a way to help your addicted parent; you just don't know where to begin.
Let's talk about ways that you can become more active in this situation. There may be more ways to help than you think.
"There's nothing that can compare to the stress of having an addicted parent. This is someone who was your caregiver since you were a baby. You've looked up to this person for your entire life. Now, they're making decisions that you don't agree with, and you don't know what to do.
"For me, the problem I had was with my dad. I remember him using when I was young, but just barely. I think my mom tried to shield me from it as much as she could. By the time I was a teenager, the drug and alcohol use had gotten way out of control. It got to the point where my parents had to separate, and he still continued to use. Actually, I think that was when he started getting into the harder drugs. Heroin and crystal meth were his drugs of choice; along with the alcohol, of course.
"Today, not much has changed. My dad looks about 20 years older than he is. He appears to be wasting away, but he's not motivated to do anything to change it. It breaks my heart to see him in this state, and I can't help but feel hopeless. I wish there was something I could do to help him. My biggest fear is that he's too far gone, and that it's too late for him."
When you have an addicted parent, it can turn your entire world upside down. It doesn't matter if your parent used when you were a child or not. If the addiction is new or old, as an adult, it's still a difficult situation to cope with.
You may know that your parent's drug abuse or alcohol abuse is a problem. However, you're not really sure it qualifies as an actual addiction. Maybe your mom or dad doesn't use all the time, but when they do, it's a cause for concern. You'd be surprised how many people feel the exact same way that you do.
Alcohol abuse and drug abuse are very different from addiction. You can identify substance abuse by looking for:
The symptoms of addiction are actually much different than this. They include:
Have you noticed any of these in your mom or dad? If you have, there is a very real possibility that there is an addiction present. If you're still not completely sure, taking a quiz can help you by asking you questions about additional symptoms.
There could be a number of reasons why your parent became addicted to drugs or alcohol. Physically, substance abuse causes increased serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. The human brain makes these "feel-good" chemicals on its own, normally. Once the person has been using drugs or alcohol for some time, production stops. At that point, the substance takes over. This is why addicts often say that they don't feel like themselves unless they're using.
Emotionally or psychologically, there could be several reasons why your mom or dad became addicted. Many times, addictions are caused by co-occurring disorders. These are additional conditions that people often suffer from that lead them to use.
It's also possible that your parent has anger issues, and using helps him or her cope. Maybe there is a panic disorder present, and using drugs or alcohol keeps symptoms at bay. Regardless of what the underlying issue is, drug treatment or alcohol treatment is needed to address it. Otherwise, the addiction is likely to persist and continue.
You may be enabling your parent's addiction to continue without knowing it. This happens pretty frequently within families; especially when parents are the addicts. When you enable an addict, it seems as though you're helping them, but really, you are not. Enabling only allows the addiction to continue, and even get worse as time goes on.
Some examples of enabling include:
If you're doing any of the above, you're doing it out of love and the goodness of your heart. However, it's important for enabling to stop.
You may not have known that you were enabling your parent's addiction. Now that you know, you want to stop what you're doing. This is best achieved by having a conversation with your mom or dad ahead of time.
This is a conversation that's probably going to be difficult for you to have. However, in the long run, it will be so beneficial to your mom or dad. Please keep that in mind. Talk with your parent and let them know that you're not going to be able to continue doing what you're doing. If you're paying their bills, let them know you're finished doing that. If you're bringing food, tell them you won't be able to do that any longer. They'll want to know why, and you can explain to them that you feel it's allowing them to continue to use.
Don't be surprised if your mom or dad becomes defensive or even angry. They may hurl accusations at you, saying things like:
These are all manipulative statements that are designed to get you to give in. Don't. It will be for the best in the long-term.
At some point, you may want to sit down and talk with your mom or dad about the addiction. Again, this will be a hard conversation to have. You may want to include it when you talk about stopping the enabling behaviors.
When you talk with your addicted parent, pick the right time. When they are sober is best. Your mom or dad will be able to hear what you're saying more clearly that way. Explain that you understand that addiction is a disease, but they can choose to get help. Just like with any other disease, addiction requires alcohol treatment or drug treatment. Otherwise, recovery isn't likely to happen. Let them know that you understand it's hard to make this decision. However, you'll be with them every step of the way. Give examples of how you can see the addiction is ruining your parent's life. Be firm in what you say, but be loving at the same time.
It's understandable if you're under a lot of stress. Anyone would be in your situation. Sometimes the families of addicts spend so much time caring for their loved ones, they fail to care for themselves. This is only going to harm you, and it does nothing to help your addicted family member.
There are many things you can do to get help for yourself. Some examples include:
It is quite likely that your mom or dad isn't going to respond well to your pleas for drug rehab or alcohol rehab. If this is the case, it's important for you to know you have another option. It may be time to consider a professional intervention.
You can get intervention services from a drug treatment or alcohol treatment program that offers them. During an intervention, you and other friends and family hold a meeting with your parent. You take turns talking about the addiction, and you each ask your parent to get treatment.
An interventionist will be there to guide the meeting. At the end, an opportunity will be presented for addiction treatment. Your parent will be able to go immediately, and many times, they do.
There's no doubt that you're facing a challenging time in your life. Having any type of family member struggle with an addiction is difficult on its own. You feel a special connection to the individual when it's a parent. Maybe you've been wishing and hoping for something to change for years. Or, perhaps you gave up hope a long time ago. Either way, it's good to know that you're not out of options.
Here at Northpoint Washington, we understand the emotional pain you must be feeling. We know it's hard to watch a parent go down this terrible road of addiction. Whether your parent is an alcoholic or a drug addict, it's been going on for far too long. We want to help you in any way that we can.
Perhaps the guidance we've offered you regarding how to talk with your addicted parent has helped. Or, maybe it didn't work, and you're in need of intervention services. We're confident that we can assist you with turning things around in this situation. Once your parent begins drug and alcohol rehab, so much can change for your family. Allows us to assist you with finding the solution you need.